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Intel's Secret Weapon

By Isaac Pino, CPA - Jan 13, 2014 at 10:15AM

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Intel's chips keep the world running. Here's what keeps Intel running.

While 2013 was largely a transition year for the chipmaker Intel (INTC 1.16%), 2014 has started with a bang. The company seized the stage at last week's Consumer Electronics Show, unveiling wearable computing and announcing the removal of all conflict minerals from its processor supply chain.

What's particularly astounding is that Intel's considered a dinosaur in the start-up saturated Silicon Valley, yet it's at the forefront the tech world. To understand Intel's success, however, investors need to understand what makes this company tick.

A most valuable asset
Intel's ideas inspired the CES audience in large part because Intel employs an inspired workforce. In the tech world, you're only as good as your latest mind-blowing product, so companies like Intel foster a culture of entrepreneurship, risk-taking, and innovation. As former CEO Andry Grove famously quipped, "Only the paranoid survive."

But being paranoid can only get you so far. Intel's built a purpose-driven culture that enables the company to thrive over time. To get a sense of this culture, investors should visit Intel's website where the company's mission statement is laid out as follows:

Delight our customers, employees, and shareholders by relentlessly delivering the platform and technology advancements that become essential to the way we work and live.

Management defines the company's purpose through this statement and elaborates through the company's core values and objectives. All of these communicate to the outside world what makes this company tick and what it strives to become.

Why is this important? The mission statement, core values, and objectives tell you where the company's headed and how it plans to get there -- a roadmap for a $127 billion tech giant. This separates a purpose-driven company from a mere profit-generating machine, and many executives believe it is critical for long-term success.

For example, Google's VP of Corporate Development, David Lawee, notes that a powerful mission statement "attracts the best capital, the best people, and everything else [you] need to build an enduring business."

Still, defining and articulating a mission statement can be quite different from executing it. To gauge whether Intel continuously strives to fulfill its mission, one should look to how it serves its various stakeholders, including customers, employees, and shareholders.

Wall Street analysts often evaluate a company's performance by focusing exclusively on shareholders, assuming that an increasing share price -- even over a short time horizon -- means management is succeeding. In my opinion, however, this approach is shortsighted and can actually cripple a business.

A well-rounded, Foolish approach would start with employees' satisfaction level to see if Intel has the right tools in place to execute on its overall mission.

To better understand Intel's workforce -- the most critical asset for a high-tech company -- I reached out to Glassdoor, the top website for reviews, ratings, and salary information on thousands of companies. I wanted a detailed look at how Intel measures up against its competitors when it comes
 to employing a thriving workforce. The results shown below are based on hundreds of anonymous employee reviews.

Glassdoor Ratings in 2014

Company

Company Rating

CEO Approval Rating

Intel

3.8

85%

ARM Holdings

3.8

100%

Texas Instruments

3.6

72%

Broadcom

3.4

77%

Advanced Micro Devices

3.1

49%

In the race between chip manufacturers, Intel finds itself tied at the front of the pack with ARM Holdings. Coincidentally, their company ratings of 3.8 matches that of tech brethren Apple. In terms of CEO approval ratings, Intel lags behind ARM, but neither company's top brass has been at the helm for over a year, which results in a smaller review sample size.

Though not shown above, a third category provides additional insight. Between 2009 and 2014, the percentage of Intel employees who would recommend the company to a friend increased a staggering 28%, from 55% to 83%. In a relatively short time, the company's made huge strides in workplace satisfaction across operations that span 60 countries and include over 80,000 employees worldwide. Not too shabby.

A leading indicator of success
I believe this type of information can help investors assess whether a company recognizes the importance of empowering employees. In fact, a recent Motley Fool report revealed that the top 33 publicly traded companies on Glassdoor as of 2013 walloped the market over the past decade, with gains of 505% on top of the S&P 500's return.

Highly engaged employees are critical in helping a company during difficult stages of its life, and the past few years have proven challenging as Intel plays catch-up in the mobile market. While 2014 could be the year when Intel turns the corner, yet another challenge will lie ahead as computing spreads in the post-PC era. Supporting a thriving workforce will be critical for Intel to keep its finger on the pulse of fast-accelerating technology.

As my colleague Chris Neiger pointed out during CES, "[T]he tech Intel displayed was more about showing the capabilities of the company rather than showcasing cool new ideas." By revealing new technologies in 3-D scanning, the 'Internet of things', or wearable computing, Intel raised the bar in Las Vegas. But those products will be old news soon. For Intel to dazzle next year's crowds, employees will have to get to work on bigger and bolder projects. 

For any business, it's the capabilities and culture of the company that really matter to stay atop an industry, and Intel's success in this area has translated to enduring success in the market. In my opinion, investors who stay on board could be handsomely rewarded.

Fool contributor Isaac Pino, CPA, owns shares of Google. The Motley Fool recommends Apple, Google, and Intel. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Google, and Intel. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Stocks Mentioned

Intel Corporation Stock Quote
Intel Corporation
INTC
$34.92 (1.16%) $0.40
Alphabet Inc. Stock Quote
Alphabet Inc.
GOOGL
$119.48 (2.45%) $2.85
Apple Inc. Stock Quote
Apple Inc.
AAPL
$167.97 (1.85%) $3.05
Texas Instruments Incorporated Stock Quote
Texas Instruments Incorporated
TXN
$181.37 (2.06%) $3.66
ARM Holdings plc Stock Quote
ARM Holdings plc
ARMH
Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. Stock Quote
Advanced Micro Devices, Inc.
AMD
$97.74 (2.30%) $2.20

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

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