Talking Sabbaticals with the WSJ

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With busy work schedules, it’s easy for employees to become mentally exhausted. Longtime Fool Sam Cicotello shares more about The Motley Fool’s sabbatical program – as well as our “Fool’s Errand” drawings – with the Wall Street Journal. Head on over to read the feature here!

Yes, You Can Bring Your Parents to Work!

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Maybe a version of “Bring Your Kids to Work Day” was part of your childhood, and The Motley Fool certainly continues this tradition every summer. We recently turned the tables and organized “Bring Your Adult Family to Work Day,” which hosted Foolish spouses, siblings, and parents. This event, the first held at the Fool in a few years, left everyone impressed – and informed. Financial breakout sessions, a company-culture breakdown, and lunch over a live taping of Motley Fool Money gave family members a glimpse into Fools’ lives here as employees.

Considering that only 1% of U.S. companies host such an event, it’s not surprising that many of my friends were unfamiliar from their own work experiences. However, more companies are inviting parents into the workplace. Google and Starbucks held their first parent events in 2012, and LinkedIn recently hopped on the bandwagon. Last November, LinkedIn hosted the company’s first “Bring In Your Parents Day,” which allowed guests to tour the campus and mingle with staff. In short, it sounded quite similar to our event – except for LinkedIn hosted nearly 600 family members.

Interestingly enough, there was once a time when companies didn’t roll out a welcome mat for employees’ parents. Managers saw them as a burden, furthermore “The hyper-involved moms and dads of the millennial generation were said to be showing up at job interviews, calling hiring managers on behalf of their kids and even complaining to employers about their children’s salaries.” The tides have turned and organizations are now embracing the idea of parents in the workplace – every so often, at least. Some argue that if employees’ parents appreciate the company, those staff members will be happier and more connected to the organization. The Washington Post feature continues, “If there’s any common theme to why companies have started involving parents more, that’s it: Showing the workplace off to parents, and better communicating with them, could stoke higher engagement among employees and make them less likely to leave.”

There’s a happy medium that can be found in parents’ workplace involvement. Our event was meant to be something fun and casual for Fools and their loved ones to enjoy. To take the idea a step further, Northwestern Mutual sends optional e-newsletters to parents and also organize recognition dinners, while Google offers the option of sitting down alone with their child’s manager.

It’s clear that companies can approach this type of activity in different ways. Can you see the benefits of hosting a parents’ event at your workplace? Why or why not?

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

Fools, Natitude, and Competition

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Marshall is on the The Motley Fool’s IT team, which helps Fools out with their hardware and software needs.

By Marshall Mabie

Non-spoiler alert:

Fools love to compete. And we love to learn.

A lot of us are big sports fans – I am born and raised in the DC Metro area, so I have a certain amount of passion for the local sports teams. When perusing the Washington Post recently, I came across this article by Barry Svrluga, describing the duties and mindset of the Washington Nationals’ support team. It really hit home.

Now, we don’t support million-dollar athletes, but we do support the best financial analysts in the business. And the best Customer Services team. And the best events and facilities staff. We don’t have any Prima Donnas, which is also nice. But our expectations of our service level is very similar to that of the Nat’s support crew – we always want to put our Fools in the best place for them to perform to their expectations.

Competition and learning seem like they are probably pretty helpful in the professional sports arena. We use these principles too, though maybe in a slightly different way.

Competitive is a core value of the Fool, and we constantly challenge ourselves to take care of our Fools better. Much like players asking each other about how they are treated by their respective organizations, we want to make sure that if anyone asks a Fool how their staff is, they can reply that their needs are over-met. It helps us keep Fools, but also helps us attract new ones.

And you can’t be competitive if you don’t learn about not just others, but yourself. Internal surveys, feedback meetings, and honest self-assessment is as important to us as comparing the latest software suite versions.

When it comes down to it, the details really aren’t that important – it’s about attitude. Our job is preparing a highly-skilled performer to do the best they can do. We don’t move luggage, but we do fine-tune our Fools so that they can take care of our customers with the same care.

A Fool by Any Other Name…

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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?

What We Can Learn From Millennials

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As we sat down for a nice, leisurely lunch, my friend and I subconsciously laid both of our phones atop the silk white tablecloth. Technology is almost an addiction for “millennials” – those of us born from 1982 to approximately 2002, so much so that we can’t even eat without a device. Instead of acting like the “ultimate millennials,” my friend and I exchanged our devices for some foreign face-to-face conversation. It’s certainly not unusual to see young professionals with tech devices and, because this is annoying at places like restaurants, our millennial generation can get a bad rap.

Setting my lunch story aside, millennials are on the cusp of remembering a time when technology didn’t exist. No iPhones, laptops, or social media; forget the one-click apps that reserve a table at the coolest restaurant. One professor elaborates, “Because they’ve grown up multitasking on their mobile, iPad and computer, I can’t expect them to work on one project for any amount of time without getting bored.”

From millennials being too dependent on parents – though it’s true that more of us have lived at home post-graduation – to those feeling entitled to undeserved raises, many employers’ complaints only continue. We’re the kids who always won trophies – even for last place – and, as a generation, are described as “so close to their parents that they haven’t been given the chance to learn how to do things by themselves.” Some employers see us as indecisive; willing to job-hop every few years or throw down thousands toward higher education in avoidance of the real world.

Perhaps the best way to describe my generation is as a double-edge sword, but it’s been predicted that by 2020, we’ll account for 46% of the US workforce. We’re the future of companies and, though everyone has faults, millennials may have more to bring to the table than you think. Call our generation too-tech savvy, but I disagree. We adapt to change, whether it’s a new computer system or tricky technical skills. We search the internet for answers instead of wasting others’ time. One executive notes, “Millennials are not much different than we were at their age–fearless, independent, and energetic go-getters. They’ve been raised with the technology tools to make their lives more efficient, which can prove the same for businesses.” If it isn’t already clear from your corporate surroundings, 77% of Fortune 500 companies own Twitter accounts, while 70% are on Facebook, and 69% on YouTube. It’s probably beneficial that millennials matured just as social media outlets, attributing toward our understanding of a now overpowering industry.

Instead of expecting nostalgic blue ribbons for professional wins, millennials crave regular feedback. Organizations should embrace honest relationships with all employees – not just the young ones – and remember that feedback can encourage positive performance. We’re open-minded and collaborative, and one site notes that integrating mentorships will only feed our success. Millennials are flexible enough to cover Generations X’ers with added life responsibilities in exchange for what we want – more experience. We’re willing to learn and grow into earned positions that actually aren’t granted out of entitlement.

To sum it up well, “If you manage millennials, take a step back and recognize the value they can offer through new perspectives and approaches to their work.” And if you’re on the fence, perhaps it’s worth scheduling a lunch. Just remember to put your phones away.