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

ESP-Fool-055

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.

gd_bptw15_top50smb_large

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

Screen Shot 2014-12-02 at 3.51.10 PM

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.”

Tom Gardner Talks Company Culture at GoogleHQ

233b059

“All of the greatest companies want their people to succeed.” It’s true! Learn more from Tom Gardner’s presentation at Google HQ about the importance of investing in your organization’s culture. Don’t have time to watch the video? Here are Tom’s four takeaways:

1. Name your own value.

2. Know everyone’s name at your company – learn as many name’s as possible.

3. Connect with people outside of your company.

4. Craft your own job.

To learn more about Tom’s points in detail, read his full article here.

Take Leave for Lunch!

TMF-CorpRetreat_1122

Is it lunchtime yet? Maybe the better question would be to ask if you even take a lunch break at all. Research reports that in North America, only one in five employees put time aside for meals, with nearly 40% of this population claiming to eat at their desks. We’re all busy, but let’s at least take a few to discuss why lunch breaks are worth it.

Experts claim that standing up for a quick food break can “increase your energy levels, stabilize your blood sugar, and enhance delivery of nutrients like antioxidants, vitamins and fiber that help your systems run smoothly.” Pretty important benefits, no? Stopping your work flow to eat lunch isn’t rocket science, but it can be difficult to put a project on hold. If you need more convincing on the matter, desk lunches also increase the potential for mindless eating, defined as “enjoying food less, eating beyond full, and generally not feeling satisfied by it which often leads to snacking on non-nutritious foods later in the day.” I doubt that anyone wants to feel poorly when, in this situation, making a schedule change can be so easy.

If eating lunch at your desk is part of your company’s culture, it’s time for a change. You’re entitled to enjoy a midday break! Add a reminder to your calendar and find a lunch buddy. The lunch rush can be a great opportunity to meet other coworkers. Our café is always buzzing in the afternoons, acting as a communal space to not only eat but communicate. We also host a monthly pizza day where Fools can unwind and enjoy a slice or two, as well as weekly afternoon express fitness classes to get Fools up and moving.

Don’t worry, your work will always be waiting for you to return. Whether you leave the office or not, I bet you’ll notice a difference in how much better it feels to get away from your desk. Taking leave for lunch will provide a burst of energy so that you can bring your A game back to your desk for the afternoon.

4 Tips to Improve Your Organization

FoolBDay (282 of 329)

Where would The Motley Fool stand without the mentors that have shaped our company with their bright insights? The road to success hasn’t always been smooth, but we hope these 4 tips inspire you to take the wheel and change your organization – for the better.

1) Hire the Right People

Much like The Motley Fool’s investing strategy, we prefer to hire and hold onto employees for the long-term. Chief People Fool Lee Burbage explained, “When we are hiring for life, recruiting is the most important thing we do.” Our team strives to find the perfect candidate for every position because, in the end, the best hires will pay dividends. With every candidate, we consider whether or not they could potentially take our business to the next level. Throughout the hiring process, recruiter Jen Elliot focuses on applicants that are entrepreneurial, innovative, and unafraid to break the status quo. Burbage noted, “We want this to be the last job you ever have, and the long horizon makes things like job titles and hierarchy unimportant.”

No matter the job title, personality skill-tests are instrumental in maintaining employees’ happiness. If developed within your company, chances are high that employees will evolve and even develop their own job descriptions. Kara Chambers, VP of Talent Strategy at the Fool, notes that while cognitive diversity and collaboration is important in the workplace, communication issues can arise as a result. Assessments like Myers-Briggs and Kolbe allow managers to better acknowledge issues in advance and pair people in a more strategic way.

Les McKeown influenced us to evaluate new projects and teamwork organization with his Visionary-Operator-Processor triangle in mind. His quick assessment digs into the psychology behind how an employee handles their work. Because Fools feel more empowered and aware of their strengths, teams that struggled before are now thriving. Les has given us the ability to view a project’s life cycle by better understanding where we’re deploying resources.

