Zappos: an open communication culture that inspires employee engagement

Tony Hsieh, CEO Zappos

Tony Hsieh, CEO Zappos
Source: http://www.businessinnovationfactory

I recently read an article by internal communication gurus Roger D’Aprix and Barbara Fagan-Smith called Open Communication Cultures In A Changing World. In a nutshell, the authors look at the positive effect of open communication on bottom line business results. They define an open communication culture as one “in which non-confidential and non-proprietary information is actively and freely shared with both employees and interested stakeholders with the leadership’s blessing and proactive participation.”

This made me think about what companies like Zappos are doing right with regards to internal communication. Established in 1999 and bought by Amazon in 2009 for $1.2 billion, Zappos is a $1 billion online retail business with 1,400 employees. Despite its impressive growth, Zappos maintains an open communication culture that inspires employee engagement. For example, Zappos publishes an annual “Culture Book” that’s “a collage of unedited submissions from employees within the Zappos Family of companies sharing what the Zappos culture means to them…it reflects the true feelings, thoughts and opinions of the employees.” Zappos also encourages employees to get involved on the company’s social networks, and hosts a micro-twitter site for staff. Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh actually posts some of his correspondence to employees on Twitter. It can’t get more transparent than that.

Do you think that open communication cultures have a positive influence on bottom line results? Are open communication cultures more effective at handling the various crises and challenges that come their way? How can closed communication cultures become more open?

4 thoughts on “Zappos: an open communication culture that inspires employee engagement

  1. Communication cultures are linked with types of structures ,procedures and regulatory frameworks. A generalized approach therefore might not work.

    • Good point Muhammad. But maybe some of these structures and processes are outdated and need to evolve to respond to changes in technology, the economy and communication.

  2. I think the article is bang-on. The more open and transparent a company’s leadership is, the more credible they will be in communicating decisions, strategy and results to employees and the more trust they will build with employees. This makes a huge difference when a company encounters big challenges or needs to make big changes. I’ve personally experienced when that doesn’t happen, and seen leaders wondering why employees don’t understand or endorse change.

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