Top Stocks Not To Miss From Glassdoor's 2022 Rankings

Jan. 13, 2022 9:48 AM ETAAPL, ADBE, ADSK, AKAM, AMZN, APPF, BOX, COST, CRM, CVX, DAL, DIS, DOCU, META, FIVN, FLR, GOOG, GOOGL, HUBS, INTU, ISRG, LULU, LUV, MSFT, NATI, NFLX, NKE, NOW, NVDA, PAYC, PCTY, RCL, RIVN, SAP, SAPGF, SBUX, SPY, SQ, TEAM, TWLO, V, WDAY, Z, ZEN, ZG, ZM, ZS36 Comments

Summary

  • Since 2009, Glassdoor has released a yearly ranking of the "Best Places To Work" based on data collected from employees.
  • Glassdoor just revealed its 2022 ranking.
  • In the past 13 years, Glassdoor's Best Places To Work have more than doubled the returns of the S&P 500 with consistency.
  • Company leadership is one of the most underrated factors for investment selection when it should be one of the most essential.
  • Based on historical data, businesses with outstanding culture and management are an excellent pond to fish from.
  • Looking for a portfolio of ideas like this one? Members of App Economy Portfolio get exclusive access to our model portfolio. Learn More »

Workplace 3d render. Business and finance analytics theme.

Mikhail Bogdanov/iStock via Getty Images

What if I told you that the companies celebrated by their employees for having the best culture and most inspiring leadership are also some of the best-performing investments in public markets, year after year?

History shows that the way employees praise their company can be an excellent tool to separate the wheat from the chaff and improve your odds of success as an investor.

Over the years, as I reviewed the evidence of the superior returns coming from highly rated-management teams, I've learned to incorporate culture in my stock selection process.

This week, Glassdoor announced the winners of the Best Places To Work 2022.

Let's look at how the stocks of companies recognized as Best Places To Work have performed compared to the market and take a look at the top companies celebrated in the most recent 2022 ranking.

Logos of Best Places To Work 2022

Best Places To Work 2022

App Economy Insights

The Best Places To Work: What are they?

Glassdoor is a website where current and former employees anonymously review companies and their management. Once enough reviews have been submitted, companies receive a score out of five stars. Similarly, CEOs receive a score out of 100%.

Here's an example of a company's reviews at a glance, using one of the top-rated companies in the US as an example, Salesforce (CRM):

Rating

Saleforce Glassdoor Review

Glassdoor

The online reputation of large companies and management accountability have become immensely important for talent acquisition and retention. In this effort, Glassdoor collects reviews and salaries from employees and displays them anonymously for all members to see.

Glassdoor compiles a list of the top 100 "Best Places to Work" in the US every year based on company and CEO ratings. You can read more about their methodology here. A minimum number of ratings are required to be selected, and Glassdoor's algorithm is factoring quantity, quality, and consistency of reviews. As a result, it is difficult for companies to "cheat" the system.

Selection Methodology

From 2009 to 2017, Glassdoor ranked the 50 Best Places to Work in the US. That number expanded to 100 starting in 2018.

Company selection

I looked back at all of Glassdoor's Best Places to Work rankings available, from 2009 to 2021. From there, I selected companies as follows:

  • I excluded private companies or companies not yet public within the year following the rankings (no stock price to track).
  • I excluded companies owned by a much bigger public company.
  • I excluded companies bought out since there is only partial stock performance.
  • I selected only the first 20 companies applicable for each year for consistency over time (some years only had 20 public companies in the ranking).

The result is a list of 20 companies from 2009 to 2021. Therefore, 260 stock picks over 13 years.

Timing

Glassdoor reveals its yearly rankings for the best places to work in December or early January. As a result, I picked January of the year for any given ranking as the starting price and analyzed the stock performance moving forward, up to 1/11/2022.

Performance

The numbers below are based on stock performance averages, meaning that these companies are assumed to be equally weighted, regardless of their market capitalization. This analysis was built via Google Finance stock price performance over time, excluding dividends.

Are the Best Places To Work Beating The Market?

First, let's set the stage for what we are up against.

Investing in individual stocks is hard.

Blackstar Funds has reviewed the historical distribution of 8,000 stocks trading on the NYSE, AMEX, and NASDAQ over 23 years (1983-2006).

