Company: Wayfair, Boston, MA USA
Nomination Category: Employer of the Year - Retail
Employer of the Year Essay:
Since founding the company in 2002, Wayfair’s co-founders have been committed to maintaining an entrepreneurial culture where high-value initiatives are courageously pursued and there is no penalty for failure because it’s understood that greatness is always preceded by calculated risks, smart iterations, and limitless ambition. Guided by a singular mission to transform the way people shop for home, Wayfair employees in every role and at every level are empowered to forge paths never taken by leveraging data and driving technological innovations.
Wayfair co-founders Niraj Shah and Steve Conine believe the company’s most important and valuable resource is its people. Wayfair offers a number of internal enrichment programs for teams, including engineers. Wayfair Labs is a three-month program/interview process for entry level engineers, which offers hands-on experience with projects across different focuses that participants can own from start to finish. Wayfair sets diversity and inclusion goals through their Wayfair Labs program. In 2016, the company set a goal to ensure that future Wayfair Labs teams be comprised of at least 50 percent women. January’s class was 70 percent women, and early results suggest it was one of the company’s strongest classes yet.
Wayfair prides itself on offering numerous educational initiatives to all employees. Wayfair’s Learn@Work program offers classes on everything from Excel and SQL tutorials to negotiation tactics and communication best practices. In addition to the variety of Learn@Work courses, the company also created a suite of three-month-long programs to foster career growth for managers. Rolled out in January 2017, managers who completed the training received an average increase of 20% across all manager behaviors in upward feedback reviews from their direct reports.
As a company that’s paving the way for a new era of online shopping, Wayfair prioritizes hiring employees with specific traits over experience. To find the best talent for Wayfair’s 100% inhouse customer service team, they went above and beyond traditional recruiting methods to test a new hiring initiative inviting candidates to participate in Escape the Room challenges. This initiative was so successful that in the spirit of Wayfair’s build vs. buy culture, the team piloted an in-house model dubbed “WayGames” where candidates are asked to complete puzzles, brain teasing riddles and word logic-based reasoning problems. This unique approach to hiring was essential in 2016 when Wayfair opened a new sales and service center in Bangor, Maine.
A few other areas where Wayfair is paving the way as a top place to work include:
· Wellness. Wayfair offers a dozen complementary health and wellness classes each week, spanning both fitness and mindfulness sessions – including Pilates, Barre, Yoga and Guided Meditation. In addition, every Wayfair employee is provided with a sit-to-stand desk, as well as biweekly fresh produce deliveries and free snacks.
· Employee-Driven Charitable Giving Program. Formed in 2004, the Employee-Driven Charitable Giving Program is a company-enabled initiative that encourages employees to give back to their communities. Since 2004, the initiative has supported over 100 organizations, including the Dana Farber Institute for the Boston Marathon, where a team of Wayfair marathon runners fundraise for the Dana Farber institution.
· Wayfair Jungle Gym. At Wayfair, there is no cap or guardrail on career trajectory. Wayfair is supportive of employees who are interested in exploring different functions within the company. The company’s openness to career-path changes through the “career jungle gym” mentality provides employees with full support and guidance.
· Comradery. To encourage employee bonding, every team is given a monthly allowance for an outing of their choice, from dinner and drinks to laser tag. Quarterly, co-founders Shah and Conine host off-site company-wide parties complete with awards to honor outstanding individual achievements. Employees are also empowered to plan their own events, such as the annual Wayfair Ski Trip, for which Wayfair’s co-founders often generously provide lodging and ski lift stipends.
Employer of the Year Summary
Wayfair has recently been awarded with the following awards:
-Multichannel Merchant’s Retail Innovator of the Year 2017
-CEO Connection’s Mid-Market Company of the Year 2017
-Boston Globe Top Places to Work 2016
-MassTLC Company of the Year 2016
-Internet Retailer of the Year 2016
-Boston Business Journal Best Places to Work 2016
-Stevie Award Customer Service Department of the Year 2016
-Internet Retailer’s Hot 100 Most Innovative Retailers 2016
-In June 2016, Wayfair unveiled a television ad, which was entirely written, produced and performed by the company’s employees.
-In 2017, Wayfair launched visual search leveraging innovative techniques developed by an engineer during a company-wide hackathon. In addition, the catalyst for the company’s constant innovations in augmented reality and virtual reality also began in a hackathon where an engineer, who now heads up the company’s R&D lab, developed a prototype AR app that lets customers view 3D items in their homes via a phone.