You Don’t Have to Hate Your Job (Really!)

Employee Engagement

Employee EngagementBy Laurie Street

The Motley Fool isn’t the only company that has built a fantastic culture, but sadly there aren’t enough of us. Countless studies show that employees are lacking engaging and healthy work environments. An interesting New York Times piece, Why You Hate Work, digs deeper into these disadvantages, mentioning faults that stem from the rise in digital technology, increased competitiveness, and our post-recession economy.

Author Tony Schwartz argues simple solutions that, if introduced, could make a huge difference in corporate environments. His suggestions ring true during a time when workplaces actually have the opportunity to evolve. It’s not necessarily a world of suits, ties, and strict regulations anymore.

In Schwartz’s opinion, companies should measure employees not hourly but by the value that they create. He explains, “To the extent possible, let them decide where to do their work, and when to do it, as long as they meet deadlines.” Trust is a huge component, and The Fool’s flexible scheduling speaks to Schwartz’s point. We throw traditional 9-5 calendars to the wind by allowing our employees to manage their own time. With this flexibility comes the expectation that employees are striving to produce their highest quality of work. Because everyone has different work styles, we also offer quiet spaces that offer a break from our open office, as well as the tools to work from home.

We believe in transparency, a point that Schwartz addresses in his column. He notes, “…seek to define all jobs in ways that feel meaningful and significant to people.” Fools are encouraged to establish honest relationships with their managers, making it easy to communicate about goals, projects, and ideas. If a Fool isn’t happy, our People Team wants to help. We organize feedback sessions to connect with Fools about their job path and progress, and recently implemented an internal reward service that allows Fools to publicly recognize others with “gold” for a job well done. Gold can be spent on gift cards for a variety of stores, and the entire process makes receiving Fools feel happy and valued.

However, it’s an unfortunate fact that all workplaces can’t — or will not try — to implement a progressive culture for employees. In addition to cynicism and anger, decreased energy is a common symptom of workplace unhappiness. To combat these signs, Schwartz suggests using 15-25 minutes for rest or an outdoor walk to increase productivity and alertness. The warmer weather has inspired a Fool Walking Group, which takes 30-minute outdoor strolls twice a week. We also have the Reading Room, a quiet space for better concentration that doubles as a place to take a power nap. Our culture encourages Fools to be comfortable enough to always take the necessary time for rest.

Schwartz’s article is one of many that shows how corporate cultures are changing. The Fool is on top of preserving Foolishness, from showing appreciation to our employees to trying out new, fun ideas in the office. Hating your job is the last thing The Fool would ever want, and we’re constantly on the search for ways to top the happiness scale.

Contributing to Amazon’s Most Well-Read City

Bookie Monster
Bookie Monster
Malcolm Gladwell, one of the many authors to visit Fool HQ, spoke at a recent member event.

By Laurie Street

Whether it’s a biography or the latest best-seller, I’ve always loved to read. My constant desire for a good book in hand explains why Bookie Monster is one of my favorite employee benefits here. Though I’ve already praised this program on this blog, my curiosity was recently sparked when I learned that Amazon rated Fool HQ’s home of Alexandria, Virginia, #1 on their list of most well-read cities — for the third year in a row!

Our company prides itself in helping Fools expand their knowledge. We cover order requests through Amazon and, in just three months, we’ve purchased nearly 300 books at a tab close to $4000. These statistics apply to both work-related materials and personal requests.

Free books are wonderful to any employee who enjoys professional or leisurely reading, but I love that Bookie Monster also celebrates our core value of Collaboration. Washington Business Journal lists Amazon’s top three sellers at the time this data was published, and I know of several Fools reading at least two — Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch and Veronica Roth’s Divergent. Both of these novels have sparked conversations that I’ve been a part of, as well as a few that I’ve overheard around the office.

Speaking of in-depth discussions, all Fools have the opportunity to attend monthly Book Club meetings that are supported by Bookie Monster. We recently finished John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, and a small group of Fools attended a showing of the newly-released film. Bookie Monster is also important to our Speaker Series, which we’ve hosted since 2008. This series has allowed Fools to interact with amazing entrepreneurs and businesspeople, many of whom are writers. Fools can order the author’s work and read it before their visit. Bookie Monster encourages Fools to explore new subjects and discussions.

While Alexandria is certainly an large area with lots of voracious readers, I can’t help but think the Fool contributed at least a little to its acclaimed title. As The Motley Fool grows, this program continues to be successful; in fact, 119 new Fool employees have ordered at least one book so far.

Would you become more of a reader if your company offered this benefit?

We’ll Send You on a Fool’s Errand — In a Good Way!

Fool's Errand

Fool's ErrandBy Laurie Street

Whether it’s checking off a grocery list or paying the bills, everyone knows the definition of “errand” all too well. Here at the Fool, we’re familiar with a different kind of chore called “Fool’s Errand,” and it’s definitely not your typical mundane task.

