Ah, the employee handbook. Everyone has had the experience of receiving a weighty tome full of policies, disclosures and legalese on the first day of work. You have to sign a document to attest that you received it. And then you throw it in the recycling bin, unread.
At Bonusly we like to be agile (lowercase 'a') about everything we do. In that spirit, our handbook lays out our values and guiding principles (and a small number of progressive policies) -- in an open-source document that’s easy to read and understand. And because it’s hosted in a public GitHub repo, anyone can view how it changes over time and submit pull requests to update it.
Without further ado, here is the Bonusly Employee Un-Handbook.
The initial version of this un-handbook was created at our first company retreat, when Bonusly was a team of seven people. By Q3 2018 we had grown to 22 people, and decided it was time for an update. We spent a half-day soliciting input from the entire team, which the leadership team then synthesized into an updated set of values that was shared with the whole company in November 2018.
In between these major updates, there have been regular small tweaks, corrections, and updates both as a result of internal input as well as pull requests from outside of Bonusly. Thank you to all who have contributed!
In Q3 2021 Bonusly was rapidly approaching 100 people. We wanted a way to keep our un-handbook fresh by incorporating input from all Bonuslians, but it wasn’t feasible to get everyone in a room to discuss it in an open-ended fashion. So we used an online survey to solicit feedback from our team. Then we coded the feedback and made edits which were submitted as a Pull Request for review and comment. After the comment period, the changes were finalized and merged in.
We will continue to find ways to solicit feedback and input from the Bonusly community on a regular basis, to ensure that this document scales as we do!
- People, working on teams, are the primary driver of business success.
- Help companies realize successful business outcomes by developing high-performing, highly-engaged teams.
- Building software solutions that connect people with their work and each other in meaningful ways. A “meaningful connection” strengthens one or more of the three pillars of Employee Engagement:
- Purpose - the sense that your job is important and you are having an impact
- Progress - the opportunity to develop your skills and grow as a person, as well as test yourself against new and interesting challenges
- Belonging - the feeling that you matter and are valued, combined with the bond you forge with colleagues as you strive toward a common goal
- Every employed person derives a sense of purpose, progress, and belonging from their work.
They aren't just nice-sounding words on a poster somewhere, but a succinct description of our culture and what it’s like to work here. We use these values to guide our day-to-day activities and decision-making, from how we respond to customer emails to the roles we hire for to the features we build.
- Go get results
- Be an excellent teammate
- Default to transparency
- Work smarter
- Seek and embrace diversity
- Delight the customer
Embodying this value means:
- Bias toward action
- Try things that might not work
- Focus on results, not inputs
- Release, iterate, improve
- Take responsibility for understanding context and goals
You can think of this value in two parts: “go get” and “results”.
The first part (“go get”) speaks to our strong bias toward action / decision. Reality is noisy and messy. Our understanding of it is incomplete and often wrong. Yet we still need to navigate reality in order to grow Bonusly and realize our vision for the future. The best way to do that is by getting results. A result from a real world experiment (a new marketing tactic, a quick product test, a tweak to our sales funnel) is extremely valuable because regardless of whether it is positive or negative, it helps us improve our understanding of reality. Research backs this up: McKinsey has found that organizations that make more decisions more quickly, get better results.
The second part (“results”) speaks to the importance primacy of outputs. This leads us to be agnostic about how results are gotten. For example, we don’t have a company-wide policy to govern how individual Bonuslians get shit done. Those decisions are delegated to teams and individuals. It also leads us to prioritize getting results -- because we can learn from them. Did we get lucky or unlucky? How will we update our understanding of reality based on the result?
Embodying this value means:
- Be proactive and assertive
- Solicit feedback and input
- Be radically candid
- Listen first
- Assume the best
- Be there for others
- Teach & encourage
- Solve problems together
We believe that success is achieved by people working on teams. As such, it is critical that we be the best teammates possible to one another. This means being proactive and assertive in your communication: asking for what you need, providing candid, constructive feedback, and voicing your opinions and ideas. It also means listening to, supporting, and encouraging your colleagues -- especially at times of disagreement and stress. And last but not least, it means having fun with your teammates!
Embodying this value means:
- Take responsibility to share information that may help others (with context)
- Embrace and contribute to a culture of writing
- Share what you’ve learned
- Be vulnerable - talk about mistakes, failures, and bad news
- Create an environment where it’s easy to get information
(We took this phrasing from Buffer. Thanks, Buffer.)
In order to act on our values, particularly those of Work smarter and Go get results, individuals must be equipped with the information they need to make good decisions. That information consists of metrics, results and other data, as well as the contextual information to help them understand that data and use it to make good decisions.
When Bonusly was smaller, the description of this core value focused on sharing internal metrics along with strategies, goals, outcomes, and other important context. That is still necessary, but increasingly insufficient as we scale. Now more than 100 people, we are discovering the need for people at every level of the organization to adopt practices and processes that not only record information and make it available to those who might be looking for it, but also cultivate habits and processes that proactively put the right information into the hands of those who need it.
In short, defaulting to transparency isn’t enough -- to fully embody this value we must default to documenting, default to onboarding and training, and default to updating and maintaining information sources.
Embodying this value means:
- Question why/how we do things
- Iterate on current processes
- Optimize how you work
- Always be learning
- Make data-informed decisions (when possible)
- Figure out how we can "punch above our weight"
- Embrace & learn from negative results
At Bonusly, we’re able to move quickly and effectively with a very small team by ensuring that every team member is not simply executing on tactical-level tasks, but is also evaluating, improving, (and ideally automating) how those tasks get executed. Moreover, team members are encouraged to question if specific tasks are even necessary, and seek growth via subtraction.
