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How Zapier Grew to 300+ Employees Remotely With a 95% Retention Rate
  • Publish: April 25, 2021
  • Author: Nick Jordan
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How Zapier Grew Their Remote Team to 300+ Employees With a 95% Retention Rate

Zapier grew from 0 to $50m ARR in just 9 years. Their whole team was 100% remote from the beginning, now counting 300 employees. 95% of their team members are still with them.

I spent 17 hours reading the Zapier blog, consuming podcasts, and watching videos trying to figure out how they did it.

This 6,000-word article I’ll share all of the systems and processes that went into Zapier’s epic story.

How Zapier’s ARR Grew Over the Years

Image source: blog.getlatka.com

Building Company Culture & Values and Living Them—Not Just Words on the Wall

Wade Foster attributes Zapier’s insanely high retention rates to the company culture they’ve built over the past 10 years. In an interview with Nathan Latka [1], Foster shared that Zapier’s employee retention rate is over 95%, with 8 out of their first 10 employees still with the company!


The foundation of every successful organization is its culture, values, and mission. Companies that don’t live up to their proclaimed values and culture can never hope to replicate Zapier’s success.

So, how did Wade Foster manage to pull this off? Does it just so happen that all of the 300+ people currently working at Zapier agree with his philosophy or simply abide by the rules that he set when he created the company? Of course not.

When it comes to building company culture and values, especially in large, hierarchical, conservative companies, CEOs don’t really care if employees are subscribed to their philosophy. It’s all about showing up and putting in the 8 hours of work every day without much objection.

Zapier took a fundamentally different approach, one that ensures people buy into the company vision and values and aligns the two to make it easy for everyone on the team to crush through the workday. They understand that the crucial aspect of building company culture is the action itself—building.

To create a culture in a remote team, especially in a company where people have different cultural backgrounds, Zapier put the emphasis on two things:

  1. Living by their values and making sure they actually represent what the executives think and believe
  2. Hiring against those values and implementing them as the key part of the performance evaluation process

We follow the same path—championing the values we preach. That’s a big part of why we were able to grow from 0 to 25 team members in just 16 months.

When everyone is on the same page and understands that every person is a valued team member and that everyone’s working together towards the same goal, motivation soars and productivity increases proportionally.

Patience and persistence are key factors here. Building company culture takes time, and it’s vital to not only preach your values but also live by them. In Zapier’s example, they spent over 5 years repeating and living the values, and now everyone adopts them with no resistance and incorporates them into their daily work.

Here are two quotes that emphasize the importance of persistence and repetition in building a strong culture.

“History teaches that almost nothing a leader says is heard if spoken only once.” – David Gergen, Advisor to 4 US Presidents

“When you get tired of saying it, people are beginning to hear it” – Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn

Some of the core values at Zapier are:

  • Leading by example
  • Transparency and intellectual honesty
  • The no-nonsense approach
  • Deliverables over work hours
  • Informal communication
  • Small, tight-knit teams
  • Professional development
  • Genuinely caring about people in your team
  • Frequent feedback
  • Policies, guidelines, and documentation
  • Taking initiative
  • Solution-oriented mindset

Overcoming Cultural Differences

The biggest advantage of running an all-remote team is the fact that you have access to a global talent pool.

While eliminating geographical limitations from the equation opens up the opportunity to bring in top talent from all over the world, it simultaneously creates a big hurdle you have to overcome:

How do you create a company culture that resonates with everyone, despite the fact that people come from different cultural backgrounds?

Zapier’s solution to this problem is creating an informal and transparent work environment in which every individual feels like a valued member of the team. This isn’t a groundbreaking discovery—you’ve probably already heard it a hundred times.

The problem is that everyone tells you what needs to be done but nobody tells you how to actually do it. So, let me give you an example to demonstrate how Zapier overcomes cultural differences in practice:

Depending on their cultural background, people might have a tendency to phrase things a particular way. In some cultures, people might prefer formal, straightforward business communication, while in others, informal communication may be preferred.

If you try to implement a one-size-fits-all solution to this problem and enforce a particular style of communication, you’re not going to get the results you’re hoping for.

