History of the Black Excellence Coaching Program
At Twitch, we’re about community, inside and out. We work hard to build an environment where employees are heard, and we encourage employees to speak up when they see a need for a change. This is an example of how employee feedback resulted in real, meaningful, change.
Two years ago, the Black Guild, our employee resource group for Black employees, came together and asked for more resources tailored to their professional growth and overall experience at Twitch. One of the programs our People & Places team created to address this request was the Black Excellence Coaching Program: a one-on-one, 12 session coaching program for employees who self-identify as Black at Twitch.
This is the story of how that program came to be, how it helps employees, and how it has grown–straight from the people who launched it.
Question: Introduce yourselves! What are your names and roles at Twitch?
Tonya: Hi! I’m Tonya the VP of Employer Brand and Experience, Talent, and Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Belonging on the People & Places Team.
Gina: Hello! I’m Gina, the Senior Inclusion & Equity Manager on the People & Places team. [Editor’s note: Gina is low-key internet famous and was featured in a 2021 employee profile!]
Q: Let’s jump right in. What is the Black Excellence Coaching Program?
**Gina: **It is a coaching program designed to support the growth of Black employees at Twitch. We invite them to receive a total of 12 hours of coaching from certified executive coaches. Once they’ve started the program, participants can schedule sessions at any time, and for any duration they choose. Most people spread their sessions across 6 months, but scheduling is designed to meet each participant’s needs and commitments.
**Tonya: **The program is open to all employees who self-identify as Black or of African descent and either started at Twitch after October 2020 or have been promoted since then. We intentionally do NOT limit this experience to certain levels or functions because we believe everyone can benefit from this kind of tailored, one-on-one support.
Q: Are the coaches Twitch employees?
**Gina: **No, we work with an external Black-founded and lead firm. They connect our employees with professional coaches who also identify as Black.
Tonya: We did this for two reasons:
- First, we wanted employees to feel safe and supported to candidly share and work through their experiences, goals, and doubts. The best option was to have an external coach able to provide that level of confidentiality and comfort.
- Second, it was important for us to find coaches who also identify as Black. We wanted to connect participants with coaches who’ve lived - and are still living - the Black professional experience, because they understand its nuances first-hand.
**Gina: **We also looked externally because we didn’t want this program to create an undue mentorship burden on other Black employees at Twitch. Plus, it was an awesome opportunity to support Black Excellence by partnering with a Black-owned business.
Q: What is it about coaching specifically that is beneficial for employees?
Gina: In general, one-on-one coaching is fantastic because it is tailored to the individual. In group settings, you might not get a chance to tackle the most relevant challenges for you. With one-on-one coaching, each session is an opportunity for employees to drive their unique agenda and talk about what is most helpful or relevant at that moment. It is also a chance to go over your professional goals with someone who can hold you accountable, without the formality of a manager/direct report relationship.
Tonya: Black employees are typically underrepresented in tech and most corporate workspaces. We are asked to navigate a unique set of professional challenges and expectations that aren’t fully understood by our work environments and communities. This is supported by our lived experiences and well documented in research. Professional coaching gives this community access to a safe space to explore what they want next for their lives, to identify the internal or external obstacles in their way, and to clarify the best path forward. They get access to a thought/accountability partner they can trust, and, because every coach identifies as Black, they get a champion who uniquely understands their identity and perspective.
**Gina: **What I love most about professional coaches is that they believe in your potential unconditionally - they’re always in your corner. Good coaches don’t question “If” your goals are possible, but rather “how” and “when” you’ll achieve them.
Q: How did this all start? What seeded the idea for a coaching program specifically for Black employees?
Tonya: It was a few things coming together, but a big push came from the Black Guild, our Black employee resource group, who came together and asked for more resources tailored to their professional development, retention and growth. They came together and asked for more resources tailored to their professional development, retention and growth. In response, we started brainstorming new ways to provide the support they wanted while using research to design a program that could impact their experiences today and into the future. We kept coming back to two ideas: personal coaching tailored to our Black employees’ individual development goals and support for their lived experience while at Twitch. We committed to taking more actionable steps towards building a more diverse and inclusive company, so we ran with this idea.
Q: You’ve covered some of this already, but how did this evolve from an idea into a fully-formed program?
**Tonya: **Once we settled on providing an external, one-on-one coaching program for Black employees, we had to define when this type of support would be most impactful. For now, we’ve decided to focus on employees who have recently experienced a transition. This specifically means Black employees who have joined the organization since October 2020 and employees who have recently been promoted to a new level or internally transitioned to a new role. We’re continuing to evaluate how we can best provide this resource for maximum impact and we are learning more.
Gina: While our team owns and manages this program, the inspiration and resources needed to bring it into reality are thanks to the vision and courage of Twitch’s Black Guild to ask Twitch for more.
Q: Has the program evolved and changed since it launched?
Gina: Definitely. Since we started the program, about half of our Black employee community has been paired with a Black Excellence coach. And for 90% of them, this is their first opportunity to work with a leadership coach of this caliber.
As the program has grown, one of the things we’ve heard most from participants is that we can do more early on to help them understand what makes coaching distinct from resources like mentorship or therapy. We also learned that many employees want to build community around this program. We’re excited to use this feedback to improve and deepen this program’s impact.
This program serves as a blueprint for how we can build more tailored development support for other underrepresented and underserved employee communities at Twitch. We have so much more work to do and we’re just getting started!
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