What Does Being a ‘Best for the World — Workers’ Company Look Like?

Purpose Work Culture

As a 2017 Best for Workers Honoree, Future State knows the value of centering employees’ happiness and engagement.

BY SHANNON ADKINS

Each year B Lab, the independent nonprofit that certifies B Corporations — businesses who strive to benefit people and the planet alongside profits — names a set of companies deemed Best for the World. These pioneering companies score in the top 10 percent on the B Impact Assessment, meaning they are among the best companies in the world at creating positive outcomes for life on Earth. Future State is proud and humbled to be a Best for the World (BFTW) honoree in the category of workers. Here, CEO Shannon Adkins shares some of her insights about the importance of the people-first model, and what it’s meant for her business.

Winning BFTW means Future State is among the top companies in the world for worker treatment. What’s your motivation?
As the CEO of a 100% employee-owned firm, I am clear that my job is to create a compelling return to my shareholders — the great news for me is that my shareholders are also the team members I care for and collaborate with on a daily basis. I get excited to think about the possibility of creating lasting wealth for all of my team members: front line, back office and administrative, as well as each of our consultants and leaders through our ESOP.


In our unconventional recruiting approach, we do not assess educational background as a core criteria for hiring, but rather prioritize mindset, emotional intelligence and grit.


Name a few unusual benefits you offer your employees, and why you do it. What do you get back from offering these benefits?
1. Being 100% employee owned is already unusual, but in our program, full-time, hourly and part-time team members are all eligible in any year in which they work a minimum of 1000 hours. We also allow team members to have a 2-year break in service and still remain in the plan. This design element allows us to ensure that the ESOP is a benefit not just for full-time staff, but for the very valuable consultants across our team who do have more frequent breaks in service.

2. Like most of us, our team members have passions and commitments outside of the office. We strive to accommodate these needs with flexible schedules, unlimited PTO for full-time employees, paid volunteer time off, and remote work accommodations. Because of this, we attract and retain people who might not otherwise choose consulting as a career, and we get the opportunity to work with unique and interesting colleagues who bring diverse life experiences to the workplace.

3. We work to create opportunities for those with great aspirations but nontraditional backgrounds, and also make space for team members that may be looking to take on less as they re-evaluate priorities approaching retirement. In our unconventional recruiting approach, we do not assess educational background as a core criteria for hiring, but rather prioritize mindset, emotional intelligence and grit. Regardless of background, we pay a fair living wage for all team members.

4. We are committed to transparency in communication and a deep and authentic concern for the well-being of our team members. We share all financials with all team members, and we talk freely about our challenges and our opportunities, tradeoffs and concerns. We ask people how they are doing and we really care about the answer. We support one another and help each other out. When we talk about our company, about our team members, about our work, the most common word you will hear is “love.”

What’s the best thing you’ve ever heard an employee say about working for you?
I feel free to be myself working at Future State. I am seen, strengths and quirks alike. And when I am free to be myself, I bring my best self to work, and I give more of myself.


What I heard loud and clear is that we make a difference. And that we are different. And that the world needs more of that.


What does being a B Corp mean to your company? Why did you apply? What do you get back from it?
When I took over as CEO I wanted to answer the question, “Why GROW? Does the world really need more consulting companies?” I asked our team, I asked our clients. And what I heard loud and clear is that we make a difference. And that we are different. And that the world needs more of that. What was just a part of our DNA — our commitment to our team, our commitment to women in leadership, our authenticity and transparency: These turned out to be aligned to the standards that define 21st-century leadership, the standards defined in the B Corp. Assessment. So we did not have to change any of our business practices to become certified. But once we did, it really gave us that external validation that we are different, and we saw immediate and lasting impact to our employee engagement, our recruiting efficacy, the quality and nature of the projects that began to come our way, and our ability to tell our story in a more compelling way.

What’s one thing you’d like to improve for Future State employees?
Training and talent management/development: I would like to have a breakthrough in our revenue so we can invest in more advanced training and development for all of our team members. Our teams get excellent on-the-job training, and occasional formal training, but we could do more. We also have a gap in providing consistent “management” to our front-line consultants. While this has been OK so far because our employee base is highly competent and self-sufficient, as we begin to think about succession planning and developing the next generation of leaders, we need to work harder to develop our earlier-in-career team members.