The Fool’s Errand is a special prize — two weeks off and $1,000. So what are the rules? The chosen Fool must leave immediately and have no contact with the office, with the money only available if these guidelines are followed. The generous gift of $1,000 can be used for anything — plane tickets, hotel rooms, skydiving lessons…you name it! Past winners have visited Northern California wineries; Captiva Island, Florida; snowy Vermont; and even the Dominican Republic. Some Fools have simply enjoyed a staycation, but no matter where they go, winners are always encouraged to spend a few hours on our company’s purpose — to help the world invest better. Winners have rebalanced their 401k, managed an educational savings account, or chatted with a parent about retirement preparation.

At the end of each monthly company-wide meeting, approximately ten Fools are chosen at random and entered to win. To be eligible, the Fool must be employed here for at least one year. Names are entered as many times as the number of years each person has worked here, so if a Fool has been around for fifteen years there’s obviously a better chance for a win.

I can assure you that this process isn’t fixed. Names are drawn through a computer generated system, and the live announcement is always entertaining. I once saw the names laid face-down on a table, and a slightly-wonky remote control helicopter chose the winner upon landing. Another time, a Fool member visited with her dogs, and each contender was given a dog treat. Whomever the Labrador ran to first was deemed the winner.

Obviously, the Fool’s Errand fulfills our core value of Fun, but it also fulfills two business purposes. First, even with an unlimited vacation policy, some Fools find it hard to fully disconnect from the office. We want to encourage our employees to take the occasional break. Second, it’s important for any company to be prepared for an employee’s sudden, unexpected absence (illnesses and family emergencies happen). By knowing that we can cover for a Fool who needs to take time off with short notice, we know there are no gaps in our workflow.

If your company would like to try a similar program, you can start small. Maybe offer a random employee a day off as a reward for great work. Show your employees that time off is important — and they’ll return with fresh ideas and greater motivation.

We Provide Benefits for You — And Your Pup, Too!

Reserved Barking

Reserved Barking

By Ali Earle
Human Resources Fool

When you have a pet, it’s more than just an animal – it’s a member of your family! (And probably the only member of your family to love you unconditionally.) Many Fools have beloved dogs, but they can’t walk themselves during the workday. Since we strategically introduce benefits to help make Fools’ lives easier, discounted doggie daycare was an obvious candidate for a new benefit.

A group of Fools from headquarters recently went on a tour at Reserved Barking, where Fools receive a discount on grooming, daycare, and boarding for their pups. Reserved Barking Doggie Daycare in Alexandria, VA, has been in service since 2010 and this past September expanded into a new facility. The Fools had a chance to meet the two business partners, Bilal and Hassan, and take a behind-the-scenes tour. Their facility features playrooms for large dogs and small dogs, two outdoor play sections, and a grooming room. Each playroom is equipped with an ‘introductory area’ where the dog has a chance to get used to its surroundings before entering the playroom, a large play area, and a naptime area. The facility uses 100% dog-friendly cleaning supplies and has security camera set up for surveillance at all hours. Reserved Barking has the capacity for 120 dogs but they like to cap it to around 60 so that each dog has more than enough room and attention from the staff. We have quite a few Fools that love this benefit and take advantage of it on a regular basis. This tour was a great way for us to get to know the company and a chance to see what doggie daycare is all about.

Making sure you don’t have to worry about your pet while you’re at work is just one of the many perks The Fool offers to its employees to keep them relaxed and focused.

Get a Taste of Foolish Wellness with Tom’s Green Smoothie Recipe

Green Smoothie

By Laurie Street

The well-being of every employee is taken seriously here at The Motley Fool. With a full-time Wellness Coordinator, multiple treadmill and exercise bike desks, and free food refrigerators filled with organic snacks, our company has undeniably built a productive yet health-conscious work atmosphere. So it should be of no surprise that many of these holistic approaches stem straight from our CEO, Tom Gardner.

It’s not unusual to see Tom utilizing our office’s various wellness opportunities, whether he’s working from a treadmill desk or enjoying a snack from the kitchen. In fact, Tom drinks a specific smoothie daily, which is filled with nutrient-dense ingredients based off of the ANDI Guide. This Whole Foods Market scoring system rates around nutrient content and, as you can see by this chart, the higher the score, the better the ingredient. Top-rated ingredients in Tom’s smoothie are kale, flax seeds, and blackberries.

After serving this smoothie to curious Fool One members at a recent event, I asked Tom why he is persistent about his recipe. He replied that it serves as a huge source of energy, providing him with good, clean food to start each day. Tom has even taped segments for The Fool with this drink in hand.

If you’re curious to give Tom’s smoothie a try, the recipe is below. Though I can’t say that your investing knowledge will be better if you drink it, perhaps your health will see a higher return.

Green Smoothie

Creative Employee Benefit Turns Fools into Readers

Bookie Monster

Bookie MonsterBy Laurie Street
Member Services Fool

With our company’s name taken straight from Shakespeare, it’s no surprise that you’ll find many lovers of literature here.  One of the coolest – and newest – benefits to employees is the Bookie Monster program.  It allows full-time employees to order any book – fiction, non-fiction, job-related or completely irrelevant – on The Fool’s tab, as a hard copy or an e-book delivered to their own devices.

