People First: How Balance, Connection and Growth Power ‘The Wipfli Way’

Three team members describe how the financial consulting firm’s people-first culture empowers employees to take the lead in their professional and personal lives.
Written by Olivia McClure
August 11, 2023Updated: August 11, 2023

When Jacquie Wright asked her manager at Wipfli if she could take a half-day off to go hiking, his response surprised her. 

“He insisted that I take the entire day to fully relax and recover,” she said. 

This is just one example of how the advisory firm embraces work-life integration, acknowledging the importance of blending professional and personal responsibilities. Employees are encouraged to fully leverage all of their benefits, including the organization’s flexible time off policy, when they’re not focused on building fintech solutions.   

“I truly value that my company prioritizes my well-being, and it makes me motivated to go above and beyond to match their loyalty,” Wright said. 

She went on to explain that Wipfli’s people-first approach isn’t simply reflected in its policies and perks; it defines how Wright accomplishes her work as an information security analyst. 

“Human beings are the number one risk factor for any company,” she said. “That makes focusing on people my top priority, because the better I can relate to my peers and understand their needs, the better I can help educate them and make the firm more secure.”

The better I can relate to my peers and understand their needs, the better I can help educate them and make the firm more secure.”

 

Understanding others is something that Christien Morneweck also practices every day. The digital marketing specialist considers it his duty to support his peers to achieve optimal team performance. 

“This involves recognizing and adapting to individual preferences in leadership styles, fostering open communication within my team and valuing a healthy work-life integration,” Morneweck said. 

Of course, putting people first goes beyond what happens during the workday. According to Senior Business Developer Johnathan Prunty, the company prioritizes employee connection and hosts many initiatives and events throughout the year to bring people together — including Community Day, which is a day the firm encourages all associates to volunteer.

For Prunty, all of these efforts, from the way in which employees work to how they unwind afterwards, reflect the company’s aim to create a positive, engaging environment for its people — one that moves along with them. 

“Culture isn’t a static element, but a dynamic aspect that evolves as the organization grows and adapts,” he said. 
 

SET UP FOR SUCCESS

A part of Wipfli’s people-first culture involves giving employees the tools they need to succeed. For example, the company recently authorized Bluetooth devices — including wireless mice, keyboards and headphones — to enhance employees’ working experience. 

While this technology carries security risks, Wright’s team diligently analyzed its vulnerabilities and proposed mitigations for the tech team for testing. “Through our collaboration and mutual drive to deliver a solution for our peers, we were able to implement security controls while still opening up Bluetooth for the company,” Wright said. “It was truly a joint effort that led to a better employee experience, because we all kept our focus on the people who would enjoy it and benefit from it.”

 

A part of Wipfli’s people-first culture involves giving employees the tools they need to succeed. For example, the company recently authorized Bluetooth devices — including wireless mice, keyboards and headphones — to enhance employees’ working experience. 

While this technology carries security risks, Wright’s team diligently analyzed its vulnerabilities and proposed mitigations for the tech team for testing. “Through our collaboration and mutual drive to deliver a solution for our peers, we were able to implement security controls while still opening up Bluetooth for the company,” Wright said. “It was truly a joint effort that led to a better employee experience, because we all kept our focus on the people who would enjoy it and benefit from it.”

 

 A team member faces away from the camera and wears a t-shirt that reads “Wipfli Gives Back”
wipfli

 

 

Empowered to Learn 

The impact of a people-first approach can reveal itself in different ways. For Wright, it appeared after an employee recently became the victim of a spear-phishing campaign. 

The team member, who recently attended Wright’s phishing training, successfully detected and reported the scam. This experience enabled Wright to build a targeted training campaign based on real-life examples, therefore bolstering the company’s security efforts. 

“When new incidents occur, I always try to include them in new training so employees recognize and appreciate the relevance of the information I’m imparting,” Wright said. “We learn best from each other.”

