Does Your Company Host Health Fairs? They Should.

Over the past few years, the drive to improve Fools’ overall health has become a top priority. In fact, I’d argue that “Health” could rightfully be added to our list of core values. The benefits behind employees’ positive mental and physical well-being are endless, not just in the office but outside, too. We’ve been fortunate enough to employ a full-time “Wellness Fool” since 2010. These folks have inspired even the unhealthiest of our employees to make smarter, better choices, with several success stories to prove their impact.

One of our most-popular fitness-related benefits is our annual health fair…and it’s quickly approaching again. Health fairs have been described as effective ways “to provide valuable health information and screening services to large numbers of employees in a convenient ‘one-stop shop’ format.” This year, Wellness Fool Sam Whiteside hopes to take our wellness fair to a new level, incorporating not only flu shots and biometrics, but also massage therapy; athletic shoe fittings and running analyses; discounted gym memberships; healthy food samples; acupuncture; fitness demonstrations; and a blood donation van.

Though everything at our wellness fair will be optional, participation is always highly encouraged. It was reported in 2013 that only 43% of American organizations hold health fairs and 50% offer screenings. These statistics should be much higher, but it’s never too late to invest in your employees’ health. Whether you want a downsized wellness fair or a huge function, aim to begin the planning process at least four months in advance. These events usually happen during the fall when flu season begins to creep into the picture. Take the first step by talking to your Human Resources manager, and your organization’s health insurance providers, to locate vendor options. And if you choose to offer them, it’s necessary to reach out to the appropriate professionals while flu shots are still available. At a glance, 61% of companies in the US offer on-site flu shots.

Employer-sponsored health days can be life-changing. Just last year, Amy Robach of ABC News agreed to have the first ever live television mammogram for Good Morning America. Robach had delayed her annual mammogram for more than a year and, a week after the live event, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Even her doctors admitted that the mammogram had saved her life.

If your company doesn’t put employee health on a pedestal, maybe they should. It’s definitely worth the research. A healthy employee is a happier one, and who knows – an event like a health fair could possibly even change a life.

Foolish or Not, Meditation Matters

Though meditation is a respected and ancient practice, how frequently is it applied in the workplace? Chances are you’re likely taking part in it more than you think. Have you ever stopped to sit, breathe deeply, and quietly reflect on personal thoughts? If so, you’ve participated in a form of meditation. It’s true! Though personal experiences vary, credible research indicates the many positive benefits of hopping on the meditation bandwagon. 

Misconceptions and opinions are forever present, but insight into meditational practices can be pleasantly surprising. Meditation isn’t solely segregated to the spiritual, nor does it stimulate psychic abilities. And it’s not just about sitting in a quiet place solo, either. Meditation increases self-awareness and battles stress; one study found that its participants felt fewer effects of depression or emotional exhaustion. The practice also reduces anger through a variety of methods, some of which were recently shared at The Motley Fool by a local instructor.

Some will say that implementing meditation in the workplace is “too new age,” but let’s face it – we are in 2014. One executive remembered from years ago that, “If you talked about meditation then, they thought you were either captured by a cult or something was wrong with you.” However, with Gallup reporting last year that only 58% of employees are thriving, it’s worth considering if meditation could add to the happiness and satisfaction within America’s workforce. The idea of corporate culture is changing and, in a stressful world, we all need to take a moment for ourselves sometimes.

One of the best things about meditating in the workplace is that it’s relatively easy to do. Whether it’s closing your eyes and focusing on one issue or practicing a tranquil breathing cycle, meditation is possible even at your desk. Simple breathing techniques can save you from allowing anxiety to take over, or letting an interpersonal conflict further decline.

In addition to weekly yoga classes, The Motley Fool is beginning to offer monthly meditation and movement seminars. Our Employee Wellness Fool encourages meditation in empty conference rooms and quiet corners, boasting that it can improve work/life balance and foster proactive stress reduction. Numerous Fools, including our CEO, participate in mindfulness meditation and awareness retreats around the world. One Fool mentioned that meditation helps to sharpen his focus and improve his attitude, while another practices at night to help regulate his sleeping cycle.

