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.

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.”

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.

Tom Gardner Talks Company Culture at GoogleHQ

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“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!

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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

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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?