Bonusly contributes to the global vision of being connected for Jellyfish, an international digital marketing agency. Jellyfish rethinks and refreshes bonuses and rewards with Bonusly's peer-to-peer recognition platform.
Bonusly scaled with Jellyfish as it grew from a 250-people company to more than 2000 worldwide
92% sustained participation rate and has remained consistently high for 7 years
Culture is never fixed. Every time an organization expands into a new country or acquires a new business, the company culture evolves to incorporate new experiences, new people, and new ways of doing things. It takes a lot of effort, but remaining consistent with core values can help shape a company's culture throughout its evolution. When you’ve been with a company for almost 20 years, that evolution can be dramatic.
Jellyfish started in 1999 as a network support services company called Avondale IT. I joined the company 18 years ago. Our current CEO, Rob Pierre, stepped into the picture in 2005 and started remaking the company into what it is today. We got out of network support services, began to focus on paid search (which, back in 2005, was still relatively new), and rebranded as Jellyfish. Today, Jellyfish is a global business that partners with brands to achieve and optimise their marketing performance in a platform world. We help brands thrive by harnessing the platforms that drive growth.
Remaining consistent with core values can help shape a company's culture throughout its evolution.
During my time at Jellyfish, I moved from the UK to Baltimore to help set up our US division. I also established our paid search proposition and built our programmatic display, paid social, and retail media practices. It’s been incredible to see our company grow from 10–15 people in a single-room office above an art gallery to 2,250 experts in 42 offices globally.
Early in Jellyfish’s journey, we established four core values that are still front and centre today: be positive, be the solution, be accountable, and be passionate. Even during the initial interview process, we look for people who can demonstrate those core values alongside the credentials for the specific role. We know that if someone can show a passion for something, anything, that will translate to their work and role at Jellyfish. It’s why we also ask about innovative solutions they’ve implemented, instances where they took accountability for their actions, and challenging situations they addressed positively.
In addition to helping us find the right people, our core values help our teams frame various activities and initiatives. But we needed help with providing the right motivation for these activities.
Finding the Right Mechanism to Incentivise Values
Our bonus structure was meant to provide motivation for desired behaviours. But we discovered that we were paying millions of dollars in annual performance-related bonuses that no one ever thought were enough. Those bonuses were also tied to the company’s overall performance, but it wasn’t always clear how that performance related to individuals' actions and behaviours. It was hard for our people to connect their efforts to a bonus, especially as the reward might be far off. Since we gave bonuses at the end of the year, they weren't an effective day-to-day motivator.
About seven years ago, we started to rethink our bonus structure. I was also interested in finding a mechanism that would encourage everyone in the organisation to demonstrate the right behaviours daily. This initiative wasn’t even my area of responsibility, but—living our company values—I wanted to be the solution. So I started talking to our clients and key partners, including Google, who used a peer-to-peer recognition program. I was intrigued, and began some research into the value of peer recognition vs top-down recognition.
What especially appealed to me about peer-to-peer recognition is how it distributes the accountability and the value of recognition from the few to the many. Introducing peer-to-peer recognition doesn't mean leaders have no responsibility for recognizing talent, but it's a powerful performance management tool that leaders can combine with promotions, salary increases, and learning development opportunities.
We found Bonusly aligned most closely with Jellyfish’s culture and core values. We liked the varied price point structure of their rewards and that employees could choose to claim rewards frequently or save up for bigger items. Bonusly also offered the option to donate to charities, which we liked as an alternative to traditional rewards. The concept was fun and Bonusly's UI was very appealing.
Jellyfish adopted Bonusly in 2015. At the time, we had between 250 and 500 people, predominantly based in the US and UK. The support and advice we received from the Bonusly team helped us communicate its importance to all staff, and the onboarding process was so seamless that Bonusly quickly became a natural element of everyone’s day.
Seven Years Later, Why Engagement Remains So High
Seven years after we launched Bonusly, our program has a 92% participation rate. With any new platform, it’s common for participation to spike at the beginning and taper off over time. But Jellyfish's participation and engagement with the platform have remained high all these years because Bonusly is fun and immediately gratifying. We have also consistently created ways to boost engagement: People automatically get points for onboarding, birthdays, and employee initiatives we want to promote. We offer Bonusly points for company-wide competitions, too.
But another big part of our high participation is that Bonusly has become embedded into our culture and how we recognise and reward one another for jobs well done. People have to link recognition to one of our core values, which helps reinforce certain behaviours through continuous reaffirmation. That’s one of the things we love about Bonusly. When we have our all-hands meetings, we can call out the people who have been the most passionate or the most positive or the most solution-oriented in their region by looking at Bonusly Analytics. It’s similar to an Employee of the Month honor, but instead it’s based on peers and coworkers who recognise and reward the Jellyfish core values in action.
Any mechanism that can immediately recognize the right people for demonstrating desired behaviours is a worthwhile investment.
We haven’t eliminated our bonus program, but Bonusly and the annual bonus achieve very different things. In many industries, people expect an annual bonus as part of a salary and benefits package. Some teams, like sales, might even receive a commission as part of their pay structure. But now we can incentivise people in other business units, such as finance, operations, or HR. Bonusly is an everyday recognition of others that offers an incentive to engage, support, give thanks, and be present. That disconnect between someone’s performance in January and their annual bonus 12 months later doesn’t exist with Bonusly. If you're looking for a method to consistently influence behaviour on a day-to-day basis, Bonusly is the way to go.
Having introduced Bonusly to Jellyfish, I’ve since handed it over to the People Ops team, and they’ve done a fantastic job of running with it. Now I’m the Bonusly cheerleader, and I still see the value daily. Whenever I need a pick-me-up, I pop onto the platform and scroll through all the fantastic things people are saying about their peers.
People Love Bonusly, Wherever They Are
Bonusly contributes to our global vision of a connected company. It’s one platform accessible by everyone, where you can reward anyone, anywhere, at any time—and Bonusly points can transfer to any reward or local currency, which helps us avoid the regional or departmental silos that can emerge in larger organizations.
More than anything else, people love it. Bonusly builds a habit of gratitude, and I now receive more “thanks” messages than I used to over email or in person. And personally, it means more to me. People at Jellyfish have even gone so far as to build Bonusly robots that alert the entire office when someone receives a reward. And I’m sure that constantly reminding people of all the great things happening within the company has positively impacted retention.
Anyone thinking about implementing a peer recognition platform should do so as soon as possible. Any mechanism that can immediately recognize the right people for demonstrating desired behaviors is a worthwhile investment. It’s worked well for us, and I believe Bonusly would be successful in any organization.
Bonusly is a better mechanism to complement annual bonuses, reward good behavior, and reinforce core values—at the heart of it, I think Bonusly has been so successful within Jellyfish because it’s fun. We want people to have fun at work, and Bonusly highlights that.