A Foolish Favorite Tool – Trello

The Motley Fool’s People Team works hard to keep Fools happy, informed, and productive every day. Comprised of Recruiting Fools, Communication Fools, Learning and Development Fools, Foolish Coaches, Office Operations Fools, and Project Managers like myself, it’s crucial for such a large team like ours to keep on the same page. To fulfill our group’s ultimate purpose, we use a variety of tools to stay on top of this fast-paced Foolish workplace.

Since The Motley Fool is a project-based organization, Fools are encouraged to bring any and all ideas to the table. A favorite tool of many Fools is Trello –  a fantastic online organizational system that allows users to create, share, and arrange ideas in a collaborative way.

Trello reached out to chat about how Fools use their product. I shared not only a few of the People Team’s most-used boards, but also a bit about our fun (yet still business-focused) culture. Find the full interview here!

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March Madness is a Workplace Win

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It’s that time of year again – March Madness is back! Although this month signals an exciting time for sports fans, most companies aren’t as enthused. Research shows that March Madness can be distracting to employees, plus decreased productivity is estimated to cost American companies nearly $2 billion dollars in 2015.

Perhaps the real madness lies behind employers banning the tournament from workplaces. That’s right – just hear us out. Our own Sam Cicotello said to The Washington Post, “”If employers lock things down, what that ends up doing is putting the employee in a very bad spot, where they have to lie and can’t do something they enjoy.”

Like The Motley Fool, more organizations are starting to view March Madness in a positive light. If the tournament is embraced, it can be the perfect opportunity to foster collaboration and build employee relationships.

Still not convinced? Sam Cicotello shared a few more Foolish thoughts on March Madness in The Washington Post’s feature – click here to read on!

Be a More Productive Fool

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The road to productivity can get bumpy sometimes. Distractions are hard to avoid, as are other blockers like office traffic and social websites. A smoother work ethic becomes easier to achieve with clear priorities, deadlines, and roadmaps. These tips, which were recently shared at a productivity conference, could also be helpful in your routine:

1. Define Goals to Achieve in the Next 3 Months.

It’s not uncommon for an idea to be tweaked during the implementation process. Every quarter, take a look at your personal or company roadmap. Are there new goals that should be defined or do certain items need to change? Making the necessary adjustments could leave you with a more positive end result.

2. Keep Track of Raw Ideas.

Though our brains are at work 24/7, it’s difficult (or nearly impossible) to keep track of every single thought. Consider keeping a notebook for writing random ideas as they come, whether it’s during an intentional brainstorming session or not. When it comes time to set new goals, returning to this notebook can generate inspiration.

3. Review Your Week.

At the end of your week, write a few sentences about the last 7 days. Do you feel like you’re crushing the productivity scale? Adapting to the mundane doesn’t boost motivation, so it might be worth revisiting your current goal and ironing out the tasks needed to accomplish it.

 

Are there any Foolish productivity tips you’d like to share? Tell us below or tweet it @FoolCulture!

 

Beyond FoolHQ: Connecting Globally

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Business is global, or at least it is here at The Motley Fool. With the help of technology, we support full-time Fools in Australia, Germany, Canada, and beyond. While some remote Fools work from home, did you know that we have an office in London? And another in NYC? As the need for communicating outside the walls of FoolHQ becomes more important, we’re constantly in search of tools that will help us.

Fools rely heavily on email, Skype, Trello, and even the good ole’ telephone to get in touch. Our intranet is useful for company-wide announcements, plus Slack is another great tool for efficient communication. A few other takeaways for mending communication gaps:

1. Consider the time zone.

Scheduling can be confusing, especially if you’re working with many people in different places. Be considerate of others’ schedules by checking time comparisons and reaching out beforehand to ask what time of day is more convenient.

2. Face-to-face communication matters.

We want all Fools to have the same opportunities for collaboration, and live meetings through Skype or Google Hangouts can sometimes be more effective than email. Consider limiting these meetings to 2-3 people for maximum collaboration.

3. Get together in one place.

Full-time employees are encouraged to attend our annual Foolapalooza retreat for a chance to learn more about the business, bond with fellow Fools, and compete in the occasional Australian kangaroo boxing match. Time away from the office serves as a great opportunity to meet Fools – and in the same time zone, no less.

How does your organization work best with remote employees? Do you have any awesome global communication tips?

4 Open Office Benefits at FoolHQ

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Developing the perfect office space is one tough feat, but our People Team is constantly striving to fulfill 300+ Fools’ needs and wants. From adding new quiet spaces to knocking down walls, one Fool’s role is solely dedicated to our office’s cultural development. No matter if a Fool is shy or social, 4 benefits of our open office stand out:

1. Real (read: not electronic) Communication

At healthcare company GlaxoSmithKline, the absence of cubicles created more transparency among employees. After implementing an open office layout, overall email traffic declined by more than 50% and decision making accelerated by 25%. These productive shifts occurred because “workers were able to meet informally instead of volleying emails from offices and cubes.” In a casual, open environment, employees are more encouraged to engage in face-to-face conversation. Plus, you never know when a random brainstorm might lead to the next best idea.

