Ep004: Daniel Walker on Disrupting Talent at Gap, Apple, and Beyond

By October 11, 2016Podcast

On this episode, Dr.G is joined by the fierce turnaround-artist and disrupter-of-talent, Daniel Walker. As the former Chief Talent Officer of Gap, Apple, and JCPenny, he shares with us his unconventional approach to developing talent poised for disruptive change. Never before told, his unusual stories unravel the truth of what really happened behind the scenes. He shares with us his personal secrets for developing fearless talent, how his military background shaped his strategies, and a number of humorous, untold stories of personal interactions with his close friend, Steve Jobs. How did Gap become a household name? How should organizations develop A+ talent? What were the behind-closed-doors conversations that led to Apple’s unprecedented turnaround? All this and more on today’s episode. Now, That’s Unusual.

About Daniel Walker

Daniel Walker is one of the world’s foremost authorities in the field of talent acquisition. Challenging the value of widely accepted HR standard practices, he has played a fundamental role in building some of America’s most ground-breaking companies.

Walker spent four years in military intelligence, serving in the US Army Security Agency and went on to earn a psychology degree from Ohio State University. He began his career with Lazarus Department Stores, eventually becoming the Vice President of Human Resources. Walker’s impressive resume in talent acquisition spans four decades and includes titles such as HR Chief for the retail division of General Mills, Vice President of HR for The Gap, Inc., Chief Talent Officer for JC Penny as well as Chief Talent Officer for Apple, Inc.

Walker shares his core belief that a company’s most valuable asset is its extraordinary talent via lectures throughout the United States and Europe. He founded and currently serves as CEO of The Human Revolution Studios, a cutting-edge human capital firm; he also co-founded Sunstone Leadership, a startup combining the best practices of elite special forces units and exemplar corporate leadership development.

 Key Interview Takeaways

Human Resources should focus on identifying great leaders and an endless supply of great talent, then molding the resulting team into a great workforce. Ineffective HR departments focus instead on processes (i.e.: succession planning, organizational and performance reviews) and lose sight of the most essential element, the people.

The emerging companies doing talent acquisition the right way work to build cultures in which employees are encouraged to take risks, to debate, and to find joy in their work. They have visionary leaders who value human capital and place a premium on the quality of the staff experience.

“There is no fear in doing the right thing.” The military utilizes an asymmetrical approach in which everyone leads and improvisation is crucial. Because a mission rarely (if ever) goes exactly as planned, a soldier must be a creative thinker who adjusts on the fly to accomplish the mission. Business would do well to utilize a similar common sense approach as opposed to being stifled by hierarchy and following protocol because “that’s the way it’s always been done.”

Talent acquisition must embrace the idea of ‘force multiplication’. In his work rebuilding Apple, Inc., Walker was faced with the task of reducing head count and labor cost burn rate while increasing the quality of the organization. He incorporated the elite forces concept of force multiplication: One Navy Seal should have the fighting effectiveness of 100 of the enemy. One quality employee, properly equipped and supported, can have the effectiveness of many.

 Learn more about Daniel Walker


The Human Revolution Studios

Sun Stone Leadership

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