2) Focus on Your Highest Performers

Burbage believes that while job fit is important, employee performance must be taken into consideration, too. Imagine that your workforce was a portfolio and you primarily invested in underperforming employees as stocks. Over the holding time, you’d progressively see a negative return on this investment. Though the real profit lies behind investing in high performing employees, many companies continue to foster their low performers.

Enter Steve Kerr, a member of The Motley Fool’s Board of Directors, who encouraged us to focus more energy on top-tier employees. Cultivating high performers to the level of Steve’s vision begins with measuring employees’ performance through feedback and one-on-one meetings. While asking for feedback isn’t mandatory here, it’s something that we care about and encourage. Guidance and constructive criticism only boosts motivation.

Steve once said that the highest performers are your future leaders. Do you want to leave your company in the hands of those that could fail?

3. “See the world through the eyes of your customer.” – Steve Kerr

A great employee is one who understands your business and, two years ago, we implemented Steve Kerr’s smart advice in a company-wide initiative to invest. Most Fools learned the investing basics, which started with how to open a brokerage account. Once the account was open, $1,000 was deposited into each and every one. Investing became a topic no longer segregated to our writers and analysts, but instead a dynamic, accessible discussion for everyone.

Sam Cicotello, who heads up Member Experience at the Fool, reflected on the benefits that this challenge left with our Member Services team. Expanding on the shared emotional experience, Sam explained “If a new member is ready to start in the stock market, we understand it’s not just as easy as pushing a button. Like members, the team feels on top of the world when trades are up, and angry or anxious when the market takes a negative turn.” It’s true that we’re a better company because Fools are smarter about the nature of our work.

4. Be Transparent

Kip Tindell, CEO of The Container Store and a true Fool himself, shared that one of his company’s foundation principles is “Communication is Leadership.” We’ve adopted the value as our own (thanks, Kip!) because we believe in the power of being a transparent organization – and we’ve seen the benefits first-hand. Our goal of having “totally informed Fools” is achieved by giving everyone in our company access to pretty much any information they want. Head Communications Fool Adrienne Perryman adds, “Building a culture of open communication between every facet of the company is a high priority of The Motley Fool — it builds trust, engagement, alignment, and ultimately, happy, productive Fools.”

This is not to say that communicating is easy. We’ve found that benefits of being upfront and transparent, especially when the news isn’t the best, far outweighs the damage that could occur if we didn’t share. With an open, honest, and timely explanation, employees are able to react more quickly and, even during the toughest times, collaborate for a solution.

Open communication is used in a number of ways to keep Fools up-to-speed in our fast-paced culture. Our monthly Huddles, which are attended by the entire company and streamed for our remote Fools, offers a full hour of 100% transparency. Do we talk in-depth about our numbers? Yep. How about strategy and what’s coming next? Check. Role changes? Sure do. Is there time for open Q&A? Obviously. In between monthly Huddles, we keep Fools informed via our intranet, which features weekly videos and a news feed, our weekly email, and sessions with leadership around specific topics.

We make communicating a priority because it matters. In fact, it makes us a better company. Does your organization do the same?

Developing a Foolish Path to Your Dream Career

TMF-CorpRetreat_1112

Now The Motley Fool’s Chief Communications Officer, Adrienne began her Foolish career 7 years ago as an Executive Assistant. Over her time at FoolHQ, Adrienne has also excelled as a project manager and publisher within our editorial business. She recently spoke on how she shaped her dream career to conference attendees in the executive support field. 

By Adrienne Perryman

“Don’t let him keep you down!”

I emphatically said this with hands on hips – head shake and all – in front of a crowd of 250. The comment, which surprised me as it exited my own mouth, was followed by “I think it’s about time for you to start looking for a new job!” The cheers of the crowd, which was mostly comprised of women in blazers and 1 inch pumps, signified overwhelming agreement.