Their conclusion was:

  • Only 36% of stocks can keep up with a diversified index.
  • Only 61% of stocks have positive returns.

Stock Returns Distribution Russel 3000

Stock Returns Distribution

Meb Faber

I looked at all previous Glassdoor rankings available, from 2009 to 2021. I have assumed $1,000 invested (equally weighted) at the beginning of January every year and looked into the following KPIs:

  • Returns from $1,000 invested in the S&P 500 (SPY).
  • Returns from $1,000 invested in the top 20 public best places to work.
  • Returns from $1,000 invested in the top 10 public best places to work.
  • % among the top 20 public places that beat the S&P 500.
  • % among the top 20 public places that deliver positive returns.

Here is the summary of 13 years of performance:

Best Places To Work Returns vs. S&P 500

Best Places To Work Returns vs. S&P 500

App Economy Insights

To make the chart easy to read, I'm showing the returns as a multiplier of the S&P 500 returns. So, for example, the 20 best-ranked public companies in 2009 have returned 3.6X the returns of the S&P 500.

The result of my research confirms the original thesis and shines a fascinating light on the quality of this group of stocks.

Over 13 years:

  • The top 20 best places to work returned 2.1x the S&P 500.
  • The top 10 best places to work returned 2.2x the S&P 500.
  • 53% of these 260 picks have been beating the S&P 500.
  • 93% of these 260 picks have delivered positive returns.

Not only has this market-beating performance been consistent over the years, but this screener proved very effective in avoiding losers.

  • The worst class is 2011, with the top 20 returning 1.2X the S&P 500 returns. Only 25% of the companies ranked that year have beaten the market so far. The selection included some big losers of the past decade, such as Fluor (FLR), Chevron (CVX), and National Instruments (NATI). Nonetheless, the top 20 of that year is still beating the market.
  • The best class is 2009, with the top 20 companies returning 3.6X the S&P 500 returns (or 5.2X for the top 10 alone). 55% of the companies ranked have beaten the market. The performance was bolstered by huge winners such as Netflix (NFLX) +12,543%, Apple (AAPL) +5,215% or Adobe (ADBE) +2,184%.
  • The class of 2017 is also impressive, beating the market by a factor of 3.6X. It includes companies like Nvidia (NVDA) (+3,287%), Lululemon (LULU) (+524%) and Intuit (INTU) (+504%).

The 260 stock picks include fantastic winners over the years, such as Intuitive Surgical (ISRG), Paycom Software (PAYC), Costco (COST), Nike (NKE), Starbucks (SBUX), Disney (DIS), Workday (WDAY), or Paylocity (PCTY). Note that the rankings include a wide range of sectors and categories.

I've been amazed to see how these picks outperform the S&P 500 over one year, two years, three years, five years, or more. No matter how I slice and dice it, the overperformance remains consistent, at about 2X the market returns.

Let's not forget that the S&P 500 has delivered exceptional returns since 2009, up more than 5X in the past 13 years, achieving a ~15% CAGR. So we are talking about returns north of 30% CAGR for the Best Places To Work.

Chart
Data by YCharts

The Best Places To Work have a success rate far superior to the rest of the market in a way that is almost hard to believe. They show a higher % of market beaters and a lower % of large losers.

Let's reiterate the performance of the Best Places To Work and how they compare to the Blackstar Funds research:

  • 53% beat the S&P 500 (vs. 36% of all stocks).
  • 93% delivered positive returns (vs. 61% of all stocks).
  • More than 2X the returns of the S&P 500 on average.
  • Only one period tested shows a performance lagging the S&P 500, and it's the shorter period tested (2021, only one year of returns so far).

These results are truly outstanding and show that these rankings are a fantastic pond to fish from.

  • The odds of finding market beaters increase by ~50%.
  • The risk of picking a money-losing investment drops from 4 out of 10 down to less than 1 out of 10.

Some readers will still find these results anecdotal or suggest that this performance is the result of luck or fueled by a historical bull market since 2009. I beg to differ. Luck is a weak explanation once you factor 260 stock picks over 13 years.

Others may comment that a selection toward big tech drives this performance. However, a company like Netflix was only a $2B market cap in 2009. Similarly, a company like HubSpot (HUBS) has been regularly in the top 10 in the past decade. However, this is still a relatively small company today, with a $25B market cap.

