The Real Impact Values Make on a Tech Company and Its Employees

“If our values aren’t maintained, the culture will erode. If the culture erodes, we will not be able to execute our vision.”
Written by Michael Hines
October 26, 2021Updated: October 26, 2021

“Words on a wall.” 

This is what happens when a company does not commit to its values: They simply become words on a wall that, although nice to look at, do nothing to help a company accomplish its goals or shape how employees work with each other and customers. That may sound like an overblown concern, but according to Kenny B., a partner at trading and investment firm DRW, companies that fail to live up to their values face real consequences.

“If our values aren’t maintained, the culture will erode,” B. told Built In. “If the culture erodes, we will not be able to execute our vision.”

On the flip side, employees at companies that put in the real effort required to promote and uphold their values can see real benefits, both in their day-to-day work and in their careers. At the consulting firm Wipfli Digital, the company’s commitment to nurturing curiosity goes beyond simply encouraging employees to ask questions.

“We back that up by investing in their continued professional and personal growth,” Kurt Gresens, managing partner, told Built In. “Each year, we contribute more than $140,000 in tuition reimbursement to associates.”

It takes work to ensure a company’s core values don’t become forgotten words on a wall or an “About Us” page. Here’s what that work looks like at DRW, Wipfli and six other Chicago tech companies, along with the impact such a commitment to company values makes on both a business and its employees.


Kurt Gresens
Managing Partner • Wipfli

First, what are Wipfli’s values, and why did you choose these values in particular?

The goal in committing to company values is to be very clear and intentional about them: They can have an element of aspiration, but they need to be rooted in a company’s way of doing business and critical elements for success. Without that deep connection, they become merely a marketing statement. We established five core values: integrity, caring, excellence, teamwork and perseverance. They are the bedrock of what we call “The Wipfli Way,” and they differentiate us in the market.

These values are foundational to how we do business, but they are also vital to how we think about and support our associates. Wipfli’s success is rooted in our people, and we’ve built a culture of listening that allows anyone to have a voice.


How does your team live out your values?

One of our values is to empower our associates to nurture their curiosity, giving them the security they need to bring courage and imagination to their work. We back that up by investing in their continued professional and personal growth. Each year, we contribute more than $140,000 in tuition reimbursement to associates. For example, as Wipfli’s technology strategy evolved, it was clear we needed to increase our capacity in data processing and analysis. Instead of hiring outside, we supported two IT associates who wanted to grow their knowledge and careers by pursuing a master’s degree in data science. 

Through flexible scheduling and tuition reimbursement, these two associates have grown their careers and met Wipfli’s needs. In fact, they were able to use some of our scenarios to help with their capstones and other projects, which enabled them to apply their new skills to create solutions for our team even before graduation. In addition, our internal training opportunities combined with investment in external training for associates saw us award over 41,000 hours of continuing professional education credit in FY21.


What is Wipfli’s vision? And how do your values help support that vision and set your team up to achieve its goals?

Our vision statement is to create a lasting, positive impact for every person, organization and community we engage. It relates to and supports our brand promise: “Through deeply invested relationships and boundless curiosity, Wipfli brings clarity that drives results.” Encouraging curiosity creates a culture where leaders are approachable and listen to associates. When we bring all these elements together, our associates feel safe and cared for, which allows them to bring those values to our clients. 

Wipfli has shifted to a flexible time-off program, with our associates trusted to manage their work-life balance. We also invest in robust well-being programs that look at all aspects of wellness, including physical, mental and financial. We provide a range of in-person and virtual options for individual coaching and group learning and challenges. We are advancing a flexible-first culture that gives associates the flexibility and choice for when, where and how they work.


Maureen Calabrese
Chief People Officer • Sprout Social

First, what are Sprout Social’s values, and why did you choose these values in particular?

We have seven core values: care deeply, embrace accountability, champion diversity, equity & inclusion, seek simplicity, solve hard problems, celebrate change and promote open, authentic communication. From the very beginning, we believed creating our company values should be an inclusive process determined by the team at large. 

We sent an open invitation to the entire team to participate in focus groups where they collaborated on ideals that represented both our existing culture and who we aspired to be. To ensure a diverse set of perspectives would be incorporated, individual contributors, managers and leaders from across the organization took part. Using the themes from our focus group, our executive team distilled and landed on the seven values we have today.


How does your team live out your values?

