WordStream’s First Annual Core Value Awards

Core Values Story
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Back in 2013, Ralph Folz, our CEO at the time, led an initiative to identify the qualities and actions that WordStream as a company and its employees would strive to embody in their day-to-day performance. These core values, Ralph explained, were important for establishing standards as the company was rapidly growing:

These values are the essence of our company. These are not just words on paper, but something we will strive hard to live by, and we expect you to hold us accountable to them.

Accountability was key here. The exercise could easily have been finished and filed away—instead, we’re still talking about these values years later, while making decisions for the product, while interviewing new hires, while on client calls.

With the inception of the core values came the employee recognition program, a venue to call out peers for exceptional work or exemplary portrayals of a particular value. Back then, this venue was a bulletin board with public notes:

WordStream has grown significantly since 2013, so the bulletin board system doesn’t quite work anymore. But peer-based nominations have remained a big part of core value recognition. Our marketing team meetings always start off with a quick round of off-the-cuff core value recognitions. Each month, employees nominate each other for core value recognition in the company-wide meeting.

And this year, WordStream held its first annual Core Value Awards.

(Notice that’s “first annual” already? More on that later.)

Recognizing exceptional employees

The goal of WordStream’s Core Value Awards was simple: to celebrate exceptional employees.

“There are different successes that we want to recognize and celebrate at WordStream,” CEO Howard Kogan explains. “Some of those things are business metrics. We recognize and celebrate someone retaining customers or making sales. We also celebrate customer-oriented wins, whether that’s a customer’s success or an outstanding customer relationship. But these core value awards are about celebrating employees, not for business metrics or customer wins, but for embodying the values of great teammates.”

Naturally, then, the nominations were peer-based, too.

With an anonymous, peer-driven nomination process, these awards wouldn’t just be managers or execs recognizing the same visible, vocal high-performers. “You can be the quietest person in the room,” Howard said, “but if you’re a great teammate who embodies our values, your peers will acknowledge you and you can feel empowered to acknowledge them.”

And plenty of people took the opportunity to acknowledge their coworkers. The nominations amounted to over 41,000 words of praise and recognition.

Howard read through all of the nominations to select the winners, and he noticed clear patterns. Names submitted by multiple employees throughout departments and recurring themes in their nominations made selecting the award winners easy. And the best part? This was made clear during the award ceremony: “The moment after the winner’s name was announced,” Howard said. “When people erupt and cheer—not politely golf clapping, but yelling out, ‘Yes!’ or ‘She deserves it!’ That was the best part of the Core Value Awards.”

And speaking of the awards…

Some of the winners

The Core Value Awards recognized employee who embody each of WordStream’s core values:

  • Authenticity
  • Be great
  • Take action
  • Transparency
  • Thought leadership
  • Winning together

There were also a few new categories, including new employees, teams, and an employee of the year. Throughout the ceremony, Howard and the rest of the executive team presented 17 awards to WordStream employees.

WordStream employees at the awards ceremony

WordStream employees gathered for the Core Value Awards.

Here’s a quick look at a few of our winners.

Conor Bond: High-Impact New Employee

If you’re a regular WordStream blog reader, you’re familiar with Conor Bond. He regularly writes about everything from industry news to inbound marketing to internet-breaking ad campaigns. Conor was recognized with the first-ever Core Value Award in the ceremony, the High-Impact New Employee Award.

Conor accepting his award

Conor Bond, far right, accepting the award from our CEO Howard Kogan.

The High-Impact New Employee Award recognized employees who started making immediate, measurable impact right away—and promise to continue to do so as they grow here at WordStream. Howard shared a few nominations for each winner, and Conor’s focused on not only his drive to learn, his willingness to take on new projects, and, of course, his insane output.

“It blows my mind how much shit Conor gets done on a day-to-day basis.” – An excerpt from one of Conor’s nominations

Leslie Signor: Authenticity

When Ralph led a team in identifying WordStream’s core values, authenticity made it from rough draft to final without much revision. It’s simple: WordStream values people who have strong ethical standards and integrity. And at the ceremony, Associate Director of Professional Services Leslie Signor was recognized for her commitment to authenticity.

Leslie accepting her award

Leslie Signor, left, accepts the core value award for authenticity.

Leslie’s authenticity doesn’t just help her projects or her clients, either; it motivates everyone who works with her strive to meet her high standards and do better.

“Leslie has an incredible work ethic and holds herself and those around her to exacting standards of integrity, professionalism, and authenticity. She embodies a ‘customer-first’ mentality and always goes the extra mile to do right by our customers, also ensuring that those around her do the same.” – An excerpt from one of Leslie’s nominations

Greg Herrmann: Thought Leadership

If you’ve talked with a customer service rep at WordStream, you’ve likely come in contact with Greg’s thought leadership—you just might not know it. As the Client Services Training Manager, Greg is responsible for creating a digital marketing curriculum and training WordStream’s new hires on the Customer Success team.

Greg in his raffle prize, a Wordstream blanket

Greg also won this custom blanket in the raffle.

Thought leadership is one of WordStream’s core values, and here’s how we describe embodying this: “We are passionate about thought leadership. We like to turn confusion into understanding and complexity into clear direction.” Greg’s nominations pointed to his commitment to training the next generation of marketers here at WordStream, but stressed that his thought leadership extends well beyond the structured training period. He’s always available to help answer clarifying questions or dig through complex issues to find a clear solution.

“Greg can’t even seem to walk to the bathroom without being bombarded with questions from every department. He is the go-to for everyone and always makes himself available. If he had a dollar for every time someone said, “Hey Greg I have a question,” he would be a wealthy man. AND he always does it smiling…for the most part.” – One of Greg’s nominations

Agency Sales Team: The Stream Team Award

The goal of the Stream Team Award was to recognize a group of employees—whether a formal team in the org chart or not—who consistently embody every one of WordStream’s core values, especially winning together. The Agency Sales Team, led by Zach Rego, won this award for their exceptional performance over the past year.

agency sales team accepting their award

Howard, left, reading nominations for the agency sales team.

Zach and his team have worked to grow WordStream Advisor for Agencies by not only better understanding the needs of prospects and customers, but also collaborating with each other as well as other teams throughout WordStream to better understand and improve this tool.

“The agency sales team is rocking it this year! They’re hitting goals and gaining us delighted customers by showing them how WordStream’s capabilities are a great match to help agencies grow and thrive. And they provide consistent feedback on what prospects are asking for in order to make our offering even better.” – One nomination for the Agency Sales Team

Until next year!

Remember when I said that these were the first annual WordStream Core Value Awards? This was just the beginning. The employee nominations, the awards ceremony, maybe even that custom WordStream blanket—it’ll all be back again next year!