Companies hire Stride to help them build custom software. We want to create value for them, and we also want our work to make a positive impact. This means we have to be thoughtful about whom we choose as partners and potential clients. As part of our sales process, we check whether potential clients align with our core values.
We know other companies have similar concerns. We haven’t found any template or precedent to build upon. So we are building our own practice for values qualification. We want to share this work to get feedback and learn from others.
What does values alignment mean?
Values alignment means ensuring a baseline of psychological safety, fairness, and respect.
Consider clients’ efforts toward diversity, equity, and inclusion in their own business.
Also, consider their impact on ecology and social justice.
How we approach qualifying for values alignment
- Set an achievable standard and live up to it.
- Make that standard public.
- Empower Striders to, and hold them accountable for, acting based on those standards.
- Communicate qualifying decisions to all Striders.
Work with clients that treat employees and customers consistently with our anti-harassment and nondiscrimination policy.1
Stride should follow through on our commitments to the public, clients, and ourselves.
Stride values the sustainability of our business. Stride is accountable for the impact our work has on clients, society, and the environment.
Stride should listen to concerns raised by environmental and social justice movement leaders.
Stride should honor boycotts and protest actions by environmental and social justice movements.
Stride should work to create more benefit than harm.
Our sales and pre-consulting staff evaluate prospects based on:
- Glassdoor comments,
- Watchdog sites like ethical consumer and sourcewatch, and
- Searches for company name and keywords (Black Lives Matter, racism, harassment, lawsuit, boycott, and protest).
The Strider performing the evaluation looks to find evidence that a company’s core strategy, business model, or activities create harm. The evaluator should include information about individuals if they determine strategy, model, or activities.
A company’s response to concerns speaks to its alignment. Are they engaging with and learning from the communities they may be having an impact on? Are they acknowledging the concern? Are they in communication with outside experts and critics? Do they have empowered, internal governance?
If the evaluator raises flags, they can ask for more information or disqualify, as long as they inform the Leadership Team. They can also escalate a decision to the Leadership Team.
We identify concerns to avoid wasting a prospect's time and goodwill.
We can ask the prospect to discuss our concerns. We can also let them know we will not pursue the work but are open to talking about it. In either case, we will tell the prospect that our concerns are values based.
The Leadership Team will inform Striders when we disqualify projects based on values. This will provide accountability and build a shared understanding.
Signals of potential values misalignment
Are allegations sourced journalism, backed by evidence, or in some other way credible? How recent is it?
Are leaders of social justice or ecological movements amplifying or raising these concerns?
Is there evidence of whistle-blowing within the organization?
Is the company responding with doublespeak or blanket denials lacking supporting evidence?
Are they lobbying the public, employees, or governments to work around the criticism?
Does their behavior align with expressed leadership views?
Are there short-term financial imperatives aligned to their behavior? Examples are recent funding, change of ownership, or IPO.
Do they champion activities like DE&I without engaging concerns over core strategy?
Signals of potential values alignment
Does the company acknowledge controversy and respond with relevant facts?
Do they engage with advocates for affected communities?
Are they discussing the ethical implications of their actions? Are they reflecting the concerns of outside voices fairly?
Do they have independent and reputable advisors or an internal ethics process? Have they invested in internal structures to challenge their own systems?
1 The policy applies to race, color, sex, religion or creed, gender (including gender identity), handicap, marital status, pregnancy, national origin, ancestry, age, physical or mental disability or genetic predisposition, pregnancy status, military or veteran status, victim of domestic violence, prior record of arrest or conviction, registered domestic partnership status, victim of sex offenses and stalking, AIDS and HIV status, employment status, credit scores, alienage or citizenship status, sexual orientation or identity, or any other protected characteristic under federal, New York state, or local law, as applicable.