Sprout is a people-first organization and we believe that building a team rooted in diversity, equity and inclusion has a direct impact on our success. We critically and routinely examine all systems to ensure they are equitable and that we are building in measures of accountability to understand where we are making progress and where we can improve. At the heart of these efforts are our 10 community resource groups, or CRGs, which are voluntarily led by employees from traditionally underrepresented communities.

CRGs play a pivotal role in cultivating a sense of inclusion and belonging and have championed new ideas such as our “coffee chats” initiative. Any candidate who advances to the in-person interview stage is offered to meet with a member from a CRG of their choice where they can experience and hear firsthand accounts of what DEI looks like at Sprout. The response from candidates has been overwhelmingly positive and the program continues to make an impact on our recruitment goals.


What is Sprout Social’s vision? And how do your values help support that vision and set your team up to achieve its goals?

Our mission is to provide world-class social business tools to organizations of all sizes, helping them become better marketers, create stronger relationships with their customers and build the world’s most-beloved brands. At Sprout, we know and recognize that it is our people who have always been the foundation of our success, and our values make us strive to be better. Whether it’s engaging in honest feedback or seeking new ways to approach work, our values empower us to take active ownership of our growth while giving us a cultural North Star.


Tiffany Chelsvig
VP, People Operations • DISQO

First, what are DISQO’s values, and why did you choose these values in particular?

Transparency, trust, impact, innovation, a growth mindset and evolving as a team. We champion transparency among people. We create trust by standing behind our commitments and doing what we say we will do. We measure our value according to the impact we create. We are dedicated to continual innovation as individuals and in our work. We believe a growth mindset leads to excellence. We can go further together as a team and maintain that the team is greater than the individual.

DISQO’s company values originated through a grassroots, collaborative effort. We knew we didn’t want a situation where a few people decided on something that would become overlooked “words on a wall.” It was important for us to have our people’s input, so we surveyed them and asked their thoughts on our workplace culture. Because everyone was involved in the process, the themes that emerged authentically embodied our culture and accurately reflected behaviors we want to continue living by every day. 


How does your team live out your values?

Our “team” value is frequently ignited in both small and large ways. We celebrate team member milestones and achievements through a shoutouts Slack channel, sometimes with words and other times with customized emojis. High-fives are also regularly given during weekly check-ins and our attention to ensuring that every DISQO team member gets a quarterly review both incentivizes and rewards actions that align with our values. 

This fall we are hosting our first-ever internal hackathon where everyone at the company can participate, even if they’re not a developer or don’t know how to code. An event like this opens a space for new relationships to form, allows cross-collaboration to happen and underlines the value of bringing together diverse roles, viewpoints and backgrounds. It’s moments like these that help cement values and ensure that they are lived each and every day.


What is DISQO’s vision? And how do your values help support that vision and set your team up to achieve its goals?

DISQO’s vision is a world where people trust in sharing information to improve the human experience. Our vision defines DISQO’s direction, while our values inform our daily behavior. We bring our values to life through our day-to-day actions — and reactions — and through the products we bring to market. When we asked, “What if you could connect what people say with what they do and do it with their consent,” DISQO team members leapt into action to create a platform built on trust and transparency and reflective of our values. 

We were able to launch the DISQO Ad Measurement service in 2019, shaping the future of advertising effectiveness measurement. Our members share their attitudes about advertising, which we then tie to their behaviors, enabling them to be compensated for sharing their data while also influencing brands. With alignment and unity around our values, working toward this vision and our future goals is a much smoother, interconnected process.


Dennis Devine
President & CEO • Alliant Credit Union

First, what are Alliant’s values, and why did you choose these values in particular?

Wow members, unleash talent, be bold, build together and do good. We delight our members, which is the “why” of all we do. We think big, move fast and own the outcome. We innovate, deliver and celebrate as a team. And we change something for the better each day.

In 2021, we modernized our values, removing jargon and making them actionable. This change has enabled our employees to recall and connect to the values. Our goal was to present our Alliant values in a language that takes them beyond words on a wall and to demonstrate the ways we bring the values to life in service to our members, each other and the community.


How does your team live out your values?

Using our values as a guide, Alliant made the bold decision to be one of the largest financial institutions in the United States to fully eliminate overdraft fees. Over the past decade, many banks collected more in customer fees than they paid in interest on savings. This was just one of the ways to stay consistent with Alliant’s member-first mission. Once we decided to eliminate these fees, the entire organization used our value “build together” to mobilize and prioritize the project, collaborating on how we could “do good” and “wow members” by implementing the change seamlessly and quickly.

