The Quest for Something Beyond Profit

Not long ago, I released a Podcast exploring employee motivation beyond money. In his book, Drive, Daniel Pink asserted that, given fair compensation, what really motivates employees is:

  • Autonomy
  • Opportunity for Mastery
  • Purpose

And it is these motivational elements that decrease turnover, increase productivity, and have a direct impact on customer satisfaction.

Last year, Maryland’s legislature turned its collective attention to the notion of corporate purpose. In 2010, Maryland became the first state in the nation to recognize Benefit Corporations, or so-called “B-Corporations” as a new corporate structure category for mission-based, for-profit organizations.  In other types of for-profit business organizations, officers and directors could potentially be held liable for taking actions which did not directly relate to maximized shareholder value. Organization as a B-Corporation protects officers and directors from such shareholder actions and lays the groundwork for companies to “do well by doing some good.”

In 1996, I joined a law firm in which one of the four partners viewed it as his mission to mentor minority, primarily African American, lawyers. We discussed this when we formed the firm. He wanted to actively seek out opportunities to hire people he did not feel were given a fair shot by the majority of law firms in town. In many ways, we felt at the time that profit was secondary. Sure, we wanted to earn money, but we also bought into my partner’s sense of mission. Had the structure existed, we might well have registered as a B Corporation.

The commitment to registering as a B Corporation is not something done lightly. Nor is registration an easy or streamlined process. In order to gain B Corporation status in Maryland, organizations must first register as a Benefit Corporation and report their stakeholder impact according to a third party standard such as the non-profit charity B Lab. Only after certification is awarded will the structure be recognized.

The reward, however, exemplifies the concept of a “win-win.” The community wins through the impact envisioned by the B Corporation – whether it is hiring the disadvantaged or positively impacting community infrastructure in some way. The company wins…and not just spiritually.   When an employee arrives at a B Corporation, s/he is already pre-screened for mission. In other words, the average job applicant is not just looking for a job, but is someone who already buys into the mission. Right out of the gate, the employee is committed to the company. This stands in stark contrast to the often indifferent workforce which populates many “ordinary” for-profit companies.

Productivity is higher.

Customer satisfaction is higher.

Turnover falls through the floor.



Should your company be acting as B-Corporation? Do you know of a successful B-Corporation?

Raise it for discussion on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.

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