What Zapier did instead was build a system that enables them to learn about each team member’s personality (relying on the Myers-Briggs personality test [2]), their preferred method of communication, and their behavior at work.

Know What Type of Personality You’re Talking To

This approach enables every team member to tell people they work with how they communicate, what they’re used to in the workplace, and what they prefer in terms of business conversation.

Knowing how to communicate with different members of your team is crucial in an all-remote company. You lack context in asynchronous communication [3]—facial expressions and body language—so you need to understand how every person communicates to avoid misunderstandings and ensure you don’t assume the wrong things and draw the wrong conclusions.

For instance, a particular member of your team may always be blunt and straightforward. If that’s their preferred way of communicating, other people who work with that person need to be aware of that fact. Without that understanding, they might mistakenly believe that the person is being dismissive.

The lesson here is that the more information you have on your teammates, the smoother the team communication will be. Minimizing miscommunication saves everyone a ton of time and helps your team stay productive in a remote setting.

Knowledge Base—The Importance of Having All the Information in One Place

For people who have never worked remotely, it can be difficult to get into the habit of documenting how they work. And by this, I don’t mean writing out daily reports of what they worked on. I’m talking about creating knowledge bases that describe processes they used to complete their work.

Extensive documentation of the processes is critical in every company, but even more so in a fully remote one, where the person who has the answer that can unblock another team member might be in a time zone 9 hours apart.

It’s insane to think that it’s ok to wake up a team member half across the world, in the dead of night, to get them to unblock you so you can make progress on your task. At the same time, you can’t spend half your workday staring at a screen and panicking about a problem you encountered. That’s why knowledge bases are critical.

Creating documentation often feels tedious and time-consuming. It’s hard work that doesn’t feel rewarding since you don’t see the immediate impact of it.

However, each knowledge base entry is a one-time “heavy lift” that multiplies the value of your work. Every time someone has to complete a similar task or runs into a problem that you’ve solved and created a process doc for, they can unblock themselves.

The First Place Our Team Looks for Answers Is the Knowledge Base

It’s precisely this bias towards documentation that keeps things in motion in a remote company. When every team member has access to all the information, resources, and processes that enable them to make progress on their projects and tasks, they aren’t dependent on other people being online at the same time.

While the impact of documentation might not be visible straight away, you will start to see the immense value of your knowledge base rather quickly.

Say you have half a dozen new hires for your support team—onboarding each person individually means you’ll spend an entire day on onboarding and won’t make any progress on other tasks. Instead, you can hold a 30-minute onboarding session for everyone at the same time and send them the links to all the relevant documents in your knowledge base.

Now, the question is—how do you build your knowledge base from the ground up?

Zapier’s Lessons for Building an Amazing Knowledge Base

You can’t put your projects on hold and spend months creating a knowledge base; that much is obvious. So, how should you go about it?

You should break down the task of building the knowledge base into actionable steps:

  1. Define what you’re going to document
  2. Have strict guidelines for formatting knowledge base entries
  3. Host all your documentation on one platform
  4. Emphasize using the knowledge base
  5. Keep improving your documentation

The end goal of building a knowledge base is to have everything related to how you do work in the company documented. Before you even write your first knowledge base entry, it’s vital to understand that this will be an ongoing task that everyone in the company will contribute to.

Zapier Demonstrating the Importance of Documentation

You can’t stop production to focus on the knowledge base, but you can’t neglect it either. In my opinion, the best approach is to include working on the knowledge base as part of your team’s responsibilities. To accomplish this, you first need to explain what the knowledge base will be, why it’s critical for the success of your remote company, and how much value each document will provide over time.

At StrongerTeams, everyone contributes to enriching our comprehensive knowledge base—even if it’s one KB entry a month. This wouldn’t be possible if we didn’t lead by example.

It’s not enough to just talk about the knowledge base and add the extra work on everyone’s plate. You need to demonstrate its value by creating the foundation of the knowledge base everyone else will build on. On top of that, you need to prioritize documenting certain processes and policies over others.