Top Fools understand the importance of each employee’s personal learning journey, and it’s true that reading is knowledge. Whether it’s a book about investing or business, or a novel, we’re encouraged to delve into all topics. Studies have shown that reading can significantly boost an individual’s vocabulary, creativity, and communication skills – among many other qualities. This awesome benefit aims to shape our employees into better and smarter leaders.

In fact, many of the world’s most successful businesspeople – both past and present – have been avid readers themselves. Tom Gardner shared a few of his favorite novels with me, including Conscious Capitalism, The Davis Dynasty, and The Outsiders, which all pertain to investing.  As for other topics, Tom also recommends Influence by Robert Cialdini, The Logic of Failure by Dietrich Dorner, and Tribal Leadership by Dave Logan.

David Gardner also shared some of his favorite business reads: Enough by Jack Bogle, Predictable Success by Les McKeown, Selling the Invisible by Harry Beckwith, Tribes by Seth Godin, and The Why of Work by Dave and Wendy Ulrich.

One of The Motley Fool’s core values is Innovation, so it seems fitting that we are able to expand our education in such a unique and generous way. Through literature, we can help the world invest better while simultaneously gaining a better understanding on a wide variety of topics.

If you’re interested in diving into a new book, we have lots of great suggestions based on your level of investing experience:

Elementary School

One Up on Wall Street by Peter Lynch

Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist by Roger Lowenstein

Value Investing With the Masters by Kirk Kazanjian

The Davis Dynasty by John Rothchild

Valuegrowth Investing by Glen Arnold

Junior High

The 5 Keys to Value Investing by J. Dennis Jean-Jacques

Beating the Street by Peter Lynch

Investment Fables by Aswath Damodaran

The Vest Pocket Guide to Value Investing by C. Thomas Howard

Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits by Philip Fisher

High School

Made in America by Sam Walton

Forbes’ Greatest Investing Stories by Richard Phalon

John Neff on Investing by John Neff

The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham

The Money Masters by John Train

University

Stocks for the Long Run by Jeremy Siegel

Quality of Earnings by Thornton Oglove

Investing in Small-Cap Stocks by Christopher Graja and Elizabeth Ungar

The Book of Investing Wisdom by Peter Krass

You Can Be a Stock Market Genius by Joel Greenblatt

Grad School

Break Up! by Campbell, Koch & Sadtler

Investment Gurus by Peter Tanous

Value Investing: A Balanced Approach by Martin Whitman

Value Investing: From Graham to Buffett and Beyond by Bruce Greenwald

The Road to Serfdom by F.A. Hayek

CEO Tom Gardner Talks Conscious Capitalism

Tom Gardner was interviewed by Professor R. Edward Freeman of the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business as part of a Coursera class called “New Models of Business in Society.” Watch him talk about how The Fool aims to be different from Wall Street and disrupt financial advice, unique ways we increase employee engagement, how we created our company values and live by them, and more!

Our Goal is Great Customer Service

Make Fools Happy!

Make Fools Happy!By Laurie Street
Member Services Fool

Take a moment to consider an all-too-typical customer service experience. Perhaps you’ve been kept on hold with an automated recording, waiting for a representative that’s headquartered in a large – and very busy – call center. What’s worse is discovering that this electronic guide is actually your only contact, and no live human is even available. Whether it’s a cable company, credit card service, or your phone provider, I feel confident that you’ve been on the losing end of a frustrating customer service experience.

The Fool aims to make its customer service experience far, far better than what people have (sadly) gotten used to. Our hard-working Member Services team is comprised of approximately ten in-house employees, as well as a few contractors who work remotely via email. We are not recordings, but instead real, live voices that are willing and able to assist with any issue that’s presented.  Our phones receive anywhere from 100 to 500 calls per day! We take pride in our ability to connect with Fool members on a personal level, while still handling the matters at hand both quickly and efficiently.

Available to help from 9AM-5PM ET Monday through Friday, our group isn’t always able to ride around the office on scooters, attend in-house speaker series, or join a local afternoon brewery tour. While our daily schedules are somewhat constricted, this department strives to enjoy its own Foolish culture. We take the company’s core value “Motley” and make it our own.  During our busiest periods, we collaborate to implement strategies that keep our momentum high and stress levels low. We’ve organized pot luck lunches, as well as morning treats for the team – be it a box of donuts, the freshest loaf of pumpkin bread, or Starbucks coffee for all. Our wireless headphones allow for mobility to make one more plate of food or, on a more serious note, take a brief walk for stretching. And speaking of walks, the nearby game room is a nice distraction, as well as a place to spark healthy competition between coworkers on quieter days.

If you’re a Fool in need of some assistance, don’t hesitate to drop us a line at cs@fool.com! We’re happy to help make your Foolish experience the best it can be.