The meditation movement is already popular in Asia, where the WSJ notes that “yoga, laughing exercises, meditation and ‘spiritual intelligence’ are rapidly gaining fans in boardrooms and corner offices.” Google has long offered a popular course called “Search Inside Yourself,” which typically holds a six-month waiting list. The class is branded as “a workout for your emotional intelligence,” with its ultimate goal being to help people relate better to others. Isn’t positive collaboration alone at least one key to success?

From Def Jam Founder Russell Simmons to Oprah Winfrey, Executive Chairman of Ford Motor Company Bill Ford, and CTO of Cisco Systems Padmasree Warrior, many successful businesspeople practice some type of meditation. Between research and personal confessions, it’s clear that this practice is beneficial. Take some quiet time and we think you’ll eventually reap its benefits. You may find yourself not only a better person, but also a more valuable – and happier – employee.

Work Emails: Tips to Clear the Clutter and Get Your Point Across

Despite all of the advances in social media and mobile platforms, email remains a primary way to communicate in the workplace. But let’s face it…we have a love/hate relationship with our inboxes. Obsessive inbox checking can turn into a nasty habit but, like it or not, it’s part of our working culture these days. Whether your boss sends along an important task or you’ve received a time-sensitive alert, the world of email connects to some of your most important responsibilities. That being said, a clutter-free inbox is imperative if we want to keep from drowning.

In an effort to keep inboxes well-kept at The Motley Fool, we encourage simple communication guidelines that can make big differences. There’s nothing worse than seeing a bombed inbox filled with emails that don’t concern you. One Fool employee said that such a sight makes her feel overwhelmed and ineffective. Plus, cluttered inboxes with worthless “reply all” messages can hide the important emails that you actually should be reading.

Our communications team has a few tips on email best practices to help Fools be more organized and productive. Though you may consider emailing a 101 topic, it’s never too late to learn new tips. Replying to a group email triggers inbox clutter, and it’s typically unnecessary. Remembering to delete superfluous recipients will save you from being “that person” who clogs accounts.  Take a moment to think – and look – at your email’s recipients, confirming that every person needs to read it.

It’s also important that your subject line is straight and to the point. Be clear of your purpose, but also articulate something that will entice recipients to open your message. When it comes to content, a short email isn’t rude…it’s efficient. Begin your message by laying out the objective. Remember to use candid language. Avoid open-ended questions and be as specific as possible, and keep in mind that bullet points can be your friend.

There’s not enough time in the day, and checking your inbox is just another task that adds to the craziness. If you have something short (and maybe sweet) to communicate, say it in person. But the more global our business turns, the less likely that this is feasible. No matter where your message is being sent, we promise you’ll save time for yourself and others by applying some of our suggestions.

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

Core Value #3: Honesty – Make us Proud

Honesty

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.

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!

 

Core Value #2 — Innovative: Search For a Better Solution. Then Top It.

Innovative

InnovativeThe term innovation drums up images of world-changing ideas or inventions.  Certainly we at The Fool want to change the world, but innovation is more about making everything better every day and embracing change.  It’s constantly searching for ways to “Top It!”

We want Fools to relentlessly search for better solutions and try new things.  Fools should make small, thoughtful changes and double down on the winner and learn from the losers. One of our favorite books is Little Bets by Peter Sims. It reinforces our “test and learn” mentality, and I highly recommend it.

Big innovation comes in big steps and small steps, and we always want to be walking forward.

Even our vocabulary and cultural habits embrace and push an innovative spirit.  I hear these phrases almost every day: “test and learn,” “fail fast,” “try stuff,” “top it,” ”small bet,” “minimum viable product.”  I have heard or said each of these terms in the past 48 hours.