This kind of support in a public forum would normally be pretty awesome. But it upset me.

Here’s Why:

It’s 2014 – having a boss that won’t let you advance in your career is so out of style, Mr. Executive. And women in support roles, you’re not helping yourself either.

My agitation grew when another woman approached me after my speech with the same issue. And then another. It wasn’t just the one woman in the crowd who felt compelled to speak up about her stubborn, selfish boss who was hesitant to let her take on extra projects for their own selfish reasons. There were many. And I found myself repeating similar advice that I uttered on stage.

“It’s time for you to move on.”

“Find someone who will appreciate your interests and encourage growth.”

I felt like I was giving relationship advice. But these were hard working, eager, smart, educated women – all women – who wanted to know how to convince their bosses that their development is important.

Thankfully, this concept of not being allowed to grow, develop, and eventually move into my dream role is foreign to me. I started as an Executive Assistant at The Motley Fool 7 years ago and, from day one, was encouraged by my boss and co-workers to try new things. To use my position as a launching pad into other areas of the business; learn the business and develop to my full potential; take classes in our internal university; and talk to Fools about my development and how I can progress.

This development approach is unfamiliar to many employees, which seems confusing to me. Similar types of career barriers are a reality for millions worldwide. Why don’t executives realize it’s for their own good that their assistants love working for them, rather than feel hindered by their management?

Attention, Bosses

If you’re a manager of someone…develop them. For goodness sake, don’t hold them back! Would you like that if you were in their position? Encourage it. Incentivize it. I’m confident that if your employee is proactively reaching for more, they’ll go to great lengths to make sure your calendar, project, or needs won’t suffer. You’ll survive. And you might actually have an employee who will work harder for you because they appreciate the opportunity you’ve given them.

Attention! You Own Your Career

If you are stuck under the sticky thumb of your boss, do something about it. Have an honest conversation with your boss about your concerns, and take a plan with you to that meeting to help show them you’re capable of doing more – and that nothing will suffer because of it. Own your career. Don’t wait for someone to wake up to the fact that their style is so outdated. Make the change happen. Be the change you want – or find a new job where your development is a priority.

Yes, You Can Bring Your Parents to Work!

IMG_0182

Maybe a version of “Bring Your Kids to Work Day” was part of your childhood, and The Motley Fool certainly continues this tradition every summer. We recently turned the tables and organized “Bring Your Adult Family to Work Day,” which hosted Foolish spouses, siblings, and parents. This event, the first held at the Fool in a few years, left everyone impressed – and informed. Financial breakout sessions, a company-culture breakdown, and lunch over a live taping of Motley Fool Money gave family members a glimpse into Fools’ lives here as employees.

Considering that only 1% of U.S. companies host such an event, it’s not surprising that many of my friends were unfamiliar from their own work experiences. However, more companies are inviting parents into the workplace. Google and Starbucks held their first parent events in 2012, and LinkedIn recently hopped on the bandwagon. Last November, LinkedIn hosted the company’s first “Bring In Your Parents Day,” which allowed guests to tour the campus and mingle with staff. In short, it sounded quite similar to our event – except for LinkedIn hosted nearly 600 family members.

Interestingly enough, there was once a time when companies didn’t roll out a welcome mat for employees’ parents. Managers saw them as a burden, furthermore “The hyper-involved moms and dads of the millennial generation were said to be showing up at job interviews, calling hiring managers on behalf of their kids and even complaining to employers about their children’s salaries.” The tides have turned and organizations are now embracing the idea of parents in the workplace – every so often, at least. Some argue that if employees’ parents appreciate the company, those staff members will be happier and more connected to the organization. The Washington Post feature continues, “If there’s any common theme to why companies have started involving parents more, that’s it: Showing the workplace off to parents, and better communicating with them, could stoke higher engagement among employees and make them less likely to leave.”