If you have no business documentation and are creating a knowledge base from scratch, you should put emphasis on the following documents:

  1. Company mission, vision, values, and culture
  2. Company roadmap (quarterly and annual goals)
  3. Growth and hiring, open positions, and professional development opportunities
  4. Organizational chart (with clearly defined roles and responsibilities)
  5. General work policies (work organization, tools & apps, task receiving and submission, expectations, KPIs, performance evaluation, etc.)
  6. Time-off policy (paid vacations, unpaid time off, sick days, emergency leaves, PTO request submission and approval, etc.)
  7. Other HR-related policies (feedback, social media policy, team buildings, etc.)
  8. Compensation (benefits, bonuses, payment methods, etc.)

Once everyone knows what’s expected of them in their roles, what their responsibilities are, how they’ll be compensated, and what KPIs are used to measure performance, you can get down to the nitty-gritty and document the more specific, project- or task-related processes.

Effective Communication in an All-Remote Company

When it comes to communication in a remote company, transparency and visibility are key. Your team needs to know what’s going on, what decisions are being made, what tasks they need to prioritize, and where to search for information and resources they need to complete their work successfully.

So, if you don’t have a physical office, you need to set up a virtual one that will enable everyone in the organization to communicate with each other effectively. You also need to create policies and guidelines for asynchronous communication.

This ensures that everyone has access to all the information they need, without having to depend on their colleagues being available at the same time (which is impossible with a team working in 9 different time zones).

For Zapier and many remote companies—StrongerTeams included—Slack is that virtual office that brings the team together. Thousands of companies use Slack for team chat, but Zapier uses it extremely effectively—they’ve set it up in a way that ensures everyone in the company gets maximum value from the platform:

  • Every Slack channel is named according to its purpose
  • Conventions for the type of communication are provided in each channel’s description
  • People are added to the formal channels that directly impact their work and can join any informal channel they’re interested in (e.g., movie discussions, cooking, fitness, etc.)
  • Other apps they use to communicate are connected with Slack (duh), and people are always alerted to what they need to know about
  • Links to all the important documents in their knowledge base are always posted in Slack, in the appropriate channels

Apart from the technical side of things, the philosophy of Zapier’s managers and team leads is to communicate everything three times [4]. For example, whenever a new decision is made that will impact the team’s work, it’s communicated in a team meeting, in the appropriate Slack channel as an official announcement, and in 1:1 meetings with each team member. This helps ensure that absolutely everyone is in the loop and that people don’t forget important messages that were communicated.

Active Listening

In a fully remote environment, where most of the communication is written and the bulk of it is asynchronous, you don’t have non-verbal cues. It’s extremely difficult to pick up your team’s morale, and managers need to be extra observant and adopt a different approach to communication than the one they’re used to in an in-office setting.

One of the biggest pitfalls of written communication is the fact that it leaves plenty of room for misunderstandings and wrong interpretations. Trying to ascertain someone’s mood from a message in Slack can often lead to making the wrong assumptions and drawing the wrong conclusions.

That’s why Zapier has developed the company culture of asking and active listening to minimize misunderstandings. What lies at the core of this approach is the openness to being wrong. If you see a message in Slack that leads you to believe that something is off, that a person in your team is blocked, or that their morale is down, Wade Foster says that it’s best to approach them with a question before making an assumption [5].

It’s also vital to phrase the question properly. Instead of asking what’s wrong, you should ask if everything is alright.

For example, you can approach a team member with a question along the lines of: “Hey, I saw your message in Slack, is everything alright?” It just as well might be, and the message may have sounded dismissive because they typed in on their phone while they were busy working on other stuff or were in the middle of a meeting.

At the same time, they might have a problem, in which case you should be prepared to listen, try to identify the root cause of the problem, and work with them on a solution.

The bottom line is—you shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions, and you must be open to being wrong. If the answer to your question initiates a conversation, you have to be prepared to actively listen.

This approach encourages more honest, open, and transparent communication and builds trust in the team since you’re devoting attention to your team members and letting their voices be heard.

One-on-One and Team Meetings

No matter how good the written communication in an all-remote team is, it’s still vital to meet “face to face” to discuss work, report the progress, ensure that everyone’s on the same page, and just chat about random stuff and blow off steam.

