Wayfair Tech Blog

Wayfair Gets OutLoudNow!

OutLoud Speakers School logo with white text and red background

As you can imagine, Wayfair’s journey from a startup to being one of the world’s largest online shopping destinations for home didn’t occur by happenstance. Many factors fueled our success, including a passion for solving challenging problems through team innovation.

Those innovations are evident throughout our business and have one element in common—they are facilitated by an environment that doesn’t just welcome the flow of new ideas and perspectives, it encourages them from all team members. This has been the case since day one, and today, as a global business with a diverse workforce of more than 16,000 employees, we have an important opportunity to provide additional support to our non-native English speakers.

After a rigorous vetting of external vendors, we knew that OutLoud Speakers School (OLN) was the answer. If you’re not familiar with OLN, it is an organization that recognizes that many brilliant people have the added challenge of communicating in their second, third, fourth, or even fifth language. At Wayfair, this includes people in all roles and at all levels, from executives and managers to individual contributors, as well as warehouse associates, engineers, analysts, and more. OLN coaches are experienced and conservatory-trained professionals, all dedicated to helping people become more effective communicators and powerful public speakers.

The program spans three months and includes:

  • Biweekly 60-minute live group webinars where participants can learn about and practice things like vocal projection and clarity as well as storytelling, which helps increase confidence in their communication skills, ultimately driving individual and team performance.
  • Biweekly 30-minute one-on-one sessions with an OLN coach, which focus on addressing each individual’s needs and specific goals. 
  • Program participants also complete homework exercises on their own in order to prepare for both the group and individual sessions.

We kicked the program off in January 2021 with two cohorts from our Data Science team. Over three months, they worked to develop their communication and presentation skills and at the conclusion, employees from both cohorts shared enthusiastic excitement around the program and its impact. Based on the feedback from the initial cohorts, we were able to further tailor the program to Wayfair’s specific needs and offered three additional cohorts in 2021.
In the words of one of the 2021 participants, “The OutLoud speaker coaches and training sessions have helped me to gain back my confidence and passion for what I love to do.” While adding that he is not ready to provide a TED talk quite yet, this person was confident that he will get there one day.

Importantly, our partnership with OLN doesn't just benefit employees. Our teams provided helpful feedback that has allowed the OLN team to hone in on the most relevant components while making small adjustments to better serve participants. This included moving from weekly four-hour sessions to biweekly 60-minute group efforts coupled with 30-minute 1:1 sessions. Together, we also realized that capping cohorts at around 10 people would allow coaches to best support participants.

Since commencing this effort, the positive impact the program has had on Wayfairians has generated significant interest from other employees. Due to the high demand, OLN expanded their coaching staff to meet Wayfair’s needs and led to our first year-long contract with them, allowing us to offer the program to nearly 200 people in 2022.

Starting this year off strong, we have already launched eight cohorts made up of employees from across the Technology organization and we will be adding one new group each month starting in Q2. There continues to be consistent interest in the program - the cohorts starting in April, May, and June are already full!

Programs like this are vital - benefiting our business and helping team members grow professionally. We are thrilled to continue investing in our employees and look forward to seeing the long-term impact of intentionally supporting non-native English speakers within the company.