Four Companies That Are Winning By Leveraging Invisible Talent Assets

In this third post in our Managing the Invisible series, we explore how four companies are using invisible talent assets like culture, recruitment practices and approaches to training to underpin their growth and success. If you haven’t read our first two posts in this series – “What are invisible assets?” and “10 Features of Invisible Assets”, please visit our website and subscribe to our blog to ensure you receive all the posts in this series. 

Bridgewater Associates

Bridgewater Associates is an American Investment Management firm that manages over $150 billion for some of the biggest and most sophisticated organisations in the world. These include central banks, corporate and public pension funds and sovereign investment funds. Bridgewater was founded by Ray Dalio in 1975 and has approximately 1,500 staff members.

Bridgewater’s key invisible talent asset is its culture of drastic transparency and truth and idea meritocracy. Dalio firmly believes that a clear understanding of what is true is vital to personal growth and company success, and that decisions are made based on the merit of the idea not the level of the staff member within the organizational hierarchy. The requirements for success are made very clear to Bridgewater’s team and there is very little tolerance for poor performance.

Radical transparency exists at all levels and everyone is trained to forget their egos, embrace being wrong and be open to improvement opportunities. Each team member has a rating card, similar to a baseball card, where job performance and cultural fit scores are stored and made available to everyone, not just HR and management. Meetings, discussions and interactions are recorded and then used for learning purposes – removing the chance for guessing and misinterpretation. Employees are also able to witness their managers reviewing each other’s strengths and weaknesses, ensuring it is not just a top-down exercise.

Everyone receives feedback in real time and this encourages team members to think independently, confidently share their rationale and respectfully handle opposition. Truthful dialogue is also encouraged with clients, resulting in high levels of trust, respect and longstanding working relationships. Of course, these unique practices and measures are not for everyone; almost a third of new employees reportedly quit after one year! 

Deemed the foundation for the company’s success, Bridgewater’s culture of transparency and truth has resulted in a tight-knit, innovative team that is strongly dedicated to living the company’s values, preserving their culture and striving for excellence. It has not only pioneered numerous investment strategies, Bridgewater’s assets under management increased by 25% each year between 2001 and 2010 and it is widely regarded as one of the best hedge funds in the world.

Patagonia

Patagonia is an outdoor apparel company worth over $1 billion. Well-known for its environmental sustainability efforts, Patagonia has proven that companies can be profitable by doing and being good.  

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Patagonia’s recruitment strategy has contributed to it becoming one of the world’s leading environmentally responsible companies, as it is based on the principle of hiring people for who they are as humans and not just for their experience or skills. Patagonia’s hiring approach is strongly tied to its mission to save the earth, so one of the key things hirers look for is a passion for the environment and love for the outdoors. Resumés are read from the bottom up to get a sense of volunteer experience, hobbies and interests before work experience and education. Potential candidates are sought via the team’s informal network of colleagues, friends and business associates.  

With this commitment to ensuring only the best-suited people are hired, Patagonia has a very low turnover rate (about 4%) and is playfully known has Hotel California where persons check in but never leave. Leveraging their recruitment approach as an invisible asset has resulted in a well-suited workforce that’s highly committed to Patagonia’s aspiration to save the planet.

Zappos 

Zappos is an online shoe and clothing retailer with over $500 million in net sales. The company’s main purpose is to deliver customer happiness and it leverages employee empowerment to achieve this. 

Zappos’ work culture is designed to ensure their employees are happy so that they can make customers happy. The company is well-known for its exceptionally high levels of customer service and this is primarily due to their agents, aka the Customer Loyalty Team (CLT), having the power to decide how best to serve their customers, whether over the phone or via emails and online chats. 

Instead of providing scripts and strict guidelines, CLT members are trained to make their own decisions and take responsibility for each customer’s experience. Decision-making is distributed among self-organized teams where employees work together to assess problems and ideas. They are not told how to work; instead everyone has an equal say and is expected to be a leader within their own roles.   Zappos’ frontline employees are treated like mini-entrepreneurs, able to self-govern and take charge of their own work problems and issues.

CLT members are encouraged to be adventurous, open-minded and passionate about connecting with customers to deliver a WOW experience every time. Examples of unique and thoughtful resolutions provided by the CLT include: 

  • full refund as well providing a replacement
  • sending ‘get well’ flowers to a customer’s mother
  • spending 10 hours talking to a customer
  • sending handwritten notes
  • unexpected shipping upgrades
  • surprise gift cards
  • referring customers to competitors’ sites if they don’t have what the customer wants

Leveraging employee empowerment as an invisible asset has resulted in 75% of Zappos’ sales coming from repeat customers, even though their prices are not the lowest in the market.

Warby Parker

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Warby Parker provides stylish yet affordable eyewear online and in stores. Founded 10 years ago, Warby Parker is valued at over $1 billion dollars and has over 80 retail locations in North America. 

Warby Parker has successfully leveraged its learning and development approach to ensure its team is equipped with the skills, creativity and ideas required to successfully provide high-quality, sophisticated eyewear. With “Learn, grow, repeat” as one of its core values, Warby Parker provides team members with a vast range of training, education and development opportunities.

All new employees receive at least one week of orientation, and senior leaders teach some of the sessions on the company’s history, values and structure. Both full and part time employees are able to participate and lead WP Academy workshops on any useful topic. These workshops are short and informal, like Lunch and Learn sessions.  

The annual WarbyCon is an employee-led day-long symposium that provides opportunities for staff to improve their training and public speaking skills and learn more about interesting subjects from their colleagues. Full-time employees have access to LinkedIn Learning’s online courses library, Warby Parker’s headquarters in New York houses a large library and reading room and employees are able to get up to $10K reimbursed for job-related or certificate programmes. Warby Parker also has a special projects programme where persons on CX and Retail teams can participate in projects with the corporate team, giving them the ability to develop new skills and increasing their exposure to other departments. 

With this variety of opportunities to learn and develop, it’s no surprise that Warby Parker has a proud and dedicated team, capable of providing high-quality eyewear at low prices. 

Hopefully these examples inspired some thoughts on how invisible talent assets can be enhanced to create even further value within your organization.  Please be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss any of our upcoming posts in this Managing The Invisible series.

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