Building a Global Company Culture with Intention: How BigCommerce Aligns Employee Recognition with Company Values


You have to be intentional about building your company culture—otherwise, an unhealthy culture might form without you realizing it! With a properly nurtured culture, you can support employee happiness and engagement, and propel your people forward in their careers.

We're very intentional about our culture here at BigCommerce. BigCommerce is an open SaaS ecommerce solution that can manage everything from checkout experiences to marketing and analytics. Handling these tasks for our customers frees them to focus on the core of running their business and drives their success. We have more than 60,000 customers in over 150 countries, running the entire spectrum from mom-and-pop shops to enterprises that are looking for new ways to scale. Our global workforce of 1,000+ employees is based in the US, Europe, and Sydney to serve our customers around the world.

BigCommerce went public in 2020, 12 years after our company’s founding, and we have even bigger plans for our future. To get there, we need to ensure that every single one of our employees embodies our values.

Employee Connection Is Just as Important as Skill Sets

I’ve been with BigCommerce for eight years, starting as a receptionist at the front desk. Talk about getting to know the organization from the ground floor! From there, I moved into recruiting, and four years ago, I stepped into a newly created role focused on Culture and Engagement. Many companies will say that culture is essential, but how do you develop the right culture? My job is to determine how BigCommerce can ensure employees are excited about being part of our team and to create the environment for our people to do the best work of their careers. 

Every company will say that culture is important, but how do you create the right culture? Start with a plan.

Culture starts with people, and at BigCommerce, that starts with our Bucket Two philosophy and hiring process. Bucket One consists of the tangible skills, experience, and knowledge that will make you successful in your role, i.e., the skills on your resume and your knowledge around your specific job duties. Bucket Two contains the things that are harder to measure, i.e., how your work gets done and how you interact with others. 

At BigCommerce, we emphasize four qualities within Bucket Two: transparency, inclusivity, accountability, and being “humbitious” (our CFO coined the word that combines humility and ambition). We want people to bring humility to their role, recognizing that they don’t know everything while also being ambitious in their goals. We seek these qualities when assessing candidates and hold our employees to the same standard, by basing performance evaluation conversations around not only results, but how their work is getting done. Similar to our core values, our team learns these Bucket Two qualities and are encouraged to live by them. This serves to protect our culture, by attracting and growing talent as our organization scales. 

Each year, my team collects employee feedback to influence our annual culture plan to programmatically improve engagement. We focus on curating events, inclusion initiatives, and supporting the employee onboarding experience. To help folks stay connected during the pandemic, we offered social outlets via smaller, virtual events, things like trivia nights and cookie decorating during the holidays. 

We also find a lot of opportunities to connect with our employees through our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) program. Central to our work is supporting our Employee Resource Groups to create a welcoming and inclusive environment and provide our employees with resources, the space to have conversations, and ways to celebrate differences. 

Making Employee Recognition Global, Accessible, and Timely

Peer recognition has always been a part of our culture, but it wasn’t as organic and timely as we would’ve liked. For example, at our Friday all-hands meetings, we'd leave time at the end so anyone could stand up, take the mic, and give a shoutout to a colleague who helped them or to celebrate an accomplishment. It was fantastic to hear peers celebrating one another for work that may have gone unrecognized otherwise, however, we knew that not everyone felt comfortable giving or receiving recognition in front of an audience. 

In addition, we held quarterly awards to recognize folks within the organization for exhibiting our company values. Even though individuals were nominated by their colleagues, we knew that some people still weren’t getting publicly recognized for their contributions. Also, as we grew and expanded our global reach, nominations didn’t scale well across the organization, making it critical for us to find a way to make this recognition more timely and accessible. 

As another example, one Employee Appreciation Day, we printed out tags, placed them on each person’s desk, and gave instructions to write a note to someone who’s impacted their journey at BigCommerce. They then put their tags on a big board. When people saw the messages that their coworkers had written for them, it positively impacted morale. We knew we wanted to continue this practice for our next Employee Appreciation Day, but we wondered how to make it even more scalable, accessible, and timely. 

The Global, Accessible Tool Our Employees Loved

That’s when we found Bonusly. Among the recognition tools we explored, Bonusly became a top choice because it's globally scalable, which was especially important to our company leadership with our rapid growth and distributed teams. It also allowed us to tag shoutouts with the company values we want teammates to live and breathe every day, encouraging employees to recognize these behaviors. Bonusly is an easy-to-use virtual platform, attractive to introverts and extroverts alike. People also get the benefit of receiving recognition in real time, viewing fun analytics such as top receivers throughout the organization and can be used wherever they are—it’s great for hybrid and remote work environments.

