Teamwork and mutual respect aren't empty corporate buzzwords at Western Asset Management Co.
Potential hires are probed for those values. Employees are evaluated on them. There are even mandatory online courses for employees to reinforce the concepts.
Determining which candidates will be the right fit with the Pasedena, Calif., fixed-income manager does slow the hiring process, said Paul White, head of human resources. But the extra investment is worth it, he added, because of the culture it produces.
“People are encouraged to bring ideas to the table and express them,” he said. Of course, that doesn't mean they'll always get a green light. But receiving a thumb's down shouldn't leave the person feeling defeated or mocked, he said.
“We really work to keep people at the table,” Mr. White said.
Employees embraced the message. WAMCO, with $446.1 billion under management as of Sept. 30, has been on the list of Pensions & Investments' Best Places to Work in Money Management three times — in 2012, 2014 and 2015.
“The people have strong ethics, work hard and care about each other,” wrote one employee in the survey. “There are no hotheads here,” noted another. “Upper management is approachable and open to listen to new ideas,” said a third.
Hoping to harness the power of new ideas, executives set up Operational Excellence in 2011 to recognize individuals and teams improving company processes and, ultimately, client service.
Individuals can be recognized at the department level, winning, say, movie tickets or a car wash. Managers also can nominate individuals or teams for firmwide recognition that's determined quarterly. Winners are eligible to receive an additional vacation day, valet parking for a month in the corporate lot, or paid transportation for one month. They're also invited to an annual reception with top management, said Kevin Brennan, head of enterprise risk, who leads the program.
WAMCO, a unit of Legg Mason Inc., also won kudos for its benefits (100% paid health, dental and vision insurance premiums for employees and dependents), work-life balance and training resources.
About those training resources: Western Asset University offers more than 400 classes, both in-person and online. Since it launched in 2007, WAU has notched more than 20,000 course completions among 800 full-time employees.
There are courses on career development and e-mail etiquette. Others can lead to credit for professional certifications.
All of these efforts are building blocks that support an investment philosophy of putting clients first, officials said.
“Trust, honesty, integrity, and mutual respect are core values at Western because they are essential to our client first, team-based culture,” said CEO James W. Hirschmann. “We have found that our culture is essential to retaining clients and investment professionals alike. We spend a lot of time thinking about and investing in our culture as a result.”