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Sally Thornton      

CEO & Founder of Forshay; Thought Leader on the Future of Work

An instigator on how to thrive in the future of work, Sally Thornton is the CEO of Forshay, a firm that focuses on how people can do their best work through executive recruiting, interim experts, and optimizing teams through increased inclusion, diversity, and belonging.

Forshay was awarded #290 on the Inc. 5000 "Fastest-Growing Private Companies" list for 2015, and made the list again in 2019 at the squint-you-can-see-it #3377. Prior to founding Forshay, Thornton co-founded and was CEO of Flexperience. Under her leadership, Flexperience grew into a nationally acclaimed firm, and was awarded “Top 100 Fastest-Growing Private Companies” in 2010 by the San Francisco Business Times.

A speaker in two TEDx talks, Thornton is a frequent keynote speaker on the future of work, women in leadership, the science of work/life blend, applying design thinking to make work better, harnessing the value of a multi-generational and diverse workforce, and talent recruitment and engagement strategies. Thornton has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, BBC, Forbes, YahooFinance, Huffington Post, KQED radio, NBC11 News, ABC7 News, among numerous other media publications.

Thornton launched WorkLabAccelerator in 2015, a design thinking community of action committed to making work better, based on her work with Stanford's "Redesigning and Redefining Work" project. She is committed to prototyping new workplace strategies and systems that align with the lives of today's workforce so companies can better harness talent for mutual success. WorkLab uses design thinking, lean start up, and storytelling skills to design, test, and scale experiments to #MakeWorkBetter.

Thornton lectures regularly at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business as well as UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business. She served for six years on the Advisory Council of Stanford’s Clayman Institute for Gender Research, the educational partner of

Speech Topics

Building Your Talent Pipeline

Designed for startups or companies in high growth, how do we hire using the science of performance? Both individuals and teams need certain environments to do their best work, and this talk (or workshop) addresses the key questions around scaling for quality outcomes, and is tailored to your specific industry, geography, challenges, and goals.

Navigating Your Career

How do you navigate your career in the future of work? Navigating your career first involves taking into consideration what is meaningful to you now and anticipating how that may change over your life's course. It also involves building your brand in ways that matter to you. Leveraging insights on the future of work gained through her work at Stanford on the science of redesigning work, Sally shares a practical framework for how to the find the four-way intersection of doing the work where you learn, the work you excel in doing, with the work the world will pay for, and the work the world needs (purpose!).

Women in Leadership

Depending on the audience goals, this talk is modular and can include: 1) the economics for gender balanced leadership teams, 2) the data around women at different levels of an organization and in various industries depending on which industries are most relevant to the audience, 3) strategies and tactics for increasing the percentage of women in an organization, 4) stories that highlight the science of overcoming bias and working toward a true meritocracy at work where everyone benefits.

Design Thinking, Applied to How We Work

This interactive session will discuss and apply design thinking, lean start up methodology, and storytelling skills in fresh ways that you can use to align the employee experience with the customer experience. Oh, and it’s a lot of fun. Because work can be delicious, if we design it to be. Learn why Airbnb, Mozilla, Deloitte, PlumOrganics, Modsy and others (some we can’t mention – you know how it goes) are leveraging this framework not only in how they develop fantastic products for their customers, but how they build better work experiences for their own teams. (And Sally gives out chocolates.)

The Future of Inclusion & Diversity & Belonging

The science is clear that collaborative working relationships with diverse teams propel innovative, impactful work where all employees thrive and drive the bottom line. Sally will share the scientific research on the variety of unconscious bias based on both neuroscience and social science, practical strategies for how to mitigate bias, and stories of her experience working with big companies like Airbnb to small startups in optimizing teams to do their best work.

Optimizing the Multi-Generational Workforce

The word “Millennial” can create a reaction in each of us that is quite different, and is often based on more media impressions than science. In this talk (or workshop if desired), Sally separates the fiction from the science on generational differences, as well as human-centered truths that bind all generations. Mostly importantly, once we know the science, how do we apply it with smart strategies, language, and tactics that work to build more effective teams?

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Future of Work – What Will Remain True & Important

The Future of Work requires new frameworks in how we work and live, and this talk will go beyond how to adapt, but to actually thrive in the future work. Sally draws on the science behind work (both behavioral science and neuroscience) to tease out what will always be true so we can focus on what is, and will remain, important. She also reveals the shifts that are happening in work so we can more easily identify the disruptions and reduce the friction in work dynamics. Finally, Sally shares insights and strategies on the multi-generational workforce, the inclusion and belonging required in diverse work cultures, and how to manage the collaborative overwork that currently exists so we can do our best work.

The Science of Work/Life Blend

Learn what behavioral science and neuroscience shows and the steps you can take to achieve a blended “full” life of meaningful work, connections with loved ones, sleep/exercise, and ongoing learning that keeps you inspired. We make tradeoffs on how we spend our time and energy every week, and suddenly (it may feel) a year goes by. How we make decisions of where to spend our time and energy is literally making decisions of what is our life. Rather than feeling zero-sum, this talk reveals what’s possible by applying the latest neuroscience and behavioral science. Using data-driven insights, this talk is grounded in practical strategies for having the impact that matters to you on terms that work for your full life.

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