We also partnered with Suze Orman to share the benefits of becoming an Alliant member. Alliant partnered with Suze to offer the “Ultimate Opportunity Savings Account,” designed to help people get in the habit of saving and reward them for doing so. The Alliant team had to “be bold” and “build together” to create and run the new product promotion quickly.


What is Alliant’s vision? And how do your values help support that vision and set your team up to achieve its goals?

Our values work hand in hand with our brand guidelines. We’re savvy: We offer great rates, low fees and an intuitive digital experience. We’re financially savvy people working for financially savvy people. We’re selfless: We’re owned by our members, not shareholders. That’s why we’re all-in and go all out for our members’ success. We’re socially responsible: As a digital credit union, we have a mission to help close the digital divide and ensure digital equity for all.

This is an exciting time at Alliant, and our talented employees continue to bring our values to life through ongoing collaboration, development and a strong commitment to Alliant, our members and our communities. Alliant will always challenge antiquated banking norms, including a dependency on high fees, expensive physical branches and putting stockholder interests above customers’ interests. Our values allow us to continue to do excellent work.


Stacey Kraft
Chief People Officer • Enova

First, what are Enova’s values, and why did you choose these values in particular?

Enova has five core values that we live by: customer first, operate as an owner, accountable for results, top talent and teamwork, and best answer wins. Customer first means listening to our customers’ needs and creating products that solve real problems for them. Enova delivers beyond their expectations and treats customers the way we would want to be treated. Operate as an owner empowers team members to think big, move fast and use resources like they’re their own. 

Being accountable for results is based on setting high expectations and goals and following through using data to drive results. Our fourth value is top talent and teamwork. We hire and develop the best talent with a strong emphasis on diversity because we understand diverse teams are strong teams that generate the best ideas. By working in small, focused groups we are able to bring together unique perspectives and experiences to achieve one common goal.  Our final value is best answer wins because we believe innovative ideas and solutions can come from anywhere.


How does your team live out your values?

My favorite value is best answer wins. Regardless of tenure, level, background or department, Enova believes your voice is essential to the success of the company. It anchors our diverse and inclusive culture where people feel like they belong and are comfortable sharing their ideas, pushing back and ultimately committing to moving forward as a team. I realized in my first week how prevalent and important our values are. They weren’t simply words on a poster or our website but rather guideposts to work and live by. 


What is Enova’s vision? And how do your values help support that vision and set your team up to achieve its goals?

Enova’s mission is to help hardworking people get access to fast, trustworthy credit. Enova’s vision is to close the world’s credit gap. We focus on offering equitable financial service options to our customers and deliver beyond their expectations by following our customer first value. Our values support our mission and vision by enabling team members to work on real-world projects, which provides them with a new level of understanding about our customers and our work. They develop their skills by rolling up their sleeves to operate as an owner and solve complex problems.

All of this contributes to the customer-centric culture at Enova. Our best answer wins value empowers team members to take risks and to not be afraid to fail and speak up, all in an effort to deliver best-in-class solutions and services to our customers.


Joe Diamond
CEO • AllCampus

First, what are All Campus’s values, and why did you choose these values in particular?

Our core values are: exceed expectations, persevere, be scrappy, embrace curiosity, show kindness and just say it. When we first started brainstorming, we asked what made our people different, and common traits like “honesty” evolved into “just say it.” This describes how we welcome candid and constructive feedback at all levels. Most importantly, we’re just as candid with our partners. We do a lot of testing, and we get results that challenge common conventions about marketing or recruitment in higher education. It’s tough to tell someone an idea didn’t work, but we know it’s in everyone’s best interests to have those conversations. 

Our values play off of each other, and this is key to building a company aligned across its values, culture and mission. We can’t effectively support one core value without also supporting the other five. For example, “show kindness” fits with our mantra of “hiring nice people” because life is too short to work with jerks. It interacts with “just say it” so that we feel safe being candid but are careful to be tactful, too. We don’t value brutal honesty — we value productive honesty.


How does your team live out your values?

Our values help us stay focused on solving problems rather than getting distracted by disagreements or unproductive discussions. We reinforce our values steadily and formally. We have a shoutout Slack channel where people thank and recognize their colleagues, and they often use it to highlight and exemplify our core values. More formally, we have incorporated them into our annual review process, with employees scored alongside each value, which ensures they strive to embody them in all of their best work. 