We want Fools to be bold and, most of all, to focus on solving the real problems. “Top It!” is a phrase that is a constant reminder to build a better solution.  It’s easy to criticize an idea and lose sight of the problem you are trying to solve.  In an instant any Fool can reframe the conversation with that two-word term – TOP IT – and we are back on track to focus on the problem we’re trying to solve.

Here are my honest answers to questions I referenced in my first post about core values:

1)        Do we hire for this value?

Yes.  We are looking for people that want to make those small bets and top it with us.  In an interview we want to hear about a time that you saw a problem and just made it better.  We want to hear your ideas for our company or the job you seek.  You don’t have to have solved world hunger, but show us that you like to test and learn and are open to change.

 2)      Will we fire for this value?

I credit Zappos CEO, Tony Hsieh with putting this question in my head and pushing the idea that core values are ONLY real if they actually drive action in your organization.  You demonstrate their importance if you are willing to take action to increase their presence and also to eliminate blockers to their success.  If an employee is a blocker to innovation and change, it just doesn’t work. 

3)      Can you see and feel this value walking through the office?

Yes.  We are constantly innovating in our physical space, too.  If you come to our Intergalactic HQ in Alexandria, VA for a culture tour you’ll see that our 5th floor is completely mobile.  All of our desks are on wheels and if you come two months in a row it will look different the second time.  Things change pretty quickly around here.

4)      Is the value referenced frequently?  When was the last time?

I actually received an email from our Chief Performance Officer while I was writing this blog post.  It’s important to note that innovation as a core value is for everyone.  It’s not something that is expected of just the marketing, investing, product, or culture team.  Everyone is expected to innovate within their role and top it.  This is note was about our bonus payouts and innovation in accounting and employee ownership:

“I’d like to tell you about an experimental opportunity for your bonus payout that’s new this year. Like everything at The Fool, seeking innovation is a constant in our culture.  Heck, it’s a core value.  And, for the first time ever, we’re putting the power of choice in your hands in an innovative way…”

Also pretty cool that we’re encouraging employee ownership – I think.

Now – I encourage you to TOP IT!  How do you drive innovation in your company? Give me some ideas in the comments.

Set Aside a Day for Financial Planning

Financial Planning Day

Financial Planning DayLast week, The Fool held a company-wide financial health day. Fools had the opportunity to attend classes on subjects like retirement planning and negotiating, and could meet one-on-one with our in-house financial planner, Robert Brokamp.

Robert blogs for Get Rich Slowly, and wrote a post about how your company can encourage employees to take a day to iron out their finances (or how you can set aside a day for this on your own). Check it out here!

By setting aside just a few hours to set up automatic payments, plan for emergencies, create a budget, and start saving for retirement, you can rest easy knowing your finances are taken care of!

There’s No Perfect Job Candidate, But There Are Foolish Ones!

Ideal Candidate

Ideal CandidatePeople applying to jobs often go through the string of questions: Did I go to the right school? Did I pick the right major? Did I do the right internships? Does my resume have enough details of what I do? Is my resume too long/too short? Does my cover letter summarize how I can do the job?

In my opinion, there isn’t a right answer to these questions because there is no such thing as the perfect applicant.

Many companies or organizations go down a checklist for candidates:

Bachelors degree – check

Proficiency in office applications – check

3-5 years of experience – check

1-2 years of experience in relevant field – double check

I am happy to say that at The Fool, our checklist is bit different.  Here at The Fool, people come to us from all walks of life.  We have former bartenders and biology teachers turned investors and MMA fighter (Mixed Martial Arts) turned techie. We’ve hired Fools ranging from baristas to Tigger and Goofy from Disneyworld to NASA rocket scientists.  We do things different in all of our business aspects, so why not recruiting?

When you apply to our positions you see that we want cover letters that don’t bore us and we ask questions that aren’t the norm.  Other recruiters might ask how this helps us find the right candidates.  To us, the ideal, not perfect, candidate embodies what we call Foolishness (with a capital F) and these questions let Foolishness shine through!

So how do you prepare to be an ideal candidate?