Working smarter also means knowing yourself and how you work best. Where do you work best? With what tools? At what times? How much R&R do you need in order to perform at your best? What skills/knowledge do you need to acquire in order to take your output to the next level? At Bonusly, you have the freedom, and the responsibility, to answer these questions for yourself.
Embodying this value means:
- Actively learn about your own privileges
- Make sure our product is inclusive
- Seek representation & inclusion (even at the expense of other goals)
- Build inclusivity & bias mitigation into our processes
- Expect it to be hard and uncomfortable sometimes
Our industry has well-documented problems when it comes to workplace diversity. This fact makes it easy for tech companies to skew everything from their employment policies to the features they develop toward the needs of the dominant group - which is both a disservice to our customers and reinforces the lack of diversity in our industry.
Our dedication to diversity goes beyond simply putting equal opportunity copy on our job descriptions. We use tools (like Mathison) to eliminate gender bias from the language of our job postings, and actively seek out applicants from diverse backgrounds. We all have unconscious biases, so we strive to build bias-mitigation into our training, processes, and systems. And in the spirit of measuring results, we track and share our diversity numbers on a quarterly basis.
On a product level, we strive to build software that is inclusive and welcoming to all, and will hold ourselves accountable for how our product is used by our customers.
On an individual level, employees help create an inclusive and welcoming environment first by engaging with and seeking to understand our own privileges (yes, plural -- there are many different kinds of privilege). This is easier said than done, as privilege is more about the absence of inconvenience and impediment than the presence of unearned riches and good fortune. This makes it hard to notice when you have it. Noticing and acknowledging privilege is key to embodying this core value. Then, having taken that step, we strive to be curious and empathetic with our friends and colleagues from different backgrounds, and to help create a workplace where there is incrementally less inconvenience and impediment for all, regardless of who you are.
Embodying this value means:
- Provide a delightful experience
- Make it fun & easy
- Deliver value over the long term
- Take time to listen to and empathize with the customer
- Be accountable for how people experience our product and company
This is a value as old as business itself, but it’s fundamental to how we operate at Bonusly. We are a business, and the only way we can stay in business is by attracting and retaining customers.
From the very start of Bonusly, we've focused on building a product that our customers find easy, fun, and useful. We pride ourselves on making the work a more fun, fulfilling, and positive experience for all our users - day after day, month after month, and year after year.
To that end, everyone at Bonusly focuses on the customer -- their needs, challenges, feedback, ideas, and behaviors. This focus is foundational to everything we do, because we don’t just serve customers -- we delight them.
At Bonusly, we believe compensation should be fair and equitable. We use data to make decisions and take subjectivity out of the compensation process as much as possible, and aim for total compensation to be at or above the market for similar roles at similar companies. Learn more about our Compensation Philosophy at Bonusly.
Bonusly offers fully-covered health/dental/vision benefits that are significantly more comprehensive than industry average. Employees can also extend their insurance benefits to their spouse and dependent children. "Spouse" includes partners through marriage, civil union, or registered domestic partnerships.
Bonusly covers short-term and long-term disability in the event of any potential medical leaves. Life insurance coverage is basic with the option for employees to add on additional voluntary coverage for themselves, a spouse, and children.
Bonusly offers a 401k with employer matching through Guideline. Bonusly matches 100% of the first 3% contributed, and 50% of the next 2% (for a max employer contribution of 4%).
Bonusly will reimburse approved professional development expenses, up to $2000 per employee per year.
Bonusly will reimburse approved wellness expenses (e.g. gym membership, yoga classes), up to $500 per employee per year.
Boulder HQ-based employees are eligible for the free EcoPass program. Employees in other locations are eligible to receive a 25% reimbursement on a monthly transit pass.
We use Bonusly to recognize one another, as well as automate or streamline many other recognition and incentive programs. You can redeem your earnings for gift cards, cash, and charitable donations, and we're always excited about suggestions for new rewards to add to our catalog!
We want you to take the time you need to refresh and recharge. Many startups offer a simple “unlimited vacation” policy. We view this as lazy policymaking at best and at worst an attempt to subtly discourage employees from taking vacation.
Instead, we set a minimum expected vacation. Our expectation is that everyone will take a minimum of 2 weeks (10 days) vacation per year. If you have taken less than two weeks of vacation in a calendar year, expect your manager to talk to you about it.
We also embrace a more nuanced view of time off. At our last company retreat, we asked the team to talk about what they valued in their time off. Unsurprisingly, we want the freedom to mix work and free time in different ways. Here are some examples of what Bonusly employees do, which we encourage you to do as well:
- Travel while still working about half time (a “workcation”).
- Take breaks on nice days to go hiking/biking.
- Take occasional 3-day weekends.
- Go away on a longer (week+) vacation where you fully disconnect from work.
Can you truly take unlimited vacation? Of course not. You can't expect to take 6 months of paid vacation per year. But, there is also not a hard limit on the number of days off per year that you can take. Between longer vacations and random days off here and there, a typical employee should take enough time off that they are able to sustainably perform their job function at a high level.
One important policy that many early-stage startups ignore is parental leave. We believe that having a great parental leave plan is critical to attracting and retaining top talent who are parents or want to become parents. Parental leave is for any kind of parent, mother or father, by birth, adoption, or surrogacy.
We offer 12 weeks paid parental leave, to be taken anytime during your child's first 6 months with you. Also, new parents can bring their immobile infants to work with them. Your new little one is welcome to tag along to work until six months or crawling, whichever comes first.
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