Why Companies Shouldn’t Limit Sick Days

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Here’s a simple idea from our CEO Tom Gardner: Stop providing limited sick days for your employees. It’s flu season, so Tom’s thoughts are all the more relevant – and urgent – now.

Match our yearlong approach at The Motley Fool: if an employee is feeling sick, tell them to please stay home. It seems like common sense, but Tom outlines four reasons why an unlimited sick policy is worth it in case you’re on the fence:

  1. Protect Your People.
  2. Extend Trust.
  3. Review Your Purpose.
  4. Manage to High Performance.

Instead of the flu, make freedom and trust contagious at your organization. To read more on Tom’s points, view his latest LinkedIn Influencer post here. And don’t be afraid to forward this information along to your CEO or Head of HR! Allowing employees to stay home when they’re ill will ultimately make your organization stronger – and much healthier.

4 Tips to Improve Your Organization

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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?

Fool Speaker Series: Chris Guillebeau

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It took 11 years for Chris Guillebeau to complete his quest of visiting every country in the world. This staggering journey – which he viewed in the beginning as “really difficult but not fundamentally impossible,” led Chris to all 193 countries. The first 100 countries he visited – not counting layovers, by the way – cost $30,000. Though there was certainly a financial element involved, Chris prioritized his travels and reached this incredible goal by his 35th birthday.

Chris met an amazing community of people and gathered a treasure trove of stories, many of which are shared in his latest New York Times bestseller The Happiness of Pursuit. He features the quests of people like Lisa – the youngest person to circumnavigate the world by sailboat at age 16 – to a man who pursued a 17 year vow of silence. Check out what you can take from Chris – including his top pick for travel destination – in 60 seconds or less below!

*This post’s image was taken from Chris Guillebeau’s blog, The Art of Non-Conformity

Weigh the Bad, then the Good: Avoiding a Nightmare Interview

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How many articles advertise exclusive tips for rocking a job interview? Tons. In fact, there’s almost too much advice about the right ways to act in front of potential employers. Though we’ve certainly featured posts on improving resumes, perfecting applications, and details that stand out to those hiring, there’s still more of the story to be told. Here’s the reality check: in an effort to present themselves as the “perfect candidate,” job-hunters often leave less favorable impressions. With bad apple applicants in mind, our own Hiring Managers spoke from experience on conduct to avoid –if you want the job, of course.

The long application process is complete, and we hope you didn’t tell any white lies. Your clean cut resume and LinkedIn profile shouldn’t tell two strikingly different stories, because even a little exaggeration can cost you a lot of respect. If we like what we see, hopefully a phone interview will be offered. Our recruiters work flexibly with a candidate’s schedule, and ultimately it’s the interviewee who chooses the date. In this context, there’s no excuse to be unprepared. Before the opportunity to speak with a Hiring Manager, doing your fact-finding is key. Any top-notch recruiter can sense laziness, so check the organization’s website and take notes. Google is the best weapon for finding more company information, from employee reviews to (hopefully good) press.

Speaking of phone interviews, plan for a quiet, comfortable spot with a place to set up your notes in advance. As much as we all love coffee shops, please don’t try a phone interview at Starbucks. The environment always turns out much louder than you think, and you want the recruiter to hear all of the awesome qualities you could bring to the position.

If you’ve successfully made it this far, chances are good that you’ll be invited for an on-site interview. Show up with a confident attitude (read: not arrogant), but be self-aware and don’t dominate conversations. Keep a positive demeanor and, perhaps most importantly, be delicate when speaking of current and past employers. It’s not the time to bash the manager you hated, or say that one work experience was a total waste of your time. Now is an opportunity to instead prove your knowledge and impress the audience. And while we love enthusiasm, it may be a bit soon to exhibit your thoughts on a question by using the conference room’s whiteboard.

All of the research we recommended will pay off when you aren’t left empty-handed as the team asks if you have questions. We know you can think of at least one, so avoid the response that everything is all clear. At this stage in the interview game, don’t focus on what the company can do for you personally. Inquiring about the number of sick and vacation days, dental insurance providers, and how often you can work from home doesn’t read well. Rather, show how interested you are in the business itself, from their core values to competitors, office culture, and how this potential role will play a part in the company’s big picture.

