Why Zappos’ onboarding programme gives new starters the chance to bail

October 27, 2016

If you had been offered $4,000 to leave your company at the end of your fourth week, would you have gone?

Las Vegas-based shoe and clothing retailer Zappos makes ‘The Offer’ to all employees at the end of its robust, four-week new hire training programme.

Designed to be enough money that leavers could cope financially until they find something more suitable, it ensures that those who aren’t a good culture fit don’t stay with the company for the wrong reasons.

“The wrong fit negatively affects the team, department, and ultimately, the company – not to mention that it’s a waste of time and money training someone who isn’t going to move the company forward,” says Megan Petrini, Head New Hire Trainer at Zappos.

“This is why we use new hire as an extension of the interview process, to make sure that everyone in class is the right fit for the company. We also ask the trainees to use this time to make sure Zappos is the right fit for them.

“You’ve heard the expression ‘you never get a second chance to make a first impression’? It’s true, and amazingly important to start off on the right foot. Setting the right expectations from the very beginning sets the tone for their entire experience.”

The continually updated new starter training programme introduces colleagues to Zappos’ history, conflict resolution, self-management, holacracy, culture, core values, teambuilding, backend systems, the Zappos Experience, a final exam and phones time.

Zappos – famous for its culture books – says that culture fit is so high up on its list of priorities that it hires, fires and makes all business decisions based on its core values.

“For this reason, it’s important to us that the right people are coming in and have a great foundation in understanding the culture, core values, history of the company and why we do what we do,” adds Megan.

New starters begin their training programme on their first day. But when this isn’t possible, they complete a two-day ‘quickstart’ programme and jump into their new role with the promise that they’ll be on the next available new hire training programme.

“New hires come out of training with a greater understanding of emotional intelligence, time management, a cursory knowledge of both self-organisation and holacracy as it applies to them and the company, conflict resolution, history and the importance of team building,” Megan explains.

“Plus, they have met almost every other department in the company, and have had a Q&A session with our CEO, Tony Hsieh.

“Part of the expectation of everyone who works here is to provide the Zappos Experience with every interaction, make business decisions using the core values, and to move the company forward.

“New hire training provides the foundation for these expectations to all new hires.”

And – after all this – less than one per cent of new hires take up ‘The Offer’ and the company has an employee retention rate of around 20 per cent, including department transfers.

“We get feedback from all new hires regarding the entire onboarding experience. The feedback is consistently positive,” Megan says.

Congratulations, Zappos, on getting it mutually spot on for new employees and your business.


You’ve heard the expression ‘you never get a second chance to make a first impression’? It’s true, and amazingly important to start off on the right foot.