Employee feedback: How to make it less painful

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Employee feedback can be a thorny issue for even the best managers and HR professionals. And traditional methods of gathering feedback don’t work. That’s what Lee Burbage, head of people at The Motley Fool, told host Matt Trogdon this week in a short video on best-practices.

“The first thing I would do is kill the performance appraisal system,” Burbage said. “I 100-percent guarantee you that everyone at your company hates it.”

The Motley Fool has evolved its feedback system through the years from a traditional appraisal-focused approach to one based more on employee choice. Fool employees are able to opt-in if they want feedback, choose the people they ask for feedback and choose the person to deliver their feedback once it’s collected.

“It’s a beautiful thing at the end,” Burbage said. “You’re getting feedback and it’s a packaged up gift” that’s focused on your improvement as an employee.

For more, watch the video below as Burbage gives two tips for how you can make feedback better at your organization.

Company Culture: The Importance of Core Values

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(The following post was originally written by Sam Cicotello, head of The Motley Fool’s member services team)

Wow!  You actually opened a post with the title “core values?”  I’m a little surprised.  Many people look at “core values” and roll their eyes.  After all, most companies have them and they are generally very nice, very aspirational…and very stale.

You can imagine that they were created by a strange consultant with trendy glasses, who smelled like Mountain Dew and Altoids, who came to the office and spent a day in a conference room – or maybe a result of that executive retreat a few years ago where we all heard Alex got a little tipsy and crashed the golf cart.

But, so what? What do they really mean when push comes to shove?  How do you use them?

At their worst, Core Values are corporate jargon and a company joke – Enron, after all, had values of respect, integrity, communication, and excellence.

But used in the right way, they can be amazing – dare I say magical!  They can allow a company to develop a culture that exists without a lot of oversight.

At The Fool we really do try to live our core values every single day.  And they’re a little different than your typical corporate buzz words.  Here they are – created by a broad section of Fools from several departments and tenures.

You can see them on the wall as soon as you walk through the front door on our culture tour. But they don’t live there – they live in our culture and in each Fool’s daily actions.

Be Foolish!

  • Collaborative - Do great things together.
  • Innovative – Search for a better solution. Then top it!
  • Fun – Revel in your work.
  • Honest – Make us proud.
  • Competitive – Play fair, play hard, play to win.
  • Motley – Make Foolishness your own. Share your core value _____________.

Okay, great – but how do you know you are living them?  What about the pushing and shoving I mentioned earlier? For me it’s about these four questions, and I ask myself these questions frequently for each value:

  1. Do we hire for this value?
  2. Will we fire for this value?
  3. Can you see and feel this value walking through the office?
  4. Is the value referenced frequently?  Really? When was the last time?

For each of our core values, I want us to be able to answer “YES!” to each of these questions. Ask these questions about the values at your organization. I think they’ll shed some light on whether your company’s values are reflective of the company’s culture.

Fool on!

Job-hunting: Four more ways to stand out to employers

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(The following was originally written by Sara Klieger, director of the Motley Fool’s internship program)

I wrote a post recently that generated a lot of traffic – Five tips to improve your application and resume. It seems a lot of you are here (rightly so!) to learn about career opportunities and how to get them. As you know, we read through countless more applications and made lots of connections at conferences and networking events. So what else can you do during your job hunt to make it a success?

  1. Make sure you’re applying to the actual job that’s listed. If the opening is, say, for an editor, and you go on and on about how you want to work in market research, you’re not the ideal candidate for this job. It’s better to spend more time on fewer applications and make sure they’re the best they can be and appropriate for the job opening, rather than sending generic applications out to hundreds of places a day. Quality, not quantity.
  2. Do some research about the company you’re applying to. Let them know what you learned in your application. Mention how your skills would fit into the company’s work.
  3. Actually write a cover letter. A real one, not just “I’m applying to this position. You can reach me here.” This is a marketing document. Brag about yourself! List relevant accomplishments! Show the recruiter your personality! An amazing cover letter fills in the gaps on your resume. Are you looking to switch career fields? Your resume will show no relevant experience, but a cover letter can list your transferable skills. Are you a recent graduate just starting your career? Your resume might be a little empty for now, but your cover letter can discuss student leadership roles, volunteer work, and other ways you got experience even though you haven’t held many jobs yet. Trust me – applications with no cover letter get eliminated from consideration immediately at a lot of companies!
  4. Show gratitude. A lot of people helped you get to where you are, so write them a quick thank-you email. The recruiter who interviewed you? Always send a follow up email to thank them for their time and reiterate interest in the job. The person you met through a friend who answered your questions or introduced you to someone who was hiring? Thank them too! No need to send flowers – just a nice, sincere note.

Job-hunting: Five tips to improve your application & resume

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(The following was originally written by Sara Klieger, director of the Motley Fool’s internship program)

If you’re reading this blog, odds are you’re interested in one of the awesome job openings listed here. As someone who helps our Foolish recruiters read through the resumes and cover letters we receive, I’m here to give you some tips on how to make your application stand out.