Closed offices are a thing of the past, paving the way for more openness in both the physical and literal sense. One source explains, “Reasons for going open make for great agency rhetoric: communication, ideation, collaborative resonance, speed.” In an open office, there’s a sense of community that can’t be mirrored electronically.

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2. Approachable Company Leadership 

Maybe your organization’s executives are intimidating, even though we all know they shouldn’t be. Our open office definitely plays a part in connecting Foolish leaders with employees. Tom Gardner and David Gardner are just like normal Fools. Private offices aren’t requirements for them; in fact, you’ll often find Tom on a public treadmill desk and David among fellow investing Fools on his Supernova team. FoolHQ maintains a supportive environment for collaboration and creativity on all levels.

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3. Unique Workspaces

We encourage Fools to do whatever it takes for them to produce the best work. Think beyond a cubicle and imagine moving around to different spaces throughout the day. Couches, beanbags, and working tables fill our office to accommodate different personalities. Not feeling inspired? Sit beside a window or find a quiet space to concentrate. Conference rooms don’t have to disappear, but we’ve added more informal meeting spaces that don’t have to be reserved.

FoolHQ is in constant flux. Fools voice their opinions on office space through engagement surveys, coaching sessions, and casual conversations. If a request can be honored, Fools will go to great lengths to ensure others’ happiness.

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4. Convenient Collaboration

We keep Fools’ desks on wheels for a reason. If different teams need to work together, collaboration should be easy for them. With stationary desks, full office moves took too much time. Now that Fools’ workspaces are mobile, these moves can be finished in one (busy) morning.

Don’t isolate employees based on their departments. Some Fools are embedded onto different teams to boost collaboration and spread mastery of other skill sets. Shuffling Fools around to fit the needs of our business simply wouldn’t be as seamless without our open layout.

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Our Examples of “Enviable” Workplace Culture

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While a top-notch workplace culture is enviable, it also sets an example for what other organizations should strive to achieve. Tim Stevens wrote in his FastCompany article, “There is nothing worse than working in an organization that has a bad culture. It doesn’t matter how much money you make or how many weeks of vacation you are given; when you work in a toxic environment, you still come home tense and stressed at the end of each day.” Stevens is on point; I felt miserable on a daily basis during one of my first “real” job experiences (and no, it wasn’t at The Motley Fool).

Stevens goes on to list 12 traits that suggest your organization is among those with a fantastic culture. Here are a few that resonate with our organization:

1. Turnover is Low.

We want our employees to be Fools for life. Our turnover rate is less than 2%, which is remarkable by industry standards. We go to great lengths to ensure Fools’ happiness, whether it’s ordering gluten-free pizzas to celebrate monthly birthdays or building out more quiet spaces in our office. Foolish coaches also hold regular “Happiness Check-Ins” to chat with Fools about their work-life balance. Low employee turnover means you’re at least doing something right.

 

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2. Team Members are Energized by the Mission.

Fools are passionate about our mission – “To Help the World Invest – Better.” You can feel the energy here, as well as from Fools all over the world. We have full-time Fools based in Canada, Germany, Australia, and Singapore that are all working passionately toward the same goal. When Fools are excited about projects, productivity levels rise to new heights. Creativity can also inflate, adding more valuable ideas to the mix.

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3. It’s Not Just a Job.

Fools are not only excited to come to work, but they’re also enthusiastic about Foolish extracurriculars. Fools are friends too, so attending happy hours, concerts, plays, and other cultural events in the area aren’t foreign concepts. In fact, we actually enjoy spending time with our coworkers. We’re not running toward the door to exit right at 5PM (…we do have a flexible schedule), and it’s kind of refreshing from the corporate norm. A work environment is definitely more positive when it has this type of ambience.

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4. People are Smiling. 

Fools are shiny, happy people (and some are music lovers, too). Our Office Ops team does a great job of keeping FoolHQ an upbeat environment. These creative Fools host activities to all scales, from smaller touches like pushing around snack carts to planning larger events including our annual Holiday Party and company retreat called Foolapalooza.

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5. Communication is Strong.

Though communication can always be enhanced, The Motley Fool strives to keep our conversations transparent. It’s important that your employees stay on the same page with what’s relevant, be it your company numbers or external conference opportunities. Fools are happier when information is provided instead of hidden, even if something is in the works. Simply stating “We’re working on it, but we wanted to let you know…” can make all the difference.

Interested in checking out the other qualities that make a workplace enviable and one of a kind? Click here to read more.