Wade Foster Meeting With His Team on Zoom

At Zapier, employees are organized into smaller teams and managers and their direct reports meet up for a 1:1 Zoom call at least once a week. On top of that, managers and all their directs have a recurring weekly team call to discuss what everyone worked on during the week, plan for the next, and catch up with the entire team.

Both the size of the team and the frequency of their meetings play a major role in ensuring effective communication.

Zapier’s philosophy is that a single person should manage no more than four people. Working in tight-knit, five-man teams allows people to truly get to know their team members, both on a professional and on a personal level.

Let’s see how Zapier does this in practice and what their philosophy around 1:1 meetings is.

How To Get the Most out of Your One-on-Ones

Wade Foster stated in a Jacob Morgan interview [6] that “the best 1:1 meetings are the ones that are catered to the direct report rather than the manager.”

The idea behind one-on-ones at Zapier is to give everyone in the team the opportunity to talk to their manager directly and have their undivided attention for an hour every week. This goes all the way to the top, with even the co-founder setting aside enough time to talk to the people he works with.

This counts towards everyone’s work hours, helps them de-stress, and allows them to talk about whatever they want to discuss with their manager, whether it’s work-related or personal. The key here is that every manager shows their team members that they genuinely care about them as a person, rather than only being concerned about the amount of work they put in.

Zapier’s 1:1 meetings provide immense value because they aren’t status reports. Everyone posts regular updates on their work progress using the company’s async protocol, so managers can check the status of each project or task at any time.

During the 1:1s, managers can give feedback, but the most important thing is that they allow their direct reports to talk about what they care about.

It’s also important to strike a balance between work and personal life. If a team member only talks about work on their 1:1, ask them how they’re doing outside of work—whether they’ve picked up a new hobby, read a book they’d recommend, watched a cool movie, etc.

Zapier’s 1:1 Zoom meetings are mini team buildings in the true sense of the phrase—everyone actively works on building a strong professional relationship with their team members. This is a philosophy everyone at StrongerTeams subscribes to as well.

Why You Shouldn’t Neglect 1:1 Meetings

One of the most common things we’ve heard from managers in the past is: “I don’t need 1:1 meetings because I already meet with my team all the time.”

And it’s absolutely false. Some of the most critical things come up during specific 1:1 meetings, which wouldn’t come up during standard, day-to-day team meetings.

From our experience, some people are much more comfortable speaking up in a 1:1 setting than in front of the entire team. On top of that, when you give each team member an hour of your time weekly, you’ll have a much better idea of the atmosphere and the challenges that each individual might be facing.

The risk of skipping 1:1 meetings is that you won’t be able to identify and resolve issues while they’re still minor. You might be completely oblivious to a problem until it “blows up.” So, no matter how busy the manager is, they need to set aside the time to meet with their team. If you neglect one-on-ones, trivial problems and issues might escalate and you’ll end up having to spend three times as much time to solve them.

Our policy regarding 1:1 meetings is crystal clear. Every manager is “calendar checked” and asked to screen share their calendar to show that 1:1s are scheduled with recurring calendar items.

This way, we ensure consistency, rather than relying on ad-hoc meetings that often get put off, rescheduled, or skipped.

Promoting Informal Communication With the Donut Bot

One thing you mustn’t overlook when building a remote company is that the remote environment doesn’t include all the social elements you have in the office by default. In an all-remote company, people won’t socialize on lunch breaks, they won’t start a chat with their colleagues next to the coffee machine, and they won’t make friends by going on smoke breaks together.

We’re social beings, and all of these social elements are vital for employee satisfaction, and consequently—the company’s performance. Given that these opportunities don’t arise organically in a remote company, you have to build them.

Zapier uses the Donut bot on Slack to create these social situations for its employees. The way Donut works is simple yet ingenious—it randomly pairs people from a Slack channel once a week and prompts them to set up a 30-minute Zoom meeting where they can get to know each other.

One thing to understand with these artificial social interactions is that they can be a double-edged sword. In a team of 300+ people, it’s impossible to know everyone you work with. On top of that, some people might be socially awkward and not particularly open to “blind dates” on Zoom with co-workers they’ve never seen before in their life.

At StrongerTeams, we optimize for the system, rather than for the individual. Like Zapier, we believe that mandatory participation in Donut calls is more important that the initial awkwardness shy people may experience during 1:1 meetings.

