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.
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!
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?
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.
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?
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.
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?
You are sitting there in a meeting among your coworkers, and you start to be able to tell who is going to say what, and how each person is going to respond.
Sure, you’ve gotten to know them well. You know their Myers-Briggs scores. You know who likes what type of cupcakes from the local bakery. You know what so-and-so is doing for the holidays.
But you’re supposed to get to know your coworkers and collaborate through teamwork, right?
Yes, absolutely. You are supposed to know what they are good at, how they will respond to certain elements, and how they solve issues.
But what you have to be careful with is the groupthink that can be created after working together for a long time. Once that happens – when you can predict how people will react to a certain thing and even guess what they are going to say – you have entered into a dangerous zone.
Why is this so dangerous? Clearly, you are all a well-oiled machine. You’re efficient. You know the ins and outs of what to do in your job, and they know the ins and outs of what they need to do in theirs. What’s dangerous about this situation is that you don’t have a diversity of thought. People keep formulating the same ideas they have for a while, and they will continue to do so until they are shaken up by a new perspective.
You need to introduce an outside party. No, this doesn’t have to be a consultant, but it should be someone outside of your group. Bring someone in that is interested in the project or someone who might be affected by it, and ask them to walk you through his or her thought process.
You need that different perspective, that diversity of thought to come up with ideas and solutions that you as a team probably would not have gotten to – or at least wouldn’t have reached in as timely a manner as the “new guy” would.
Just be careful that you don’t have too many cooks in the kitchen. That can be detrimental as well. You want to make sure that you have enough new people in the mix to push diverse perspectives and to ask questions that the group normally wouldn’t ask, but that you don’t have too many people with too many thoughts that you can’t narrow down the thoughts to a few good ones. This is how great ideas come to fruition.
Here at The Motley Fool, a couple of examples of diversity of thought come to mind. First, in every in-person interview we have, we bring in what we call a Foolish Ambassador – someone who is not in the department or group that the candidate is applying for. We want an outside person to see if they are, indeed, a Foolish fit for the company, and not just a fit for the group.
Second, once we hire new Fools, we want to hear what they have to say. Many of our Foolish employees have been with the company for quite a while – we have a very low turnover rate – so many of us have heard what so-and-so would say about this-and-that. We want to hear what the new blood thinks; we want them to have the ability to try out new ideas. So when our new Fools start, we start this thought process by asking them what they would change in our orientation process.
I’ve been to a few conferences lately, and I’ve heard this more than any other line: “When you get comfortable, that’s when you should think about changing jobs or taking on new projects.” I think that also works in groups and teams. If you are too comfortable, you need something to spark some new thought and change things up. It could be as simple as changing scenery by having a meeting outside or at a coffee shop. Or you may need to change up your group dynamic.
Think about it – but make sure you ask for feedback from someone you don’t ALWAYS ask feedback from.