There’s a happy medium that can be found in parents’ workplace involvement. Our event was meant to be something fun and casual for Fools and their loved ones to enjoy. To take the idea a step further, Northwestern Mutual sends optional e-newsletters to parents and also organize recognition dinners, while Google offers the option of sitting down alone with their child’s manager.

It’s clear that companies can approach this type of activity in different ways. Can you see the benefits of hosting a parents’ event at your workplace? Why or why not?

Fools, Natitude, and Competition

MotleyFoolDay1358

Marshall is on the The Motley Fool’s IT team, which helps Fools out with their hardware and software needs.

By Marshall Mabie

Non-spoiler alert:

Fools love to compete. And we love to learn.

A lot of us are big sports fans – I am born and raised in the DC Metro area, so I have a certain amount of passion for the local sports teams. When perusing the Washington Post recently, I came across this article by Barry Svrluga, describing the duties and mindset of the Washington Nationals’ support team. It really hit home.

Now, we don’t support million-dollar athletes, but we do support the best financial analysts in the business. And the best Customer Services team. And the best events and facilities staff. We don’t have any Prima Donnas, which is also nice. But our expectations of our service level is very similar to that of the Nat’s support crew – we always want to put our Fools in the best place for them to perform to their expectations.

Competition and learning seem like they are probably pretty helpful in the professional sports arena. We use these principles too, though maybe in a slightly different way.

Competitive is a core value of the Fool, and we constantly challenge ourselves to take care of our Fools better. Much like players asking each other about how they are treated by their respective organizations, we want to make sure that if anyone asks a Fool how their staff is, they can reply that their needs are over-met. It helps us keep Fools, but also helps us attract new ones.

And you can’t be competitive if you don’t learn about not just others, but yourself. Internal surveys, feedback meetings, and honest self-assessment is as important to us as comparing the latest software suite versions.

When it comes down to it, the details really aren’t that important – it’s about attitude. Our job is preparing a highly-skilled performer to do the best they can do. We don’t move luggage, but we do fine-tune our Fools so that they can take care of our customers with the same care.

A Fool by Any Other Name…

DSC00126

By Lee Burbage

Here at FoolHQ, change is in the air. We are in the process of implementing a new Human Resource Information System platform, and it’s an interesting time for everyone as we learn about our new tool, adjust to our new processes, and transfer all of our data. We have chosen to go with Namely as our new enterprise HR system. They are one of the newer kids on the block, and they resonated with us because their platform intuitively captures growth and allows us to seamlessly grow without dropping any data between the cracks. As we make the transition to our new HR system, one piece of data caught my eye.

One of the fields we needed to include in our new platform was job titles. Once these titles were uploaded, Fools could log in and select which one applies to them. For most companies, this simple step probably requires little thought.  I’m picturing a drop-down menu with a basic, humdrum list that includes “Analyst,” “Developer,” and “Accountant.” But there’s nothing basic and humdrum about us, is there? With north of 315 employees at the Fool, I’m thinking our drop down menu will include about 300 unique-as-a-snowflake titles. And we are totally OK with that.

At the Fool, we let our employees choose whatever job title they want. We care much more about the awesome work you’re producing than the title in your email signature. (We use the same reasoning for our casual dress code- is your work less awesome if you do it in flip flops?  I didn’t think so). I can’t help but laugh at how hung up people can get on titles- like all their hopes and dreams are tied into these few words.  What will be different about the role you play and the difference you make today vs. tomorrow if you had a different title?  I imagine not much would change. Our challenge to Fools is to create a Funktional title- something fun and funky that tells us a little about what you do.