Of course, selecting through Glassdoor's rankings shouldn't be the only way you invest. But it can educate your investment decision just as much as any other quantitative and qualitative factors. A strong culture is necessary to eliminate a lot of the weeds, but not always sufficient to find the flowers.

Many investors focus solely on valuations or price momentum to educate their decisions. But if you invest for the long term, knowing the intrinsic quality of the businesses you are holding in your portfolio should be your priority. And that includes attributes such as culture and leadership.

A word for those who say: "it's because they pay a lot."

It's not all about salary and bonuses. For example, would you give a five-star review to a restaurant because it was affordable? Probably not, because the price is only one aspect of the experience.

As illustrated by the study provided by Glassdoor SVP of People Allyson Willoughby, there are multiple drivers to employee happiness:

  • Mission: a sense of purpose in coming into work.
  • Collegiality: working with awesome people.
  • Challenging work: being stimulated by the work to be done.
  • Meaningful advancement: the promise of growth.
  • Confidence in senior leaders: a sense of trust and transparency with management.
  • Perks: good pay, free food, a beer cart or two.

I have seen comments in my previous articles suggesting that employee happiness was likely to trigger complacency and underperformance (of the employee, therefore, the business, and, ultimately, the stock price). So I have to make it clear here: I cannot disagree more.

I'm grateful to live and work in the San Francisco Bay Area, where you can encounter fantastic talent in your professional and personal life, working on breakthrough innovations in healthcare, finance, cloud software, and more.

The most talented people I've had the chance to meet in the Bay are not the kind of people who would become complacent because of their high salary or comfortable schedule. Instead, they're self-driven people who like to be intellectually challenged. They want to be part of the conversation. They want to be inspired by their management and feel at ease to express their full potential. They flock to the companies with the highest reputation because they want to be treated fairly and be aligned with the direction of the business.

Complacency doesn't come from high job satisfaction or happiness. Instead, it comes from complacent management, lack of challenging goals, lack of exciting coworkers, or no interest in the company's mission.

On another note, some readers have argued that these stocks perform well because they are great businesses, resulting in happy employees (i.e., their stock performance came from the fact that they were great businesses, to begin with). Would these companies be as great as they are without having kept their employees happy, to begin with? Culture is the first foundation of a thriving business. More importantly, my analysis of the stock performance of these businesses is after they are featured as a Best Place To Work, so that's beside the point. If anything, the filter enables us to find outstanding companies from another lens.

Best Places To Work In 2022

Best Places To Work 2022 Logo

Best Places To Work 2022

Glassdoor

On January 11th, Glassdoor revealed its ranking for 2022. Here are the top 20 public companies in the top 100:

2021 RANK COMPANY
1 Nvidia (NVDA)
2 HubSpot (HUBS)
5 Box (BOX)
7 Google (GOOG)
9 Lululemon (LULU)
10 Salesforce (CRM)
11 Royal Caribbean Group (RCL)
13 Five9 (FIVN)
14 Twilio (TWLO)
16 Adobe (ADBE)
17 Akamai (AKAM)
18 Delta Air Lines (DAL)
20 Rivian (RIVN)
21 Autodesk (ADSK)
23 ServiceNow (NOW)
27 DocuSign (DOCU)
28 Microsoft (MSFT)
29 Intuitive Surgical (ISRG)
30 Southwest Airlines (LUV)
36 Block (SQ)

Other notable companies ranked in the top 100: Zscaler (ZS), SAP (SAP), Zendesk (ZEN), Appfolio (APPF), Meta (FB), Zillow (Z), Apple (AAPL), Atlassian (TEAM), Visa (V), Workday (WDAY), Zoom Video (ZM).

If the class of 2022 follows the performance of the past 13 years analyzed, this group of 20 stocks is well-positioned to outperform the market significantly. And the odds are that there isn't a whole lot of losers in this group.

As you go through the list, I'm sure you'll appreciate how solid a group of stocks this list is, despite being generated purely from a qualitative filter. And this group is surprisingly balanced, with companies in enterprise software, apparel, travel, automotive or medical devices.

I'm not surprised that 7 of these 20 companies are part of the App Economy Portfolio. Before considering an investment, my stock selection factors culture and leadership as an essential step. I find several of my top holdings among Glassdoor's Best Places To Work every year.

