Building a Great Company Culture: Chevron and Zappos

Jan 2023 · 8 min read

For a long time, we’ve thought that company cultures were a buzzword that necessarily involved wine coolers in the office fridge and bean bag chairs.

In part, this was due to startups acclaimed for their innovative practices – from their products to their organizational culture.

However, the benefits for regular companies became clear in time. Creating a positive company culture meant:

  • Reduced employee turnover
  • Increased job satisfaction and performance
  • Improved hiring
  • Fostering a healthy environment that reduced absenteeism and drove innovation

And while the statistics are clear, from organizations investing into the quality of their candidate experience improving their hire quality by 70% to the 55% of businesses which say that stronger engagement would improve their ability to either retain, recruit, or carry out succession planning, it’s not always easy to build a company culture from scratch or modify one that hasn’t been working well.

In this blog, we’ll take a look at two different companies which were extremely successful at fostering positive workplace cultures to help you create your own thriving company culture.


This online apparel retailer first defined their company culture through ten core values. Providing a mission statement in this form can help greatly in providing guidelines that employees and the HR departments can adhere to when creating new policies and establishing desirable behaviors.

Zappos’ ten core values are as follows:

  • Deliver WOW Through Service
  • Embrace and Drive Change
  • Create Fun and A Little Weirdness
  • Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
  • Pursue Growth and Learning
  • Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication
  • Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
  • Do More With Less
  • Be Passionate and Determined
  • Be Humble

However, the real kicker is in the implementation of these values. Many companies struggle with putting the core values to practice in their everyday work so only about 27% of employees believe that the companies are putting their money where their mouth is, to put it colloquially.

To take action on their promises, Zappos starts by hiring slowly.

When Rebecca Henry, the former Director of Human Resources for Zappos, was in the hiring process, Zappos took over four months to establish the culture fit. She participated in both formal and informal meetings with her potential colleagues, and if she hadn’t passed the culture fit interview first, she wouldn’t be hired. That’s the Zappos process.

Everyone who has interviewed the candidate provides feedback on whether or not they believe the person to be a good culture fit for the company.

The new hires then don’t jump straight into their role but spend the first few weeks in the call center, conversing with customers and understanding their needs. If they want to leave after that, Zappos even rewards them with $3.000. If they stay, they have a better understanding of what the customers really need.

Finally, Zappos focuses on their employees’ professional growth.

Employees regularly pass skill tests and receive pay raises accordingly. Managers are expected to help team members map out their career paths and spend 10-20% of their time on team building activities.

Employees’ feedback is listened. Every Zappos employee is encouraged to write their opinion of Zappos’ values and their subsequent implementation in the yearly culture book.

Finally, Zappos celebrates their employees’ achievements and autonomy. Call center agents aren’t forced to follow a script and can use their own methods to respond to customers’ needs. And when a new hire finishes their call center experience, the whole department comes together to celebrate their “graduation.”

How to Build a Company Culture like Zappos

Hire with a focus on the culture fit, and make sure you listen to your existing employees’ feedback. Not just when it comes to recruitment, but when it comes to upholding the company values, as well.

Combat the problem of employees not believing in their company’s purpose and values by hearing them out. Allow them to actively participate in the process of determining what desirable conduct is.

Finally, make your managers responsible for creating policies that allow every employee to practice the core values.


Oil and gas companies don’t often find themselves in the leaderboards of companies with the best cultures, but Chevron has deserved its place in this article.

Due to a specific nature of the work and the work environment, Chevron first pays particular attention to employee safety. And while this (as well as competitive compensation) would technically be enough to hire, the company’s high 4/5 star employee ratings mainly exist because of “The Chevron Way.”

Again, their core values are clearly outlined in the previously mentioned handbook, but what really matters is how they implement it.

Chevron stands for reinforcement-based leadership (RBL). The former CEO even acknowledged it in his address when Chevron won a leadership address. The business had been growing, but things hadn’t truly shifted until managers started praising employees for positive behavior, instead of just berating them for mistakes.

Once they noticed that RBL was making waves, they started using Performance Improvement Plans to achieve behavioral changes.

And when it came to their business strategy, they stopped focusing on what they needed to achieve and started focusing on how they’d achieve it, along with their employees.

Quarterly business reviews started including employee feedback and actual discussion on how the business goals could be best achieved in accordance with the company values.

In order to measure the results, Chevron introduced results scorecards that made performance tracking much easier. It simplified the process for both the employees and the company.

They even used their RBL techniques in their partnership with Phillips, improving the way these two companies cooperated.

Learning from Chevron

Many big companies fail to notice positive behavior. Managers are focused on efficiency and unless it’s lacking, there won’t be any reaction. So instead of following that path, reinforce positive behavior with praise and rewards.

Help your employees develop professionally and give them a seat at the table when it comes to implementing business strategies in order to make sure that the core values are respected through actions.

Finally, give your employees an easy way to track their performance and see how they can improve.


Regardless of whether you’re an HR department lead at a big or a small company, the culture you reinforce is everything.

And once you show that you’re willing to put your core values into practices, your employees won’t just perceive their work as a means to an end.

They’ll develop a sense of purpose. And in turn, this will allow them to achieve more and produce better work.

It all starts with a value statement and ends by changing the world.


  1. Tapping the Best That Is Within: Why Corporate Culture Matters. JW Schulz.
    From Management Quarterly:

  2. Workplace Pensions Engagement Isn't a "Nice-to-Have" but a Fundamental to Helping Employees Plan for Later Life.
    From CBI:

  3. The Zappos Family Core Values.
    From Zappos Insights:

  4. Few Employees Believe in Their Company's Values.
    From Gallup:

  5. Find Out How Zappos Reinforces Its Company Culture.
    From The Balance Careers:

  6. Lessons Learned from Zappos on What It Takes to Build High-Performance Cultures.
    From Science Direct:

  7. Chevron Reviews.
    From Glassdoor:

  8. The Chevron Way.
    From Chevron:

  9. Changing the Corporate Culture at Chevron. D. Callahan and T. Nolan.
    From Behavioral Technology Today:

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