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.

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!

Core Value #4 : Fun – Revel in Your Work

Fun

FunThe Fool is a fun place to work. We believe that life and work cannot be separated, and rather than balancing, we try to integrate them.  We want all Fools to think about how they can add fun to their day and how they can love their work.  Everyone is encouraged to take time out of their day to socialize, play, exercise, create, or relax.

It’s important to create friendships within the company.  Understanding, and maybe even liking, each other is going to make us a better, more productive, and happier company. We ask about friends in our employee engagement survey twice a year.

The number one way that we encourage fun is to ensure that each Fool is actually in a job they love.  It’s fun to take a break but we also want people to love what they do.  If you ever talk to our Chief Investing Officer, Andy Cross, you will know that he loves investing and it’s fun for him every single day.  The same is true of many Fools.  Laura, a member of our business intelligence team, loves data – LOVES IT!  I’m serious! Just ask her a question about Excel and her excitement could launch the space shuttle.

It thrills us when someone will describe themselves as an investing nerd or a tech geek or marketing dweeb – all a little self-effacing, sure, but it shows that they have a lot of themselves wrapped up in their jobs and have maybe more fun with it than socially acceptable.

Fun also has a very direct business purpose.  It decreases burnout, increases collaboration, and improves employee retention – WIN!

1)      Do we hire for this value?

Yes.  We try through both our application process and in the interview to learn more about you and see your personality.  This one is easily misinterpreted by many candidates (please don’t tell me a beer pong story).  We do want to know what makes your eyes light up inside and outside of work.  I don’t judge what you do for fun – I just want to see that you don’t take yourself too seriously.

 2)      Will we fire for this value? 

This is the value where I get the most questions on our monthly culture tour.  I explain at the beginning of the tour that values are ONLY really values if you will hire and fire for them.  Everyone nods as we discuss Collaborative, Innovative, Honest and Competitive.  Then we get to FUN!  It’s easy for our visitors to see that this is a fun atmosphere and to understand why fun could be a desirable value, but I almost always get a sideways glance and either concerned whisper or snarky comment here – “You fire for fun?”  It seems unbelievable in a business context – sure you value honesty like that, but fun?  Really?

Yes, really.  You don’t need to be the person leading the conga line (that’s my job) – but if you are cancerous to the culture and are making your coworkers miserable, our paths will soon diverge.

3)      Can you see and feel this value walking through the office?

Yes, fun is probably the easiest value to see as you walk through the office.  We have our game room, massage room, and nap room, but it really lives everywhere. From my desk right now I can see 1) large inflatable pool toys (swan, orca, shark, walrus, turtle) 2) a Nerf gun battle 3) several art pieces created by Fools at a happy hour 4) Five board games 5) wizard’s chess, wands and broomsticks (Firebolt and Nimbus) 6) a dozen jester hats.

The other part is just the feeling.  As I’m writing the post I hear laughter coming from the tech team sitting next to me – and yes, they are talking about code.  Behind me Lee is laughing about an upcoming event that he’s planning. It’s hard to sit here for more than five minutes without hearing fun.  I think fun is reason that we are consistently voted one of Washington DC’s best places to work.

4)      Is the value referenced frequently?  When was the last time?

It’s certainly referenced through the constant laughter and passion of Fools every day, but the purpose of this question is more systemic.  How do we ensure that Fun is constant?  One of my favorite Culture Club rules is “If you have to make it mandatory, you have failed to make it compelling.” It’s also frequently used as a tie breaker.  When there is a decision to make about anything from strategy to time management the kicker question is frequently “Which one is more fun for you?  Do that one!”

Please note that our values are not actually rank-ordered.  I call this #4 to help blog readers keep track.  See the full list of values at Core Values to Live By.