Shopify: Doing Human Relations Right


Shopify is one of Canada’s sweetest startup success stories. Launched in 2006, they have developed a robust, stable and customizable ecommerce platform used to power over 50,000+ retail shops worldwide in 90 countries with combined product sales of over $600 million dollars.Their growth is impressive as cited in a 2012 profile in Profit Magazine crediting them as being ‘Canada’s Smartest Company’

From the original three co-founders, Shopify’s head count has increased to 130, while its customer base and sales have both more than doubled in each of the past three years.

Beyond their spiffy product offering, Shopify is one of the hottest companies around that people are clamouring over each another to work for.

So how are they doing it?

Shopify believe in attracting (and retaining) the best talent

Shopify credit most of their success to their ability to scale properly and attract amazing people to their organization. One just needs to look at the numerous blog posts in which either people are trying to get hired such as this one  or this one (kudos here for the candidate using the Shopify platform as an application tool) or posts from those who are speaking to their joyful experiences within the company such as those from Little Miss Shopify and her summer internship and some notes in git from a software developer who works on their team. These kinds of results when searching for Shopify demonstrate their reputation as a company people want to work for and in turn, attract more people to apply to be a part of their organization.

So what does Shopify offer its employees exactly? Look no further than this list from their website which cites such perks as gear from Apple, child care, housecleaning services, share options, more food and snacks and beer than anyone could ever need, a gym allowance to ensure their employees can work off the unlimited catered breakfast, lunch and snacks and many more additional benefits.

The Shopify office space is beyond cool and words can’t do it justice so just check out this video. Employees are encouraged to decorate and show off their personalities in their workspaces to the point that they are provided a yearly allowance to decorate.With the recent opening of their new office in Montreal, there will be plenty more office spaces to be personalized.

All of these initiatives help them to attract top talent which is essential given that technology staff are deeply in need of these days and there are so many global players both small and large  for talent to choose from. In the previously cited Profit Magazine profile on Shopify, it’s maintained that

“Taken together, all the perks and programs have helped Shopify attract talent from around the world, with virtually zero attrition—just two employees quit in the past two years—compared with 30% average annual turnover for Silicon Valley companies.”

Shopify hack HR

Pat on the back to Shopify for having a listing on their website that encourages people to apply even if there isn’t an active listing. This shows that they understand the need behind proactive recruiting and their Talent Scout, Doug Tetzner’s Twitter profile has stated in the past that he’s always recruiting.  In this interview, he provides insight into his interviewing practices.

Their HR team openly share their knowledge and expertise such as these Notes from Landing Your Dream Job 2.0 that came from an event Shopify hosted in which they shared their job seeking advice with the community and conversely provided a glimpse into what recruiters are looking for from candidates.

Shopify are HR renegades and they engage in some pretty fun initiatives such as the ‘Draw the Owl’ recruiting campaign which they received kudos for in Fast Company magazine.


Most recently, they have put the call out for someone who can hustle into a vacant role in their business development team.


Their HR team is highly engaged to the point that they aren’t considered Human Resources but ‘Human Relations’ to really show how much they value their employees. This is reinforced by a Unicorn. Yes. A Unicorn. The magical creation that emerged when Shopify developers unleashed their magic to support the Human Relations team by creating an internal employee recognition tool aka Unicorn. In essence, it is a communications tool created to manage bonuses in which each employee can receive perks based on how helpful they are to internal teammates as well as to customers and external parties. Staff share and support one another by discussing their projects and experiences and then a monthly bit of number-crunching is done to calculate who has been the most engaged staffer and staff receive their bonuses accordingly. No egos. No titles. Pure fairness which translates into happier human relations.


But what else helps in attracting and retaining talent?

Shopify ‘get’ the value and importance of corporate culture


With a dedicated ‘Chief Design Culture Officer’ on the team (Daniel Weinand) they are putting into practice a role that more and more companies are discovering is essential for success. In their profile in Profit Magazine, Tobi Lütke (Shopify’s CEO) remarks,

“… I directed Daniel [Weinand], literally one of my biggest guns, to take the role of chief culture officer. The only thing he’s working on is making sure people are happy here, that we do interesting events, that everyone feels part of this.”

Events such as Shopify’s ‘Hacker Days’ are exactly what keep their talent happy and foster teamwork. With Hacker Days, all employees have two days every quarter to gel a team and work on projects that have nothing to do with their job descriptions or work at Shopify. Sometimes the results of these events produce both products that are utilitarian such as the app that texts the receptionist when the office’s beer runs low as well as products that can be re-sold to other industries or companies. Further to the mention earlier of dev teams working hand in hand with the Human Relations team, one such Hacker Days project that has a HR flavour to it is the ‘Throw Out Your Resume’ microsite that offers job seeking and interviewing advice.


In closing our goal in this profile of Shopify is to give a shout out to a Canadian company that truly gets it. That gets the power of corporate branding, that bring fun to talent sourcing, that specialize in Human Relations (not Resources) and that truly raise the bar for what corporate HR should be. They are a model for all companies to aspire to and we hope that this blog post will help you bring some suggestions to your organization.

Would your organization like to be profiled on our blog? Have a great Human Resources story you want to share with others? We’d love to hear from you so contact us at

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