  1. Make your application error-free: The easiest way an applicant can show that his heart isn’t into the process is by submitting an application full of mistakes. Thoroughly edit your resume and cover letter, and have a friend look over it, too. When you say you’re detail-oriented, but you misspell the name of the company or the hiring manager… you’re not detail-oriented.
  2. Avoid emoticons and abbreviations used in texting. Neither of those things makes a recruiter LOL.
  3. If you haven’t created a professional email address for job-hunting purposes, now’s the time. AnGeLbAbY123@hotmail.com is not resume-appropriate, but JaneSmith@gmail.com definitely is.
  4. Many people (myself included) dread writing cover letters, but they’re great for giving recruiters a sense of your personality and enthusiasm. Craft a cover letter that shows us what you know and love about the Fool (or any potential employer) and how your skills match our needs. We love cover letters that tell me how you can make the Fool better with your talents. What we don’t like to see is the “what’s in it for me?” cover letter — where you only talk about what you hope to get out of a job, but not about what you can bring to the table.
  5. And finally, hang in there. Job-hunting can be frustrating. We have low turnover at the Fool, so our technical requirements for a job can often be very high (some positions require tough editing tests, and all of them involve three-hour interviews). It’s hard not to take a rejection personally, but know that often it comes down to factors beyond your control — namely, if a more qualified candidate happens to apply to the same job at the same time. Our recruiters say one of the hardest things they have to do is turn down bright, Foolish candidates, but we keep our favorite applicants on file for the next time a similar opening comes up. You never know! So do your best to take care of what you can control. It’s easy to become bitter and jaded, but don’t let that bitterness shine through in your application. Lead with your determination, work ethic, and belief that you would be great at the job you’re applying for.

So there are my tips. They seem almost too simple, and a lot of job hunters want to know if there are any “tricks” for getting their application even more attention. Deliver it in person? Call the hiring manager daily to check in? Don’t you dare! People who tell you to do that are giving you outdated advice that can ruin your chances of getting a job offer. The truth is there’s no gimmick that beats a well-written cover letter and a clear resume. So if you’d love to be a Fool, apply to one of our openings and tell us why!

Follow along LIVE with our Women in Investing Event!

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Hi Friends!

More than 200 Fools gathered for our first-ever forum on Women and Investing back in January. It was such a success that we’re hosting another event! You can follow along with the live event here.

Our keynote speaker is Megan McArdle. Megan is an economics, business, and public policy columnist for Bloomberg and the author of The Up Side of Down: Why Failing Well is the Key to Success. She’s also worked for The Economist, The Atlantic, and Newsweek/The Daily Beast and was a fellow at the New America Foundation. We think Megan is one of the most engaging and insightful economics columnists out there, and we’re excited to welcome her back to the Fool.

Whether you’re just thinking about getting started with investing, want to know if you’re on the right track, or are interested in learning more about our Foolish special sauce, you’ll be able to hear from other Foolish investors and talk about the strategies right for you.

Once again — here’s the link. The action starts at 6PM EST!

Celebrating At Work: How To Do It Better

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Workplace celebrations don’t have to be stale or awkward. I was reminded of that today when I walked into a lunch that the Motley Fool marketing and editorial teams hosted to celebrate hitting a company goal. I took away a couple of…ahem…takeaways that could be helpful as you think about celebrations at your organization.

First, it’s worth describing the scene. The group of 40 or so was spread out in one of our bigger conference rooms and everyone was relaxed. In one corner, a handful of our writers talked up their favorite baseball teams. In another, one of our video producers chatted up web and marketing designers. All the while, Pandora offered up a smooth soundtrack of late 90s classics from Blues Traveler and Third Eye Blind.

Dylan Lewis, an energy analyst who’s only been at the company for two weeks, enjoyed the fun.

“It’s nice to know that the company sees the need to celebrate success” Lewis said. “It’s nice to have events like this where I get to interact with people I haven’t met yet.”

One lesson I took away from the lunch is that companies don’t have to go overboard in order to make people feel good about their work. Today’s lunch included burritos and chips and salsa from Chipotle. Kristen Coia, the writer-relations manager who planned the event, said that lunch cost the company around $670. That’s not chump change, but it’s not going to break the bank, either.

The second lesson I took away is that employees appreciate when their company takes care of the event for them. Alison Southwick, our producer, commented that lunches like these are light-years better than traditional pot lucks. I couldn’t agree more. For the folks who aren’t great in the kitchen, cooking for a pot luck can deter participation. Having the company pitch in removes that barrier.

Lastly, it’s worth noting that today’s lunch wasn’t the first the teams have had. Last month, they did a “get-to-know-you” gathering when it was announced they’d be working together. Employees seemed to appreciate the continuity and follow up. “It feels awesome to have our efforts celebrated,” Erryn Neckel, a marketing manager, said. “We all recognize it and we feel like a team.”

