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Innovation, Company Values, and all things Ecommerce with Kevin Heinzelman

As we move forward and come out of a global pandemic, what was important to employees 12 to 15 years ago and what’s important today is dramatically different. It’s no longer about the open office floor plan, the kegs on tap, and the game rooms in the office. People are craving something deeper. Employees want to feel recognized, appreciated, and that they are more than just an employee ID number when they come to work. 

This is where employee recognition comes in.  


When I think about my own journey to Workhuman®, I didn’t come here for flashy perks or cool swag – I came here because I was inspired by the company mission. The business impact of making people feel recognized and appreciated in the workplace, and the deep need for technology that makes this possible  presents a perfect storm of growth and opportunity.  

Even though I wasn’t looking to leave my role at the time (I had worked with our VP previously, so initially took her call out of respect and to learn more about where she was going), the opportunity on the eCommerce team and the role we play in setting the company up for success was ultimately something I couldn’t pass up. In a lot of eCommerce roles, you might be working on things that move the needle just one-tenth of a percent. They are short term projects and results that matter – but aren’t necessarily breaking the mold. Here, that’s not the case. We’re moving quickly and dramatically changing the future of the user experience. 

This was a role that matched what I was good at, with interesting challenges to solve, a company mission I believed in, and leaders that were driving that mission in the right direction, with a proven track record of positioning us for success and growing to where we are today. I quickly moved from “I’m not interested, but I’ll listen…” to “I HAVE to take this opportunity.” 

Team Leadership 

Our E-commerce Senior Vice President, Sarah Whitman, has created a team environment where when it comes to problem solving, we are truly all equal. 

There’s no traditional hierarchy in how we work.  We’re still writing the playbook, so everyone must be comfortable with diving in to get their hands dirty and have their own sense of ownership. We are scrappy. We take chances. We speak up. Everyone here is a leader and everyone has accountability.  

If you’re going to work on our team, you must be comfortable  making decisions without all the details sometimes – we are building the ship as we sail it. Our focus is always on “what is it going to take for us to be successful in the next stage of company growth?” We’re looking at the radical sweeping changes and innovation that is going to differentiate us from competitors  over the next 20 years like it has over the previous 20 years. Everyone feels empowered to speak up and think about how to do just that.  

What I’m most proud of, and looking forward to 

Since I joined, there’s so much I am proud of and even more that I’m looking forward to as we continue to grow. We’ve differentiated ourselves with the brands we’ve brought on board to our product offerings, focusing on more brands that are minority owned and eco-friendly. There’s unique products that you can’t find  at major big box retailers. Additionally, we’ve created new ways to market our vendors within the store and connect them with users and new customers through our platform. It’s been really powerful to be able to bring new strategies on board and have data and case studies that prove they work to our advantage.  

Our e-commerce team is interesting because on one hand, you are part of this company that’s been successful for 20 years and is a leader in their space, and on the other hand, you have this team that operates like a startup and is continuously building the playbook for success. We’re building and crafting the strategies that aren’t just going to help us be successful tomorrow – but that will catapult us through the next 20 years of the company journey.  

When we think about the future of  our eCommerce product, we’re not talking about iterative changes – we’re talking about sweeping, transformative changes in our space. My team is responsible for reimagining the store experience and the ways our users engage with it altogether.  We’re personalizing the experience for our users in a way that will enhance our ability to drive activity on the store and serve up our users the most relevant offering to them at that point in their journey. 

#LifeAtWorkhuman: In a pandemic  

Recognition is a powerful tool and is being leveraged more and more by organizations across the globe. It’s no longer something that just checks a box – it’s a strategic tool for productivity and engagement, and is the one that can help build, keep, or save your company culture. I know this power firsthand because as employees, we use the product every day.  

There’s no greater example of humanity at work than the way that teams have stepped up during a global pandemic to support one another. My wife and I spent months working from the kitchen table with our 2-year-old – and with a second child on the way. Workhuman and our leadership team created an environment that focused first and foremost on the wellbeing of people. There was an enormous level of flexibility and a shared understanding of what we were all struggling with as working parents or as individuals who were living alone and feeling isolated. When I was sick with COVID myself, I was out of the (virtual) office for a week, just trying to rest and recover. During this time away from work, my team picked up the slack with no questions asked. My manager even drove an hour in a snowstorm to drop off food and essentials on the front porch. My story wasn’t unique – there are multiple teams and people leaders who followed suit and did the same for their own employees that were in need. By giving people the time they needed to look after themselves and their families, they were better equipped to bring the very best of themselves to work when they were ready.  

When we look back on the past 18 months – we’ve really accelerated the pace. We’ve done more than we planned to, by having an employee-first mindset and giving people the freedom to take care of themselves first – in the moments when they were working, we got their full selves – and that’s our whole goal. Workhuman allowed us to take the time we needed to be able to do that in unprecedented times.  

As fast as we’re growing now – it’s going to be lightspeed after this. If we can grab the next few years as a company in a really strategic way – there’s no stopping us. We’re in an incredibly powerful position to provide this service that is so desperately needed to customers all over the world, with a product that is changing people’s lives for the better. There are few companies where the mission is wholeheartedly for good, and I’m proud to be part of a company that’s making an impact through innovation and human connection.