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Does your corporate culture prioritize happiness? Given the many challenging events of the past few years, the very idea that you should be focused on happiness may seem preposterous. How about focusing on efficiency or revenue? Wouldn’t that make more sense?

Yet, Tony Hsieh, founder of online shoe and apparel retailer Zappos.com, believes there’s nothing more central to your organization’s future success than a culture of happiness. Why? Customers aren’t inspired to do business with you – and employees aren’t inspired to do their jobs exceptionally – if the ultimate goal isn’t happiness. When is the last time, after all, that a friend called you to rave about an “adequate” experience he just had?

In this interview with CO-OP Financial Service’s Bill Prichard, Hsieh notes that a true culture of happiness requires commitment. “We came up with a list of 10 committable core values, which means we’re actually willing to hire and fire based on those independent of job performance,” he says. “We’re focusing on corporate culture as our number-one priority. We really think that if we get the culture right, then most of the other stuff, like delivering great service or connecting with customers and building a long-time brand, will just happen naturally on their own.”

The formula clearly works for Zappos, which went from $1.6 million in sales in 2000 to a mind-boggling $1+ billion in 2010. In 2009, online retailing giant Amazon.com acquired Zappos for a cool $1.2 billion, suggesting that they, too, believe in happiness as a business tool.

But does any of this apply to credit unions? Do credit union members want – or expect – the same emotional currency as shoe shoppers do?

Yes and no. While no one argues that making a checking account deposit should carry the same level of giddiness as buying a pair of Naughty Monkey platform pumps, transmitting confidence, personal interest and enthusiasm – in person, online and as an organization – is surely smarter than its opposite.

Meanwhile, consider adding a happiness index to your organization’s metrics. Employees at online real estate search company Trulia.com take regular surveys that include questions about their overall happiness at work. By tracking this index, Trulia’s management stays ahead of employee concerns and monitors the overall health of the company.

DotNext founder Ben Behrouzi suggests adding in performance-based bonuses to motivate employees in an uncertain economy. “We immediately roll out substantial, structured and predictable performance-based compensation in the form of bonuses and spiffs,” Behrouzi notes. “Nearly anyone, including managers and directors, can earn additional compensation if they are able to perform above general standards on a challenge-by-challenge basis. As a result, regardless of economic slowdowns, team members are still able to maintain control over their financial destiny.” Moreover, what’s good for the individual is good for the organization – a win-win by any standard.