The bottom line here is that if you’re planning a celebration at your organization, you should remember that little gestures go a long way. While we all love big blowouts, sometimes burritos and good conversation are all it takes to get your employees in a festive mood.

A “Foolish” Thought about LinkedIn

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LinkedInI’m a firm believer in the power of LinkedIn. As the go-to Fool for PR and company-wide networking, LinkedIn is an absolutely crucial tool that I use every day. With it, I can search and dig through company rosters to ensure I’m reaching out to the right person for my specific request. I honestly can’t imagine doing my job without it.

Because it’s a network aimed at professionals, the growth of LinkedIn has brought with it a number of etiquette questions. For example: What should you post on your page? With whom should you connect? How should you describe yourself? And on and on.

On the subject of connecting, the best advice I’ve read is to use the “help test.” Ideally, you would be willing to help any of your “connections” if they reached out to you with a request. If that’s not the case, you might want to reconsider some of those connections. On the other hand, if you’re inviting someone to connect with you, and you don’t think they’d say yes if you reached out to them for help, it might be worth re-examining that invitation.

One of the more bewildering things I come across is what I call the “cold connection request.” Occasionally I’ll get an invitation from someone I don’t know, whom I’ve never spoken to or corresponded with in any capacity. The person might be in a similar field, but not necessarily. Either way, I’m hesitant to accept cold requests. You wouldn’t accept a face-to-face meeting with someone you didn’t know unless they gave you at least a little context, right?

If you ever find yourself needing to “cold connect” with someone, I highly suggest tailoring the invitation. LinkedIn allows you to write your own invitation instead of using the standard “I’d like to add you to my professional network.” If someone personalizes the invitation, it shows me that they at least care enough to put some thought into why they’re reaching out to me.

To be sure, I’m not looking for anything fancy. Just tell me something about who you are and why you wanted to connect with me, and I’d be much more likely to respond. It’s a low bar, really.

As you build out your networks on LinkedIn, be thoughtful about who you include. After all, a well-constructed LinkedIn network can be a powerful tool when it comes time to ask for help. Just make sure that your connections are people who’d be willing to help you, and vice versa. You’ll have more success that way. I promise.

Glassdoor Names Us the Best Medium-Sized Company To Work For In the US

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GlassdoorThe Motley Fool, founded in Alexandria with the purpose of helping the world invest better, has been given top honor today as the best medium-sized company to work for in 2014 by Glassdoor.com.

The Motley Fool beat out companies from across the country. SmartBear Software (#2) and Travelzoo (#3) round out the top three of the category. Other companies making the list include Hubspot (#12), and electroshock weapon maker TASER (#23).

According to Glassdoor, the list was compiled “solely on the input of employees, who elect to provide feedback on their jobs, work environments and companies via Glassdoor’s anonymous online company review survey.”

Said The Motley Fool’s Chief People Officer Lee Burbage: “We work tirelessly to keep our employees engaged in jobs they love and a mission they support. We’re thrilled that we’ve created a workplace that’s worthy of their praise.”

In addition to this latest recognition by Glassdoor, The Motley Fool can be found on Washingtonian magazine’s list of the “50 Great Places to Work” as well as Washington Business Journal’s “Best Places to Work.” The Motley Fool was also named the Best Media Company to Work For by Business Insider, placing it ahead of Disney, ESPN and Turner Broadcasting among others.

“We love talking about office culture and welcome sharing ideas with anyone who’s interested,” Burbage said.

The Motley Fool hosts a monthly culture tour and Q&A on the first Friday of each month at its office in Alexandria.  For further information, comment and questions, please contact Matt Trogdon at mtrogdon@fool.com.

Hear from Lee Burbage and a few others about what they love about working at The Fool, and how we attract top talent and keep employees happy and motivated:

CEO Tom Gardner Now a LinkedIn “Influencer”

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Motley Fool CEO and co-founder Tom Gardner has joined the LinkedIn “Influencer” program. Gardner published his first “Influencer” post, titled “Half Your Employees Hate Their Jobs,” on Wednesday. The post, co-written with Motley Fool columnist Morgan Housel, highlighted three changes organizations should make to improve their workplace cultures.

“Peter Drucker said that culture eats strategy for breakfast,” Gardner wrote. “Get your fork and knife and let’s get to work!”

By joining the “Influencer” program, Gardner enters a community of the world’s most profound and impactful thinkers. Notable LinkedIn “Influencers” include Richard Branson, Arianna Huffington, Bill Gates, and more. Gardner plans to write broadly about investing, general business, and other issues he and Motley Fool employees hold dear.

“We’re thrilled for Tom to become a LinkedIn ‘Influencer,’” Fool spokesperson Adrienne Perryman said. “We have a ton of respect for the community LinkedIn has created, and having Tom as a part of it will certainly help us further our mission of helping the world invest better.”

Gardner’s “Influencer” page can be found here, and a full list of “Influencers” can be found here.

Matt Trogdon and Tom Gardner own shares of LinkedIn. The Motley Fool recommends LinkedIn. The Motley Fool owns shares of LinkedIn. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.