Finishing an interview feels like a relief, but it’s also when anxiety can start to creep in. Try to block second thoughts from your mind and move on, all in hopes that you’ll get that coveted offer soon. Personalized thank-you notes are definitely appreciated, but this special gesture won’t make or break your chances of being hired. Should you choose to reach out, use nice stationary and make sure your handwriting is legible. And while an extra trip to the post office can be a pain, make the effort to send your note on the same day you interviewed. Email thank-you notes also aren’t frowned upon either, but don’t send a bulk email to everyone you encountered. Make each email message special, and never send from your work account.

Not such smart ideas? Sending Facebook friend requests and LinkedIn invites to your entire interview panel. They’ll likely decline the requests, and it’s too soon to make such quick connections anyway. If you don’t land the job, the awkwardness of having them in your network might be too much to take. In addition, don’t call the office asking to follow-up because, trust me, you’ll eventually hear news. Depending on the position, our Hiring Mangers aim to contact candidates within a week of the interview regarding their status.

Whether you’re applying to The Motley Fool or another organization, it can be eye-opening to consider nightmare interview situations. It’s also a nice feeling to know that it wasn’t you smacking gum or saying something is “totes your specialty” in front of seasoned professionals. And, maybe more so after this article, you won’t be that candidate. Weigh the bad – and the good – advice, and you’ll likely find yourself improving your interviewing game.

 

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 #3: Honesty – Make us Proud

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HonestyHonesty has a beautiful simplicity.  This straightforward value gives us a framework for making decisions companywide.  In a company built on intellectual capital, with the stated purpose of helping the world invest better, honesty is essential.

We chose our words here carefully: Make. Us. Proud.  Not “Don’t break the law” or “Tell the truth” or “Call ‘em like you see ‘em.” For us, honesty has to go beyond what is legally defensible.

Honesty also emphasizes the difference between core values and a code of ethics.  Our core values serve as fundamental beliefs that we can turn to when making decisions.  They should be easy to explain, embrace, and employ as decision-making tools. A code of ethics – although closely related — is generally a more formalized list of do’s and don’ts.  It’s almost a *gulp* “policy.”

Now – as promised in my first post, here are the answers to our values questions.

Do we hire for this value?

Yes.  How?  Certainly, it would be great to have Wonder Woman’s lasso of truth, but I’ll admit that the one I ordered from Amazon needs batteries or something.  And the last interviewee I used it on wasn’t amused.  Maybe he had something to hide…

Instead, I ask prospective employees: Tell me something you’re proud of. A time that you had to be honest when it wasn’t easy. A time that there was a difference between what was right and what was legal.

I also love to hear “I’m not sure” or “I don’t know” answers in an interview.  It’s virtually impossible to know all of the answers. Be honest about it.   I also see red flags sometimes when we ask someone to demonstrate knowledge.  Certainly, we don’t try to trick people with these questions, but it’s surprising to me how frequently this happens:

Q: “Are you an investor?”

A: “Yes!”

Q: “Great, tell me about the last stock you bought and why?”

A: “Ummm, well…”

Will we fire for this value? 

Yes.

Can you see and feel this value in our office?

Many of the same ways we encourage collaboration also foster honesty.  Everyone’s desk occupies the same open office, and our conference rooms have glass walls and doors.  We also build honesty into our services, displaying our returns since recommendation on the front page of our web site.  Some are up, some are down — but we don’t cherry-pick the winners.  We also display returns for specific recommendations throughout the office, and change the returns as the stock price moves.  Some months those are higher; some months, lower.

How often do we talk about this value?  When was the last time we did so?

Similar to Innovation, I actually hear “make us proud” more frequently than “core value honesty.” But our CEO has recently taken this value to the next level by hosting a monthly Honest Tea. At this session, which follows our monthly all-company meeting, everyone is encouraged to come and dissent. We want to ensure that we have not only a desire to be honest, but also an outlet for those thoughts.

Please note that our values are not actually rank-ordered.  I call this #3 to help blog readers keep track.  See the full list of values at Core Values to Live By.