Happy to the core

Last week I listened to Tony Hsieh the CEO of the American on-line retailer, Zappos talking about happiness at work.  Hsieh believes that great companies have a strong culture and a vision with a higher purpose than just the pursuit of profits.  For Zappos that higher purpose was about creating happiness.  By focusing on a happy workplace with happy personnel, he’s convinced that Zappos achieves “by-products” such as productivity, employee retention, a strong customer service, and profits.

These “by-products” are not to be under-estimated; in 2009 Amazon bought Zappos for $1.2 billion. And according to Hsieh, the key to Zappos’s success was the decision to put happiness at the heart of its core values and then be guided by these values in developing its culture, brand and business strategies.  Of course Zappos are not alone in defining and articulating their core values, many other companies have done so too, but what sets these apart is their content and how they are implemented: 

  • The core values really do focus on employee happiness and wellbeing – they concentrate on employees enjoying work and having fun, being adventurous & creative, passionate & determined, open & honest, embracing change & driving opportunities for personal & professional growth, and being friendly & a positive influence on others.
  • The core values are embedded in everything they do – they influence recruitment (they only hire people who fit well with the company culture and not just because they have a great CV) and they’re written in to job descriptions (anyone found not to be in tune with them is managed out).

The pursuit of happiness may not be every company’s cup of tea, but what do your core values say about you?  And do you integrate them in to everything you do?  If you need help identifying, expressing, and applying the foundation on which you want your workforce to perform and conduct itself then contact gill@unisonmedia.co.uk

And if you’re interested, our core values boil down to: accepting work we enjoy, we find absorbing and which allows us to apply our strengths; striving for excellence; keeping on learning; and working in harmony with others. 



Hsieh, Tony.  “Delivering happiness at Zappos.com”.   All-Party Parliamentary Group on Wellbeing Economics, Houses of Parliament.  London. 17 May 2012

Zappos.com Core Values (2012). Retrieved 18 May 2012 from


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