FIRST PLACE: West Monroe Partners
West Monroe Partners is a consulting firm cut from different cloth. The Chicago-based company prides itself on a cachet of unique virtues uncommon among the behemoths of the field. For one thing, the firm focuses only on eight key industries: banking, capital markets/trading, energy/utilities, health care/life sciences, insurance, manufacturing/distribution, private equity/alternative investments and retail store operations.
“We focus within those industries on a few important topics,” says Tom Bolger, managing director in Seattle. “We focus on major transformational change, whether it’s new health care legislation, smart grids for the utilities industry or consolidation of the banking industry.”
In the process, West Monroe has made itself into one of the most appealing employers in the consulting business. The firm is entirely employee owned, and employees from new hires to old hands earn equity for the duration of their employment. According to Bolger, this arrangement fosters a much deeper level of commitment and interest among employees.
“We treat everybody like an owner,” he said. “What that means is we’re very transparent with our financial and strategic performance with everybody in the firm.”
West Monroe also rewards its employees with an impressive array of benefits, including a large allowance of paid time off, a generous travel bonus for employees who hit their travel targets, and at least 40 hours of continuing professional education each year.
SECOND PLACE: Weber Shandwick
This New York-based public relations and crisis management firm has built an esprit de corps among its 60 Seattle employees, thanks to strong local leadership. "As a transfer to the Seattle office, I'm blown away at the effective, encouraging, creative and dedicated business culture here," gushes one Weber Shandwick employee. "Morale is through the roof." One popular program awards three employees a grant of $1,000 each and a week off to pursue a work-related passion. Weekly "all hands" meetings allow employees to share best practices. Managers, including account supervisors, meet weekly to review financials and other goals so they can be actively involved in running the business.
THIRD PLACE: Buckland & Taylor
If you're looking for a good benefits package and know a little something about bridges, check out Buckland & Taylor. The Vancouver, B.C.-based designer of bridges has 15 employees working in its Lower Queen Anne office. Their benefits includes three weeks of vacation in the first year of employment, Fridays off every other week and annual bonuses that have totaled 6 percent across the board in recent years. The firm also offers employees $500 a year for seminars and conferences and an additional $2,500 a year in reimbursements for approved degree or certificate programs. Add the $100 a month to cover public transit costs or parking, and life is good at B&T.