Bonusly integrates well with our other tools, too. Our organization relies heavily on Slack, and the ability to create a Slack channel for Bonusly that puts everything at our employees’ fingertips was a big driver for adoption. Bonusly also syncs with our HR information system, BambooHR. BambooHR automatically syncs with Bonusly to update employee profiles as they join or leave the company, giving our HR team time back in their days to focus on other priorities.

Real-time peer recognition provides a boost to morale, motivation, and productivity.

Our CEO announced the rollout of Bonusly for our 2017 Employee Appreciation Day and encouraged our whole team to start sending shoutouts. There’s no better way to kick off adoption than that kind of visible and vocal support from your most senior leader.

Employees loved it right away because recognition from their peers was visible in a way it had never been before. Bonusly gave those with a more introverted communication style a chance to publicly recognize their peers, and people realized that you don’t have to be a manager to recognize others. People had fun adding GIFs and pictures to the color commentary that tied the recognition to our values. (I think everyone’s GIF game improved exponentially as a result!) 

We boosted the visibility of Bonusly recognition posts by setting up big monitors in our offices that cycled through a live feed of the shoutouts over the course of the day. For example, you could be walking down the hall and see that Meghan from Marketing just pushed out a huge campaign. People in different departments who don't interact with her on a regular basis likely wouldn’t learn about Meghan’s achievement if not for Bonusly. As we’ve all been working remotely the past year, we've been able to follow updates in the Bonusly Slack channel, keeping everyone aware of the great work happening across the organization.

Bonusly Drives Our Company Values

Bonusly helps keep our company values and Bucket Two qualities top of mind. All recognition in Bonusly is connected to a hashtag tied to our company values: #teamonamission, #makeadifferenceeveryday, #thinkbig, #customersfirst, and #actwithintegrity. It’s sometimes easy for people to forget what their company stands for. With Bonusly, we can easily tie our behaviors to our values every day. 

At so many organizations, employees forget what their company stands for. A recognition program tied to company values helps reinforce their importance.

Building a company culture with intention is vital, so we explain BigCommerce’s beliefs and values during our new hire orientation. In other organizations, that might be where the conversation about values ends, but at BigCommerce, we show new hires what our values look like in practice with highlights from Bonusly. This step creates the natural opportunity to demo Bonusly. We ask each new hire to recognize at least one person who helped them on their onboarding journey by the end of their first week. Doing so familiarizes people with the platform and enforces peer recognition and living our values as the norm.

Each shoutout in Bonusly comes with redeemable points to spend on a wide selection of rewards. We even created custom rewards for charitable donations, and I’m proud of the impact BigCommerce employees have on charitable organizations through their Bonusly donations. Whenever a crisis is happening around the world, our employees are first to ask how we help. When Hurricane Harvey hit Louisiana and Texas in 2017, we set up a campaign to donate to the Red Cross relief effort. Employees donated $10,000 in rewards, which BigCommerce then matched, for a total of $20,000. We did the same to respond to the wildfires in Australia in 2020. More recently, we created and matched custom donations for the COVID-19 crisis in India.

These donations are connected to one of our values: Make a Difference Every Day. Since 2017, our employees have contributed 10% of all their redeemed rewards to support nonprofits. In 2020, 21% of our employees chose to make donations instead of selecting gift cards for a total of $8k donated to charity.

Company values matter because employees face tough decisions every day. The right way isn’t always the easy way, and you want employees to do what’s right for your organization every time. This has been only more true during the pandemic, when people have been working from home and have less daily guidance or interaction with their managers and team members. With Bonusly, we are able to reinforce those values and have them champion what it means to be a part of BigCommerce.

Even During the Pandemic, We’re Moving Forward Together

It can be tough to keep everyone moving in the same direction, especially in this moment of remote work. I’m so glad we had Bonusly in place to connect our team during a period that has been isolating for many. Our monthly recognition giving rate is 67%, and 91% of our employees get recognized through Bonusly every month—both above average for typical Bonusly users. That sustained participation tells me our employees continue to find Bonusly valuable.

Going public in 2020 was a milestone we had worked toward for a very long time. Now that we’ve done that, where do we go next? We’ve got the funding to scale to the next level, and we have an incredible roadmap ahead of us. One thing that won't change as we continue to the next big missions ahead of us is celebrating the small wins and one another along the way to keep us energized and on the right path. 

There’s a proverb that says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Bonusly helps us continue the journey together and reminds us of our bigger purpose along the way.