Democratizing coaching at Shopify

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Shopify has one of the most democratized internal coaching programs. Unlike executive coaching at other companies, anyone at Shopify can sign up for coaching at any time. To enable this at scale, Shopify has a team of full-time coaches.

René Moortgat, Talent Development Operations Specialist at Shopify tells us how he supports the team of coaches in delivering coaching to employees.

Coaches Corner at Shopify

A Coach within Shopify is someone who helps their employees overcome challenges and enhance their wellbeing. Coaches do this in sessions with employees by unpacking whichever issue might be on their client’s mind and helping them become more self-aware and build increased capacity to address the issue successfully,“ says René.

“The wellbeing ingredient is something that sets coaching at Shopify apart from what may be offered in other companies. The coaches want to develop the whole person, not just the person who comes to work. It’s a dual situation – helping with the work problems as well as the how:  How can I be my best self at work in a way that’s healthy for me?”

The early days

Back in 2011 when Shopify was a 60-person startup, the exec team brought on an external consultant Coach to coach a few  Shopify execs. Tobi Lütke, the CEO, quickly saw the value of coaching in developing leaders and this external consultant become the first full-time Coach.

Initially, coaching was exclusively for the exec team. As word about the value of coaching spread, the Coach pitched to Tobi the idea of coaching for everyone at Shopify. With that, the Coaches Corner pilot program was launched.

“In the full spirit of a small scrappy startup, the Coach posted a signup sheet outside his office door every week with 5 available slots any Shopifolk could claim. An email went out letting everyone know Coaches Corner was ready for signups. The response was immediate, and demand began to rapidly increase as Shopify itself grew explosively in headcount. More Coaches joined the team in the following years.”, recalls René.

Within a few short years, Coaches Corner expanded from the Ottawa HQ to other offices as well. The team added the first remote Coach to provide coaching via Zoom to Shopifolk everywhere.

“With the growing demand for coaching, the admin burden involved in running and offering coaching began to weigh on the team, whose time would be better spent coaching clients.”, and this is where René joined the team to help scale the program around the world, both remotely and in person.

So, how does it work?

The bread & butter of the coaching program are the regularly scheduled coaching sessions available to everyone at Shopify. Anyone, at any level, can sign up for coaching sessions as often as they want.

When signing up for a session, coachees specify what they’d like to discuss during this time so that the coach is informed ahead of time. Sessions may happen in person at one of the many Shopify offices, or they may be delivered via Zoom.

Once the session is complete, coachees provide feedback on how it went. “This feedback is important to us, as it’s used to improve session experience and is a component used when assessing Coach performance. Our satisfaction rate, based on the feedback surveys, is 96%.,” says René proudly.

What’s on the horizon

With one of the most democratized corporate coaching programs at this scale, what is Shopify up to next?

We’re focusing on two main things: giving our employees greater freedom of choice and making more efficient use of our available resources. They’re both interrelated.“, says René.

“Combining our pool of coaches, and passing the freedom to choose what works to our users, we’ll be able to be much snappier in the future in adding more slots as demand continues to grow, and ensuring that  physical location is no longer a barrier in an increasingly global company.”, as for René, managing the number of available slots and coach utilization is important to be effective.

Shopify uses PlusPlus Coaching as their platform to manage all these sessions at scale. It makes it easy to offer coaching sessions for various coaches, allow Shopifolk to discover them at their location or online, sign up, and track responses. This automation is important as Shopify runs 1000s of sessions globally per year.

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