Zapier minimizes the initial resistance to Donut by promoting informal communication across the company—both in Slack channels (through Slack emojis [7], gifs, and memes) and on 1:1 meetings.

Zapier Even Uses Custom Emojis on Slack

Image credit: https://zapier.com/blog/useful-work-emoji/

On top of that, Donut creates groups of three people, rather than having each meeting be a 1:1. The 30-minute Donut call counts towards everyone’s work hours and is taken into account when setting workload expectations for the week, just like any other meeting.

This way, everyone in the team understands that Donuts are part of their work responsibilities, while simultaneously being an opportunity to spend 30 minutes at work every week chatting and unwinding with other team members. This makes it easy to secure buy-in from everyone in the company, even if you run into some initial resistance from part of the team.

How To Be a Great Remote Manager—The No-Nonsense Approach to Management

When you’re building a company, running a department, or leading a small team, it’s easy to slip into the “I want to do it my way” kind of thinking. It’s also easy to trick yourself into believing that, as a boss, executive, or manager, you have to have all the answers.

The biggest mistake you can make is to convince yourself that it’s your job to try and solve every problem. Nobody has all the answers. Wade Foster knows it, you know it, your team members know it.

“I think I’ve found throughout the years that people really just enjoy working with leaders who have a little more intellectual honesty around this sort of stuff. They are just real when they don’t know the answers.” – Wade Foster

If you’re trying to act as the omniscient manager who always knows what the best thing to do is and has a perfect solution to every problem and the right answer to every question, you’ll end up doing more harm than good.

This is a natural tendency we all have, and Wade Foster talked about it on multiple occasions in podcasts and interviews. The lesson we can all learn from his anecdotes is that our initial instinct to jump in and help our team whenever they face a problem can have the polar opposite effect of what we’re trying to accomplish.

It’s crucial not to misinterpret your role. As a manager, your job is to enable your team to perform by creating a work environment in which they can thrive. Rather than constantly jumping in and solving every team member’s problem, you should hire people that solve problems and can complete the work without constantly being micromanaged.

A manager’s job is to lead their team, and to do so effectively, you must first hire competent people you can trust. It’s next to impossible to micromanage a team of 5 people on a daily basis. You can imagine what it would be like trying to micromanage everyone in a company with over 300+ full-time employees.

Apart from hiring the right people, as a manager or a team lead, it’s your job to make sure that everyone knows exactly what they need to be working on and that they understand which tasks need to be completed and when. Shared vision and values across the company give team members a framework for decision-making that enables them to work more autonomously in a remote environment.

A manager should help their team organize and prioritize tasks, but they shouldn’t play the “big brother” who’s constantly monitoring everyone to make sure the work gets done right.

If you can’t delegate tasks and trust that your team will complete them—fully and in time—you hired the wrong people. No matter how good you are as a manager or how great your mentoring and coaching skills are, you won’t make much progress if you hire people who can’t or won’t do their job right.

As a manager, it’s your job to create extraordinary outcomes indirectly—through your team. Hiring the right people is one of the most important things a manager can do to increase the chances of great outcomes.

The Value of Great Management

When you’re working within a small team where everyone knows each other well and people communicate with every other person on the team on a daily basis, it’s easy to underestimate the value of great management.

Zapier didn’t have a clear structure up until they had 20 or so people [8]. Everyone knew and implicitly trusted each other, and the work was getting done. There was no need for anyone to manage anyone else. There were no 1:1 weekly meetings or progress reports because everyone was in the loop.


From that point of view, it appeared as though Zapier didn’t need managers. Most founders, businessmen, and entrepreneurs are wired to think that they can figure things out. Wade Foster didn’t need anyone to manage him, so why would anyone else in the company need a manager? The answer to this question presented itself as the company scaled. We ran into the same problem when we scaled StrongerTeams.

Once our team grew to 25 people, it became painfully clear that the work had to be organized better, and it became increasingly more difficult to understand who was working on what project and task and how much progress was being made. On top of that, as new people joined the company, they required mentorship and coaching.