Employee Engagement Matters

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After uploading a new Foolosophy video on the importance of Foolish recognition, we were delighted to see a sweet shout-out from our friends at YouEarnedIt. We implemented their employee engagement tool last year and Fools have been big fans since day one. This online app allows Fools to recognize fellow coworkers for jobs well done with “gold,” which can later be cashed in for prizes. So what’s in our YouEarnedIt redemption vault? Some pretty amazing stuff like Amazon gift cards, subscriptions to BarkBox and Beer of the Month Club, SouthWest Airlines vouchers, and much more! High-value rewards include a trip to our FoolUK office in London and a 3 day weekend in NYC for two.

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While these prizes are awesome, it’s the reason behind why Fools give gold that really matters. Even the little tasks deserve recognition, and now we can thank fellow Fools through YouEarnedIt. A public feed is active all day long so that we can keep up with the great work Fools are doing all over the world. In just a year, nearly 13,000 pieces of recognition have been sent – wow!

Receiving and sending gold excites Fools, plus our prizes inspire everyone to work even harder. Happy employees lead to a more engaged work environment and that’s what we’re all striving for, right?

Sharing Strategies with Glassdoor

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We’re featured on Glassdoor’s Recruiting Blog today to share our top 5 strategies for how to be a better place to work. We spill (some) of our secrets for enhancing employee engagement, company transparency, and workplace culture. You don’t want to miss out, so click here to read our tips!

Do you have any advice that can help organizations improve for the better? Please share below, and don’t forget to Fool On!

 

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GLASSDOOR NAMES US THE BEST MEDIUM-SIZED COMPANY TO WORK FOR IN THE US (AGAIN!)

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Have you heard the exciting news? Glassdoor has named us the #1 company to work for in America – for the second year in a row! Out of more than 125,000 companies eligible to win, The Motley Fool was ranked highest by those who know best – our Foolish employees.

Winners were determined based entirely on accurate and approved company reviews submitted to Glassdoor between November 13, 2013 and November 2, 2014. All of the reviews remain absolutely anonymous, and The Motley Fool took the top spot on the list for companies with fewer than 1,000 employees.

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What makes a company the best place to work? Besides a motivating company mission, employee engagement and workplace culture are also major factors. Head People Fool Lee Burbage adds,”We don’t believe perks drive our employee engagement, but feeling like your leadership team cares about you and what you want or need to be happy does drive engagement.” Our CEO Tom Gardner and a few other Fools share more in this exciting video:

 

Thanks to Fools near and far that contributed to our success. Fool On!

Coffee Brews Conversation

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I hear a lot of chatter about coffee at FoolHQ, but the buzz doesn’t always revolve around the need for caffeine. As an opportunity to connect, Fools are encouraged to request Starbucks gift cards sponsored by The Motley Fool. In return, Fools must treat a fellow coworker – ideally one they don’t know well – to a drink. Though there’s definitely a monthly card limit, some Fools don’t mind to fund Starbucks runs on their own dime every once in a while. You could say that coffee meetings are a popular part of our culture, to say the least.

Our CEO Tom Gardner envisions more to this benefit than just a free soy latte. Introducing the idea at a company-wide huddle last year, Tom encouraged using the cards as a chance to learn about others’ projects; identify best practices Fools use; and collaborate on challenges or ideas. Fool Amy Dykstra approximates that she hands out around 10 gift cards per month.

Jerry Seinfeld also recognizes room for great communication in a cup of coffee. In fact, it’s the focus of his successful Emmy-nominated web series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. Seinfeld explains, “…why it’s great to meet someone for a cup of coffee — the ease, the simplicity, the compactness. And that it also obviously gets people talking. You have coffee and for some reason it makes you talk a lot.” Whether or not you order coffee, tea, or a glass of water, it’s the conversation that counts.

While Jerry Seinfeld hosts his guests in cars, Tom and David Gardner hold a monthly event at FoolHQ called “New Fool Coffees.” Spending an hour together with our founders, recent hires are able to learn more about our company and ask tons of questions. Conversations can travel anywhere from Tom’s favorite drink to what inspired his team’s latest stock pick. Starbucks – or FoolHQ conference rooms – are hot spots for Fools, but the location shouldn’t stop you from incorporating this idea into your company’s culture. And it doesn’t even have to be about a coffee drink, either. Simply encourage employees to leave their desks, welcoming the idea that a fresh environment can inspire new and valuable thoughts.

Engaging others through stimulating conversation – caffeinated or not – is important. A quick sit down can allow for new concepts to brew and employees to mesh together, both of which will benefit your organization. Steven Johnson reinforces, “We take ideas from other people, from people we’ve learned from, from people we run into in the coffee shop, and we stitch them together into new forms and we create something new. That’s really where innovation happens.”