Some might say that filling out an application or preparing for an interview was a lot easier ten years ago.  The hardest, and most asked, question to prepare for used to be, “Where do you see yourself in five years?”  Today, this question doesn’t carry the relevance it once did.  We’ve become a culture of change; change in what we want to learn and when we want to learn it all the time. Our passions and dreams change and therefore so do our career paths.

The other day I received an email about the 25 strangest interview questions.  The subject said it all…strangest.  There were questions on the more bizarre side of how many cows there are in Canada or estimate how many windows there are in New York to tell us your favorite song and perform it for us.  I often think that the people asking these types of questions are abusing the system. I can tell you I’m an extrovert and I would not get up and perform a song in an interview!

In our applications and interviews, we aren’t trying to embarrass you or make you feel uncomfortable but rather we want to know what makes you…well YOU!  Letting us in, even just a little bit, to see different sides of you is all we want.  How will we know if we want to sit next to you everyday? Or if you might participate in our office banter?

I recently had a friend tell me that she would hate to sit through one of my interviews because she wouldn’t like being put on the spot with some of my questions.  I thought a lot about her comment when I went into my next interview and realized that it really isn’t about what the answer is but more the insight it gives me into the person.  Answering with one word doesn’t provide much to me but answering with something that starts a conversation and shows your interest in something…that is what we want to see!

So next time you’re applying to a job, writing a cover letter, or preparing for interview, think about what makes you you and let that come out!

Setting Goals for the New Year? Let Motivation Lead You to Success!

Goals

GoalsHow do you measure success in exercise? Do you measure it by X amount of pounds or body fat percentage lost? Or by X inches gained/lost, depending on your goal? How do you measure success in business or your personal life? Do you measure it by how many promotions or personal triumphs you’ve achieved? Success is incredibly relative to an individual but one common denominator that (should) define success is your effort level.

I recently read a great article in a popular health magazine, discussing what it takes to reach your absolute max potential in exercise. There is only a fraction of a percentage of folks who tap into their reserve, and literally give everything they have to whatever race, event, max lift, etc., they are attempting to complete. The example they provided was a physical stress test on a treadmill: Imagine you have nodes and a breathing apparatus attached to your body and you’re walking on a treadmill and gradually the doc increases the incline and speed to the point where you’re sprinting “as hard as you can go.” Are you in fact sprinting all out? Most likely, since this is just a stress test, you’d eventually give up as any normal person would. The example continues by asking the client what they would do if they were offered a million dollars to continue for another minute. Everyone in their right mind would do everything in their power to stay running for that extra 60 seconds. My point is that most people find themselves quitting before they really need to; I’m not advocating you push until injury, but there are many levels one can push themselves to between when they’d actually quit and their literal max.

If you aim to reach any of those levels in any aspect of your life, not just exercise, you’ll probably find yourself accomplishing a lot more than you thought was possible. I’ve helped mentor a handful of coworkers who have reached their personal success in very different ways. One Fool had the right mindset and wanted to get super healthy due to a risk of inheriting some unfavorable health traits. We came up with a 6% body fat reduction goal and he surpassed it by providing maximum effort every week, while shifting priorities and changing his lifestyle. Another Fool had a goal of working his dream job at TMF and,since I had recently lived this fantasy a couple years ago, I helped him realize his goal by doing everything in his power to succeed (volunteering on projects, putting in side work to help his cause, etc.) while letting the decision makers do the rest. Both Fools gave their 100% effort without knowing what the results would be. Both Fools happened to succeed.

With 2013 looming, we all have a great chance to start fresh through some New Year’s resolutions. Set yourself a few attainable goals and if you are 100%, without a reasonable doubt, giving your everything, you can live with the results whether good/bad; there is literally nothing else you could have done. Even upon “failing,” you have gained much more through maximum effort in terms of discipline and development. So let’s take 2013 as a time to lose the extra 10 pounds, or foster a better relationship with your coworkers, or spend more quality time with your family. Because if you’re not trying as hard as you can, why waste your energy and try at all?