Case in point, HubSpot, a company regularly ranked as one of the best company cultures in America. I shared a bullish thesis here on Seeking Alpha in 2019. Since then, the company has been a strong performer, achieving 3X the S&P 500 returns.

Article Headline: Secular Grower Series: HubSpot

Secular Grower Series: HubSpot

Seeking Alpha

Beyond Glassdoor

Glassdoor has the advantage of covering virtually any company out there and making the information available publicly. Still, it's not the only company offering a view of businesses ranked by their employees.

For decades, Fortune has published the "Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For," with some overlap with Glassdoor's selection.

Fortune went back to 1998 and demonstrated that a hypothetical equally weighted index re-balanced every year with the Fortune 100 best companies to work for would have returned more than twice the market gains over 20 years.

Fortune Best Companies to Work Performance vs. S&P 500

Fortune Best Companies to Work

Fortune

Fortune's analysis shows the companies with exemplary culture and leadership thrive in all environments:

  • The last 20 years include multiple credit cycles, illustrating that this performance isn't simply a result of a bull market.
  • This steady performance over the years counters the argument that employee satisfaction could be a mere result of stock performance. If so, you would find Amazon (AMZN) or Netflix (NFLX) at the top of these rankings today, which is not the case.

Comparably is another aggregator of employee reviews with some overlap with Glassdoor. The platform revealed its awards "Best Company Culture" last month. From the top 20 public companies, five appear in both rankings:

Comparably Awards - Best Company Culture - Companies Logo

Comparably Awards - Best Company Culture

Comparably

Some takeaways

As David Gardner puts it:

Make your portfolio reflect your best vision for our future.

Since portfolio performance is primarily driven by your temperament and your capacity to stay the course, investing like an owner can go a long way. If you don't like the business you are investing in or don't believe in the company's mission, you might bail at the first sign of a pullback in the stock price. When you are a shareholder, you are a partial owner of the business. And the way this business treats its employees is an essential driver of its future performance.

Realizing that great culture can lead to excellent results for human capital and shareholders is an essential step to embracing conscious capitalism.

Every year, reviewing this list compels me to look at my portfolio with a critical eye, and I hope it will help me make better investment decisions moving forward.

  • What do you think of the performance of the Best Places to Work?
  • Given their market-beating performance over time, would you consider filtering investment selection based on culture and leadership?
  • Does it make you look at your portfolio differently?
  • What is your current portfolio allocation to companies celebrated as Best Places To Work?

Let me know in the comments!

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This article was written by

App Economy Insights profile picture
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My name is Bertrand Seguin. I'm a former PwC consultant and veteran financial executive in the video game industry. I've spent 12 years at Bandai Namco Entertainment, leading the Financial Planning and Analysis team in the transition to Digital, Mobile, and Game-as-a-Service. I hold a Master of Science in Management and Finance.

My portfolio is built to disproportionately benefit from the rise of the app economy, the range of economic activity surrounding mobile applications. My investment plan and asset allocation are a result of secular trends I have identified (macro) and in which I take individual bets (micro). I invest with a very long time horizon (ideally 10+ years).

I am fortunate enough to have seen my strategy deliver outstanding results throughout the years.


Discipline and consistency win the game over time. Unfortunately, many investors violate their own model or strategy when their portfolio performance is temporarily disappointing. I would rather sell too late than too early, so I tend to never sell. I let my winners compound to a significant portion of my portfolio and let my losers become insignificant over time.



Disclaimer:

All App Economy Insights contributions to Seeking Alpha, or elsewhere on the web, are personal opinions only and do not constitute investment advice. All articles, blog posts, comments, emails, and chatroom contributions by App Economy Insights - even those including the word "recommendation" - should never be construed as official business recommendations or advice. In an effort to maintain full transparency, related positions will be disclosed at the end of each article to the maximum extent practicable. The premium service App Economy Portfolio is a research and opinion subscription. I am not registered as an investment adviser. The majority of trades are reported live, but this cannot be guaranteed due to technical constraints. Investors should always do their own due diligence and fact-check all research prior to making any investment decisions. Liability of all investment decisions reside with the individual investor.


Disclosure: I/we have a beneficial long position in the shares of AAPL AMZN APPF CRM DOCU FB GOOG HUBS NFLX PAYC SQ TWLO V Z ZM either through stock ownership, options, or other derivatives. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

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