So with the freedom to choose your own job title, the process to upload them into Namely took a little longer for us.  In the constant search for efficiency, we realize there are some things that are worth the extra time.  We created a Google Doc and asked all our Fools for their job title submissions.  We should have ordered popcorn as we watched the creative titles roll in.  “World Domination Operations Gladiator” was pretty epic.  “Foolish Beat Dropping Financial Planning Ninja” was a close second, but one of my favorite titles comes from our head of HR who requested that her title be “Resources for Humans.”  The more traditional title of “Human Resources” highlights how many companies view their employees as resources to be used by the company. “Resources for Humans” puts a spotlight on our servant leadership approach; we are here to serve our Fools.  How can we help you today?

The Most Important Skill Any Techie Should Have

_MG_0354

By Marshall Mabie

Not sure that it’s a secret, but it may come as a surprise to many folks that the most important skill in the tech industry isn’t tech skill – it’s prioritization. I’ve worked in tech for 15 years, so that’s the lens I see it through, but I wonder if maybe that is true throughout business skills of any kind.

My name is Marshall, and I’m a member of the Fool’s desktop support team – if any employees are having any technical issues, it my team’s job to fix it. And again, tech skill isn’t our first tool.

It is prioritization.

Our list of importance is simple:

  1. Customer
  2. Company
  3. Fools
  4. Fool

Customer: The first and most important issue we focus on is making sure the folks who pay us get their money’s worth – the site is at their beck and call, and they have the strongest customer service ready to help them with any issue, tech or not. Our amazing Member Services team takes care of most of that, but as they have the most direct conversations with our members, the tech team makes sure we take care of the Member Services team’s requests.

Company: Okay, we are taking care of the people who pay us for our services. Now we need to make sure the company is in good shape to continue to make good on those promises. We keep our data secure and give our analysts and writers the easiest way to analyze that data.

The last two are intertwined: “The strength of the wolf is the pack, and the strength of the pack is the wolf”

Fools/Customers/Users: Different companies use different terms for the in-house fellow employees they fix issues for. At the Fool, unsurprisingly, we call them Fools. Whatever their designation, in the words of Monsieur Spock, “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.” Our aim is to always address the issues that affect the highest number of Fools. For example, if email is down, that’s a huge issue. Information is not being shared as well as it could be, thereby affecting the business’ ability to serve our customers’ needs. So, yeah, that’s an all-hands-on-deck issue. Importantly, even if we are not directly involved in the solving of the issue, it is very important that we are visible and approachable – we are there to let you customers know what is being done, and to address any concerns.

It is our job to provide concise, accurate information for our internal users – if something is down, given the facts, they can re-arrange their time to continue to be effective. And no baloney! Admit mistakes, explain them, and educate as to what will be done to provide not just continuous service, but what will be improved upon. Admitting a mistake isn’t always easy, but coming clean creates a much stronger sense of trust with your constituents. They know that you aren’t hiding anything. That creates more confidence than any duck-and-cover strategy.

Finally, the individual user. They make the company run. Mostly, they have small problems, like broken mice, software licensing, etc. Sometimes they have big issues – and prioritization again takes over here. It’s easy as a techie to get too deep into how to fix a problem. It’s Sherlockian, the thrill of the hunt. It’s also pointless, because it is not our job to hunt down the obscure issue. Our job is to make sure our user/customer is able to do their job – we examine any issue through the Return On Investment filter – how much work is it going to take us to get this user back to the place they want to be? If that’s too high, get them a new machine and research the issue when you have some spare cycles. Just make sure your user is on their feet and doing what they are paid to be doing.

Ultimately, our job is judging the tech blockers of the company, and continuously considering the needs of our customers. And prioritizing is one of the best weapons in our arsenal.

  • Take care of who pays your company, because they are the company’s lifeblood. Treat them well.
  • Make sure the company can take care of those expectations. Think long-term.
  • Take care of the people who make up your company, and make sure the individuals in your company have no blockers to do what they are charged to do.

It can be hard to keep this in mind in the midst of the day-to-day, and keeping an eye on the big picture while responding to the immediate can be tough. Focusing on prioritization can be a useful tool in your process.