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Why In-N-Out Burger’s Leadership Competes With Tech and AI Companies in New Report

In-N-Out Burger has a devoted following of fans and customers – and made the top 10 on Glassdoor’s inaugural Best Managed Companies list, alongside computer chip makers and artificial intelligence companies like Nvidia and Databricks.

The new rankings come as no surprise to LaShawn Davis, a leadership and corporate culture expert who founded and runs the consulting firm The HR Plug. Davis has worked in human resources for more than a decade and says it’s clear why In-N-Out Burger competes with these tech companies when it comes to leadership and culture.

“It starts with the CEO,” Davis told CNBC Make It. “They shape the culture. It definitely ripples throughout the organization.”

In-N-Out’s CEO is Linsi Snyder, 42, who took over the family business at age 27 after a series of family deaths. She started as a cashier, waiting in line for two hours to land a summer job at a Redding, Calif., establishment, Snyder told NBC’s “Today” last month.

“I think there can be a stigma attached to being the owner’s child,” Snyder said. “I just wanted to be respected like everyone else, do things the right way and not have special treatment.”

Lynsi Snyder, formerly Lynsi Torres, owner and president of the In-N-Out Burger restaurant chain, poses for a photo with her trophy after winning the National Hot Rod Association’s Lucas Oil Drag Racing

Bob Johnson

In her early days as president, she felt pressure to be a typical, reserved boss, but she quickly discovered that being authentic was more beneficial to herself and the company, she said . She traded in her blazers for tank tops and sportswear and ran the company with a people-first attitude, even in the face of inflation.

Snyder’s equity in the fast food chain helped her become a billionaire in 2017, and her estimated net worth has increased since then, according to Forbes, to $6.7 billion.

“I was sitting in VP meetings and saying, ‘We can’t raise prices that much,’ because I felt so obligated to look out for our customers. When everyone was making these leaps, we didn’t We weren’t,” she told “Today.”

What In-N-Out Employees Are Saying

In-N-Out ranked ninth on Glassdoor’s Best Companies list, which looked at ratings and reviews from CEOs and senior management, and sixth on its most recent Best Places to Work list. Anonymous employee reviews cite great salaries, employees, benefits, and benefits as reasons they loved working there.

“They pay well, they offer above-average benefits for the fast food industry and I think that really helps them stand out in the industry,” Daniel Zhao, senior economist at Glassdoor, told Make It . “And this decision comes from the top.”

Ninety-two percent of employees who submitted reviews on Glassdoor approve of the CEO, the website says. “I was never bored and the pay was very good for the work done,” one review read. “Flexible hours and the ability to change stores are a plus,” notes another.

Good pay, flexible hours and career opportunities are important job traits for many people, including fast food employees, Zhao says.

“In addition to the great benefits they offer, they also emphasize career opportunities by ensuring people can grow within the company,” he says. “So it’s not that working at In-N-Out is just a job. I think they’re trying to encourage people to think of it more as a career.”

“Don’t underestimate the power of humanity”

Other industries should take a leaf out of In-N-Out’s book, Davis says. There are typically 10 employees in the store front, almost double what Davis sees at competing fast-food chains, and everyone does their part to make sure no one is overworked, she says.

“It’s a sign that the company really cares about what workers have to go through when they’re here,” Davis says. “Workplace culture means taking care of the people you depend on. And in tech companies, sometimes you depend on technology more than people. In-N-Out always relies on people.”

The tech and retail sectors in particular have been plagued by layoffs and pay cuts over the past year, with some workers learning their plight through brief emails or abrupt messages on Slack. Strict return-to-power mandates in many sectors are leaving a bad taste in the mouths of some employees.

Davis recommends that business leaders harness soft skills like empathy, understanding and authenticity, so that when they have to make difficult decisions, they can communicate them effectively without frustrating employees.

“If companies really take the time to use their money wisely, investing in the things that matter to people – without it mattering to the company’s reputation – it ends up being good for everyone as a whole,” Davis says.

“Don’t underestimate the power of humanity and emotion that is needed in the workplace,” she adds.

Disclosure: NBC and CNBC are divisions of NBCUniversal.

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