We learn best from each other.”

 

Learning from peers is important for everyone at Wipfli, but is especially important for new hires. With encouragement from her manager, who recognized her skills and honored her military background, Wright was successfully onboarded onto her team with limited technical knowledge. 

“He assured me that he would support my professional development and on-the-job training,” she said. “Some companies would simply say that, then leave you floundering and expect you to teach yourself from nothing. That’s not the case here.” 

From the moment Wright joined the company, her manager provided her with the resources and guidance she needed to set goals, pursue new knowledge and refine her skill set. With this support, she obtained her first technical certification within the first few months of being in her role. 

With stronger skills and support, associates are empowered to drive change on an individual level. Prunty recalls how this came to life during the implementation of a major project, which aimed to improve efficiency and cross-departmental collaboration and required adapting to new processes and technologies. 

Throughout the project, Prunty’s team encouraged those involved to play a leading role by offering thorough training sessions and ongoing support and resources while maintaining open communication. 

“As a result of our people-centered approach, the project was not only completed on time and within budget, but also achieved a high level of employee engagement and satisfaction,” he said. “The success of this project demonstrated the strength of our team’s focus on people and their ability to navigate change with resilience and a shared commitment to our organization’s values.”


 

FINDING THE RIGHT FIT

When interviewing job candidates, Prunty asks specific questions, such as, “What work environment motivates you?” and “How do you prioritize your professional development?” He believes asking these questions helps the company evaluate a candidate’s mindset, values, collaboration skills, adaptability and positivity. “By considering culture fit, we aim to build a cohesive and high-performing team that shares our core values and works well together,” Prunty said.

 

Encouraged to Grow 

Wipfli’s company values — integrity, caring, excellence, teamwork and perseverance — form the backbone of Wipfli’s culture and are outlined in “The Wipfli Way.” This framework guides the actions of both employees and leaders, enabling them to grow as both people and professionals.  

Prunty said the company’s CEO demonstrates an honest dedication to culture and actively participates in firmwide initiatives, such as one dedicated to employee well-being. During this event, he encouraged team members to prioritize self-care by setting aside time for their hobbies and interests, sharing how he has personally found balance in his life. 

“This act showed genuine care for employees’ holistic growth and reinforced the company’s commitment to fostering a healthy and supportive work environment,” Prunty said. 

A focus on balance has urged the company to implement supportive structures, such as “meeting-less Wednesdays.” This perk enables Morneweck to focus on both work tasks and other interests, such as taking a course or delving into an insightful book. 

“What makes meeting-less Wednesdays so special to me is that they not only provide uninterrupted time for me to tackle my to-do list, but my colleagues also encourage me to use this time in whatever way benefits my growth,” he said. 

Prunty added that the company’s flexible work policy has enabled him to gain more control over his daily work and long-term goals. This policy has had a significant impact on both employees themselves and how they drive progress. 

“By prioritizing team members’ well-being, growth and job satisfaction, we create an environment that fosters innovation, collaboration and high-quality work,” Prunty said. 

 

By prioritizing team members’ well-being, growth and job satisfaction, we create an environment that fosters innovation, collaboration and high-quality work.”


To ensure employees continually thrive, the firm hosts various events and initiatives throughout the year to build camaraderie and a sense of belonging. Considering her team is entirely remote, Wright considers these cultural moments to be the highlight of her working experience. 

Wright and her peers recently attended a semi-annual offsite event, where they participated in activities they all voted on. By playing a part in planning events, such as this one, she feels as though her presence and opinions matter. 

“It’s genuinely gratifying to be a part of a company that will fly me out to spend time with my team just to improve the cohesion of the group,” Wright said. 

While various policies, perks and initiatives have cultivated Wipfli’s people-first culture, Wright believes this environment has grown organically over time, fostered by those who have brought the organization where it is today. 

“It truthfully just feels like who we are,” she said. 

 

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