People often have a skewed perception of management mostly due to bad past experiences. It can often seem as though a manager is someone who makes you do things their way and “cracks the whip” to ensure you put in as much work as possible in as little time.

While that may be true in some bureaucratic, hierarchical, conservative companies, opting for no management whatsoever will throw the company into disarray. Without leadership and decision-making, everything will be disorganized and chaotic and no work will ever get done (at least not right or on time).

The primary objective of a great manager should be to create an environment in which everyone can do their best work, help the team learn and improve through mentoring, and add value to the team’s work instead of subtracting it.

Remote vs. Traditional Management

“The remote environment removes all the ornaments of working in the office that people use to trick themselves into thinking they’re good managers” – Wade Foster

This is the biggest difference between remote management and traditional, in-office management, but it’s not the only one.

The Biggest Differences Between Working Remote vs. In Office
  In Office Remote
Commuting Your effective workday is extended by several hours and you’re paying for transport No additional commuting costs. As soon as you finish work, you’re already home
Communication Face-to-face with fewer misunderstandings, but more frequent interruptions Often asynchronous and lacking context (tone, facial expressions, body language)
Flexibility You have set work hours Flexible work schedule
Productivity The average worker is interrupted once every 11 minutes, which lowers their productivity significantly (according to The cost of interrupted work study [9]) Higher productivity due to less distractions (13% increase in productivity, according to Stanford study [10])
Management Managers supervise the floor and can see the people working The emphasis is moved from work hours to deliverables

When you walk into an office, you run into a worker and may think something like: “I saw Tom this morning. He smiled and greeted me, I’m probably doing a good job.”

For most managers who are used to gauging their success by relying on these interactions, the switch to remote work was a rude awakening. When the facade is stripped, it’s easy to realize that we’re often not using the right variable to measure progress in the office.

The question then becomes:

“How do you manage people you don’t see?”

One of the biggest worries of new remote managers is ensuring that their direct reports are actually putting in the agreed-upon amount of work. In the office, you would supervise the floor and would see everyone in their chair and take that as a clear sign that the work is getting done.

In truth, this is one of the biggest misconceptions in management. Just because someone is in the office for 8 hours a day, it doesn’t mean that they are performing. Wade Foster believes that not being able to see everyone working is actually one of the biggest advantages of remote work.

A remote work environment forces you to look at the work that gets done instead of the number of hours someone has spent behind the computer screen. Focusing on deliverables, rather than work hours, is a much more accurate way to measure progress.

How To Monitor Work In an All-Remote Company

The beauty of remote work is that you already have all the indicators of progress present in the tools that you are using. For example, to gauge the performance of your support, you’d simply look at the number of tickets they completed or emails sent out to customers.

Zapier’s Weekly Updates Ensure Visibility Across the Company

In a remote environment, you should hold your team accountable for deliverables and deadlines, rather than looking at how much time they’ve spent on a particular task.

If you distribute the workload according to what someone in a particular role should be able to accomplish in 8 hours, the questions of when and how much your team works become obsolete.

At StrongerTeams, we use Geekbot to ensure everyone on the team has visibility into what everyone else is working on. Everyone receives a Slack notification with questions they need to fill out, and after all questions have been answered, Geekbot compiles a report and posts it in the dedicated Slack channel.

Instead of tracking work hours, we set up Geekbots to focus on deliverables. Here’s what a typical Geekbot of our editors looks like:

This allows managers to track performance without having to bug the editors constantly and interrupt their work. It’s also asynchronous, so neither the managers nor the editors have to waste an hour every day on standups, but everyone is still in the loop regarding the progress of specific tasks and projects.

Remote Manager Skill Set

Despite the difference between in-office and remote work environments, the core skill set that defines a great manager is still the same.

For a manager (remote or in-office) to be successful, they need to possess practical skills that enable them to excel at the following three categories:

  • Strategy—Do they understand and align with company goals and values? Are they capable of setting a vision for the company’s future? Do they have a clear image of how their team fits into that strategy? Can the strategy be executed, and how?
  • Operations—Do they have the technical and interpersonal skills to build a cohesive team that will align with and execute the strategy and mission?
  • Coaching—Can they coach, mentor, and teach their team how to level up, reach optimal performance, and hit set goals? Can they clearly communicate the expectations and the KPIs, as well explain what success looks like in the company and how it impacts each team member?