Another area where we continually live our values is in how we collaborate with our university partners. We approach disagreements from the perspective of: “How can we be both candid and kind while embracing the curiosity necessary to understand the other perspective?” This mindset has let us build more honest and respectful relationships with our university partners.


What is All Campus’s vision? And how do your values help support that vision and set your team up to achieve its goals?

Our vision is to drive down the cost of higher education through better technology and processes. When we first started thinking about the philosophies we wanted to solidify as a company, we seriously reflected on whether the executive team lived up to all of them. We forced ourselves to be honest and cut value statements we didn’t feel actually described ourselves. No platitudes! 

Our values support our desire to be an agile company that can keep up with the rapid evolution of higher education, digital marketing, research and education technology without losing the culture that makes All Campus a great place to work. We have more than tripled our headcount in the past three years, and amid this growth, we continue to reinforce our values in quarterly meetings and in the way we train our new generation of managers. We create opportunities for them to learn from each other and provide leadership and coaching boot camps. Most importantly, the leadership team continuously holds ourselves accountable to our values.


Lisa Nadler
Chief Human Resources Officer, Primary Department • Integral Ad Science

First, what are Integral Ad Science’s values, and why did you choose these values in particular?

The unique culture at IAS is a cornerstone of our identity and an essential part of our continued growth. Together with our employees, we created a clear set of six values that define our culture. Our values are our guide on how we approach our business, including customer interactions, product development and brand initiatives. Our values also drive our recruitment, talent development and retention strategies as we continue to grow our team globally. 

They are: we innovate, we do the right thing, we are accountable, we are customer-obsessed, we are one team and we have a bias for action.


How does your team live out your values?

At IAS, we value and rely on each other. We’re inclusive, show up for each other and act with empathy and consideration for the benefit of the team. We know that none of us succeed if our team doesn’t succeed, so we never say, “That’s not my job.” Our team members regularly go out of their way to support their colleagues across teams in order to help attain success as a company.

Whether it comes to partnerships, new product launches or major research initiatives, our team shows up for each other. This also plays a part in our bias for action. Understanding that speed matters in business when it comes to building successful teams, delivering great customer service and problem-solving is crucial in what we do.


What is Integral Ad Science’s vision? And how do your values help support that vision and set your team up to achieve its goals?

Our mission is to be the global benchmark for trust and transparency in digital media quality for the world’s leading brands, publishers and platforms. Trust and transparency make up the backbone of all our values. From building innovative products our customers can rely on to holding each other accountable and understanding we are one team, trust and transparency is the underlying thread that knits it all together.

Our employee-focused mission mirrors our overall vision. We want to continue building a culture of belonging with the same dedication and spirit of innovation that we put toward developing our products, one where any employee can be their authentic self and every opinion matters.


Kenny B.
Partner • DRW

First, what are DRW’s values, and why did you choose these values in particular?

Our core values are integrity, critical thought, learning, challenge consensus, preparation, respect and sense of urgency. All of these match the culture we wanted to create — one where everyone has a voice, challenges are viewed as opportunities and we stay nimble and flexible, even as we grow. These values have proven to stand the test of time and help keep us centered and competitive in any environment.


How does your team live out your values?

To answer this question, I will address one of our values: challenge consensus. This value, when embraced on a firm-wide basis, enables us to develop new business lines, enhance existing businesses and become more efficient. Just because we have done something one way for some time doesn’t mean there can’t be a better way of doing it. It would be foolish and arrogant to make such an assumption. Therefore, we want individuals to join our team who are ready and eager to challenge the consensus. It’s important to surround ourselves with people who will tell us what we need to hear and not just what we want to hear.


What is DRW’s vision? And how do your values help support that vision and set your team up to achieve its goals?

Our vision is to create and leverage competitive advantages across all areas of the firm in order to identify and capture scalable opportunities in global markets. If our values aren’t maintained, the culture will erode. If the culture erodes, we will not be able to execute our vision. We often ask, at all levels of the firm, what would we do differently if we were starting from scratch today? That curiosity of what’s possible and the freedom to pivot is what makes DRW unique and successful. 

For example, our crypto asset business, Cumberland, was born from curiosity and a willingness to use our strengths in new ways. A few employees were interested in what this was all about, put together a smart strategy and executed it — back in 2014.

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