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.

Contributing to Amazon’s Most Well-Read City

Bookie Monster
Bookie Monster
Malcolm Gladwell, one of the many authors to visit Fool HQ, spoke at a recent member event.

By Laurie Street

Whether it’s a biography or the latest best-seller, I’ve always loved to read. My constant desire for a good book in hand explains why Bookie Monster is one of my favorite employee benefits here. Though I’ve already praised this program on this blog, my curiosity was recently sparked when I learned that Amazon rated Fool HQ’s home of Alexandria, Virginia, #1 on their list of most well-read cities — for the third year in a row!

Our company prides itself in helping Fools expand their knowledge. We cover order requests through Amazon and, in just three months, we’ve purchased nearly 300 books at a tab close to $4000. These statistics apply to both work-related materials and personal requests.

Free books are wonderful to any employee who enjoys professional or leisurely reading, but I love that Bookie Monster also celebrates our core value of Collaboration. Washington Business Journal lists Amazon’s top three sellers at the time this data was published, and I know of several Fools reading at least two — Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch and Veronica Roth’s Divergent. Both of these novels have sparked conversations that I’ve been a part of, as well as a few that I’ve overheard around the office.

Speaking of in-depth discussions, all Fools have the opportunity to attend monthly Book Club meetings that are supported by Bookie Monster. We recently finished John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, and a small group of Fools attended a showing of the newly-released film. Bookie Monster is also important to our Speaker Series, which we’ve hosted since 2008. This series has allowed Fools to interact with amazing entrepreneurs and businesspeople, many of whom are writers. Fools can order the author’s work and read it before their visit. Bookie Monster encourages Fools to explore new subjects and discussions.

While Alexandria is certainly an large area with lots of voracious readers, I can’t help but think the Fool contributed at least a little to its acclaimed title. As The Motley Fool grows, this program continues to be successful; in fact, 119 new Fool employees have ordered at least one book so far.

Would you become more of a reader if your company offered this benefit?

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.

CEO Tom Gardner Now a LinkedIn “Influencer”

LinkedIn Influencer

LinkedIn Influencer
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.

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

Match Office Perks to Your Culture

Cool Office

Cool OfficeRecently I’ve noticed a few articles popping up claiming that cool offices and no vacation policy are somehow a myth, a scam, a sneaky way for The Man to keep you down.  Here was the first line of one recent article: “Don’t be fooled by the perks at all those Silicon Valley (and Alley) offices — it’s all just part of a subtle plot to control employee behavior.”  At The Motley Fool we have one of those cool offices and we chose not to enact a vacation policy 20 years ago, so my first reaction is to mail out some peanut butter to go with the author’s jealousy.

The focus of these negative articles is often on the game table, the casual dress, or the non-policy.  Those are the outcome of what a cool office is actually about – trust and autonomy.  None of the fun of a cool office can be provided without the right culture around it.

At The Fool we put a lot of time and energy in to recruiting the best employees.  We are quite picky, we take our time with the hiring process, and we dislike increasing the employee headcount without good reason.  When new hires arrive, we trust them to do what they were hired to do.  We find that when we get out of the way, people choose their own path and create their own way of getting their work done.  They tell us how they like to work and what they need. The fun toys, the desks on wheels, and the flexible hours are all what employees have asked us for.  We aren’t scheming to invent ways to control employees, we’re giving them what they want to work effectively and be happy. If your study is finding that people at a company are taking fewer vacations or working longer hours, it isn’t because of the policy.  The reason is you haven’t built a culture of trust.

I am reminded of a great line I once heard from Libby Sartain, former Southwest Culture guru, “Every Office has a culture.  Every culture isn’t for everyone.  Find the culture that fits you.”

At The Motley Fool, we know who we are, we work hard to find people that will add to our culture, and we look for every opportunity to support our team members.  We do this because it works.  It shows up in all our numbers no matter how you slice them.  For instance, we have the highest employee engagement score by far that I’ve ever seen using the Gallup methodology.

We aren’t The Man plotting to keep our team down and take advantage of them.  We are Fools working for our employees and doing everything we can to unleash them to do their best work how they’d like to do it.

Are You Our Future Wellness Coordinator? Apply Today!

Wellness

WellnessThe Motley Fool Wellness Program has been in place for about 2.5 years now and has created quite a culture shift within our organization. We have always been a “relaxed” atmosphere with amazing benefits (unlimited vacation, no dress code, mobile workstations, etc.) and the addition of our Wellness Program has been another staple to our fantastic environment. We have had tremendous support from our leadership team, specifically our CEO Tom Gardner. With his 100% backing, we’ve been able to grow this program.

However, our wellness program is measured to a different standard as it was not set in place to lower health care costs, reduce absenteeism, encourage presenteeism, or any general wellness metric; our program was created as an additional benefit because it was intuitive to push for a healthier and happier workforce. All the aforementioned benefits will automatically occur, but none are our driving metric to promote a healthy and well workplace.

The Motley Fool encourages a well-rounded path toward wellness, offering physical, nutritional, and spiritual benefits. We offer weekly boot-camp, yoga, meditation, and Zumba classes, while also providing on-site massage and chiropractic care. We gather three times a week to play basketball, soccer, and floor hockey at a nearby gym and Fools can buy a heavily discounted membership to said gym. The Fool also has a free on-site gym, locker room, and showers for those that need a quick exercise break, and we recently added standing desks and a treadmill desk in the office to help combat sedentary lifestyles. We’ve removed soda from vending machines, replacing unhealthy items with healthier options, while also providing free fresh food from local vendors twice weekly. We also provide health seminars on topics like stress management, healthy smoothie workshops, and body inflammation.

At our annual health fair, we bring in a wide array of vendors, ranging from acupuncturists, to physical therapists, to local farmers’ market vendors selling their nutrient-dense food. At the fair, The Fool also provides free biometric screenings and immunizations to all employees and their spouses. Lastly, The Fool employs a personal trainer that helps create individualized plans for any employee that wants one. The goal of our wellness program is to provide a variety of activities to help suit our employees’ needs in the everlasting pursuit of wellness. It is NOT to enhance our bottom dollar or to “fit in” with other workplace wellness programs looking to cut health care costs.

Are you a fitness-minded person who wants to be a Fool? We’re looking for Wellness Coordinator to keep all of the above programs running. Check out the job description to find out more and apply!