If someone has all the necessary skills to develop and execute a strategy, run operations within their team, and provide mentorship, the only thing left to adjust to is executing all of these things remotely.

In practice, this means learning the nuances of remote and asynchronous communication and getting a grip on all the tactical aspects, like when to have 1:1 meetings, what words to say, how to give feedback, etc.

Another crucial mechanism to ensure the success of your managers is manager feedback surveys. At Zapier, direct reports can give feedback to their managers on their weekly 1:1 Zoom meetings, but they also score their managers once every six months, anonymously.

The survey is set up to ask each team member questions regarding their manager’s approach, such as:

  • Whether they believe their manager cares about them as a person
  • Whether the manager had a career progression path conversation with them in the past 6 months
  • Whether the team member understands their role and how it connects to the rest of the company

The thing to note here is that Zapier’s managers aren’t evaluated strictly on work-related variables. The emphasis is also on the relationship between them and the team members.

It’s clear that Zapier values the human element of management and that managers in the company take the mantle of teachers. Their primary responsibility is to enable their direct reports, coach them, ensure work satisfaction, and facilitate each team member’s professional development.

As demonstrated by the company’s $50 million ARR, this approach has clearly worked for Zapier. Rather than going with the traditional “leader eats last” pie in the sky approach to management, Zapier genuinely cares about each employee and makes sure everyone understands that they’re a valued member of the team that’s working towards the same goal.

Zapier demonstrates this frequently, but one example that perfectly illustrates the fact that they emphasize company values over profit is their onboarding process.

Although a full remote company, Zapier often flies new hires to the Bay area to meet with their managers in person. New hires spend a week there on company’s expense, where Zapier organizes all manner of events for them, such as restaurant dinners and bowling.

The emphasis is on informal conversations with their team members, which gives both the managers and new hires a chance to get to know each other outside of the work environment.

This employee-focused approach to management is the secret to Zapier’s long-term success and the reason behind their insane retention rate of 95%.

Building an Exceptional Remote Team—Hiring and Interviews

What Zapier learned in the past decade is that it takes a certain type of person, with a particular skill set, to thrive as an employee in an all-remote company.

Not everyone enjoys working from their home office. Some people might lack motivation if they’re not in an office setting where everyone is constantly working. People might find it difficult to focus and may often be distracted by everyday chores, so their workday might stretch on for what feels like 12 hours, causing their performance to plummet.

There are a million little things to consider when hiring someone to join your remote team, and it should all start with asking the right questions during the interview.

When hiring for a remote team, aptitude is equally as important as the person’s technical skills. Just because someone excelled at their job in the office is no guarantee they’ll be able to perform nearly as well in a remote company.

When it comes to interviews, how you ask questions is arguably even more important than what you ask. If you ask a candidate if they’re good at remote work, if they’re a self-starter, and if they can work independently, everyone is going to answer “yes” to all of these questions.

What you should do instead is conduct a behavioral interview first. Instead of asking a yes/no question, approach people with open-ended questions that allow them to demonstrate their skills and previous experience.

A great example of this type of question would be something along the lines of: “Tell me about the greatest challenge you faced in your role previously and how you managed to overcome it.” Put the applicant in a real-life situation that they may encounter in your company, and you’ll get a much better idea of how well they’d fit into your team.

You’ll gain valuable insight into whether or not the candidate is resourceful, and you’ll gauge their ability to work remotely with much more accuracy, depending on their answer. There are three tiers of answers to the hypothetical question above:

  • Poor answer: I encountered a problem and raised the issue with my boss
  • Good answer: I encountered a problem, talked to my boss about it, presented a possible solution, and uncovered the root cause of the problem to prevent it from recurring in the future
  • Great answer: I encountered a problem, brainstormed a solution, implemented the solution, created a guide on it, sent the guide to team members, got feedback from them and improved my own process

Remote work values independent people who are willing to step up and take action. This is what you should look for in a candidate when hiring for an all-remote company, on top of technical skills required to be successful in the role.

Perks and Benefits

Founders, CEOs, and managers often get caught up in hiring top-performers that they forget the fact that you need to make these top performers want to stay in the company after they join the team.

