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Living the Zappos HR Lifestyle - An Interview with Jamie Naughton (Cruise Ship Captain at Zappos)

Here's how cool the company I work for is.  Each year we do a customer conference called "Reach", where we bring in our customers and provide sessions not only on how to get more out of our software, but we also expose them to other things that will help them run their organizations better - including the people side of the business.  Last year, that included a panel on hiring better that included representatives from Whole Foods, Southwest Airlines and Chick-fil-A.

This year, we delivered the same bang on the people side, bringing in Jamie Naughton, Cruise ShipZappos Director at Zappos, to talk about the best ways for our customers to define, install and maximize their culture. 

I had a chance to spend a lot of time with Jamie and learned a lot.  So you could get a flavor, I grabbed three short interviews with Jamie (max running time on all three - 3 minutes or under) to hit some of the highlights.

Here's the first one, where Jamie breaks down how committed Zappos is to their cultural values - so committed that they're front and center in the hiring and performance management process.  That may seem pedestrian to you, but listen closely, then we'll talk about why they're unique after the video.

Zappos Interview - Weaving Your Cultural Values Into Your Hiring and Performance Management Process from DAXKO on Vimeo.

If you listened closely to that, you heard something truly unique.  Sure, the company says they take the cultural values seriously - so do you, right?  But the truth is, ZAPPOS lives it in a way that most of us don't - they actually provide their HR team with the ability to flat out VETO A CANDIDATE on the cultural fit side, REGARDLESS OF THE HIRING MANAGER'S OPINION OF THE CANDIDATE'S ABILITY TO DO THE JOB.

You should think about that for a second.  Assuming their HR folks are good recruiters and interviewers, that's huge.  Zappos is so committed to the cultural fit they'll walk away from skills that could help them from a business perspective.

Which brings to question another issue - lots of HR pros say that they want that responsibility, but how many REALLY want that burden?

That's called living the culture.  The veto power is probably the best example I could find (from a HR pro's perspective) of how Zappos is truly different.


Kari Quaas

That is powerful, Kris, and a great question. HR folks tend to get stuck dealing with the issues that many employees have over time and may say, "Well, if I did the hiring, the employees would be better!" But, really, how many of them want that responsibility?

I love to hear about Zappos' philosophies and their culture which truly supports their core beliefs and empowers their employees. Good for them!


Kris, thanks for a great post! I'm glad Jamie's talk had some good takeaways! Culture is so important to everything we do.

For anyone interested in taking a closer look, check out for video interviews with Zappos folks, and lots of others, talking about culture and the fun job implementing/changing culture. There are free videos on the front page, and a subscription site for those who really want to dive deeper.

Again, I'm glad you enjoyed the time with Jamie, and shared this with everyone!


Perfect timing on your post. I'm on a committee at work that is tying core competencies to the entire employee life cycle. Your post and interview were so good I forwarded it to my entire team and we used it as a discussion point in our meeting today. Thanks for always proving valuable content Kris.

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