Most companies just slap “competitive salary” on their job postings and expect high-performers with years of experience to come flocking in. While the paycheck is undoubtedly the biggest motivator for joining one company over the other, the money only goes so far. Most people would rather work in an organization with a great work atmosphere for less money than in a toxic environment that offers a bigger paycheck.

Another thing to understand is that top performers are choosing you—it’s not the other way around. The best way to attract them is by offering better work conditions than other companies in the same industry. What exactly are those conditions and what is it that Zapier offers to its employees that makes them stay with the company for a decade?

In Zapier’s case, it’s less about the benefits package and more about the intent behind it. The way perks and benefits are structured in Zapier, every employee gets a clear signal that the company genuinely cares about their well-being and does everything in its power to ensure each employee’s job satisfaction.

Zapier offers the standard benefits package with pension plans, healthcare, paid time off, quarterly bonuses, maternity/paternity leave, fitness programs, and a wealth of other goodies. On top of that, they provide premium access to music streaming services, gift cards to retail websites, gym memberships, and other quality of life services.

They listen to their employees and provide the benefits that people ask for. When a company goes out of its way to accommodate its employees, the result is a 95% retention rate.

Investing In Your Remote Team

At first, it may seem like paying for a range of monthly benefits, like Spotify premium, across an entire company of 300+ people is a huge expense. As true as that may be, it’s also an investment that pays off tenfold.

The cost of perks and benefits is trivial compared to the cost of running a neverending hiring cycle and onboarding and training new people constantly.

An example that perfectly illustrates the point is Zapier’s de-location package [11]. Traditional companies offer relocation packages and cover part of the expense of their employees moving towns to be physically closer to the company’s headquarters. Zapier, on the other hand, compensates employees from the Bay Area who want to move to anywhere in the world with up to $10,000.

After the announcement of the de-location package, Zapier’s job applications increased by 50% in volume, despite the fact that virtually no applicants lived in the Bay Area and wouldn’t receive the benefit of the package.

The reason behind this surge of applications wasn’t the benefits package per se but rather Zapier’s attitude towards their employees. Everyone wants to work in a company that takes great care of its employees.

I’m sure many managers thought that what Wade Foster did with the de-location package wasn’t a good strategic move, but you can’t argue with Zapier’s numbers.

When you have access to a global talent pool, it’s easy to think that you can replace any individual team member without much issue. That may be true but so is the fact that there’s something invaluable that simply can’t be bought—experience in your company.

A person who knows your company inside out—it’s processes, clients, and tools—is a much more valuable asset than a new hire.

If there’s one thing we’ve learned from the way Wade Foster runs Zapier, it’s this—to run a successful company, remote or not, you need to invest in the people you work with.


  1. CEO of Zapier, Wade Foster: Hitting 100k Customers, $50m in ARR, Eye on Doubling YoY with Partners, Nathan Latka, Sep 16, 2019
  2. The Myers & Briggs Foundation, Personality Type, MBTI® Basics
  3. Harvard Business Review, How to Avoid Virtual Miscommunication, April 12, 2013
  4. Remote Collective Podcast, How to transition to working remotely || Interview with Zapier employee, May 19, 2020
  5. Know Your Team Podcast, The Heartbeat Interview: Wade Foster, CEO + Co-Founder of Zapier, Feb 21, 2019
  6. How The CEO Of Zapier Leads A 100% Remote Team – Jacob Morgan, Apr 9, 2019
  7. Zapier blog, 12 emoji we use every day that Slack doesn’t come with for some reason, Mar 24, 2021
  8. Y Combinator Podcast, The CEO Who Pays Employees to De-Locate From the Bay, Aug 18, 2017
  9. Mark, Gudith, Klocke, The cost of interrupted work: More speed and stress, Jan 2008, Proceedings of the 2008 Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, CHI 2008, 2008, Florence, Italy, April 5-10, 2008
  10. Stanford News, The productivity pitfalls of working from home in the age of COVID-19, Mar 30, 2020
  11. Zapier Blog, De-Location Package: Keep Your Career and Live Beyond the Bay Area, March 17, 2017
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