Does Your Company Have Core Values to Live By?

Core Values

Core ValuesWow!  You actually opened a post with the title “core values?”  I’m a little surprised.  Many people look at “core values” and roll their eyes.  After all, most companies have them and they are generally very nice, very aspirational…and very stale.

You can imagine that they were created by a strange consultant with trendy glasses, who smelled like Mountain Dew and Altoids, who came to the office and spent a day in a conference room – or maybe a result of that executive retreat a few years ago where we all heard Alex got a little tipsy and crashed the golf cart.

But, so what? What do they really mean when push comes to shove?  How do you use them?

At their worst, Core Values are corporate jargon and a company joke – Enron, after all, had values of respect, integrity, communication, and excellence.

But used in the right way, they can be amazing – dare I say magical!  They can allow a company to develop a culture that exists without a lot of oversight.

At The Fool we really do try to live our core values every single day.  And they’re a little different than your typical corporate buzz words.  Here they are – created by a broad section of Fools from several departments and tenures.

You can see them on the wall as soon as you walk through the front door on our culture tour. But they don’t live there – they live in our culture and in each Fool’s daily actions.

Be Foolish!

  • Collaborative – Do great things together.
  • Innovative – Search for a better solution. Then top it!
  • Fun – Revel in your work.
  • Honest – Make us proud.
  • Competitive – Play fair, play hard, play to win.
  • Motley – Make Foolishness your own. Share your core value _____________.

Okay, great – but how do you know you are living them?  What about the pushing and shoving I mentioned earlier? For me it’s about these four questions, and I ask myself these questions frequently for each value:

  1. Do we hire for this value?
  2. Will we fire for this value?
  3. Can you see and feel this value walking through the office?
  4. Is the value referenced frequently?  Really? When was the last time?

In the next couple of posts I’ll answer these questions for each value to give you a greater sense of what they mean and how they simultaneously drive and reflect the culture of The Fool.

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!

Inexpensive Employee Benefits: Boost Your Culture for $3 per Employee

Employee Benefits

Employee Benefits

By Tamsin Green
Office Dynamo

A great office culture doesn’t require millions of dollars (or a slide in the middle of the office). What it does require is a focus on the employee and a commitment to infusing fun into the work day. Here are a few ways to brighten employees’ days for minimal cost.

1. The Art of the Food Cart

What: A few times a year we roll around a cooler or cart with food or beverages for employees. In the past we’ve handed out ice cream treats on the first really hot day of summer, offered drinks, and most recently served hot pretzels to congratulate employees on a successful product launch.

Why: Free food is great, but in many places it’s frequently leftovers from board meetings, client meetings, donor meetings, and the like. Free food specifically for employees (especially brought to their desk) shows appreciation that room-temperature chicken and vegetables just can’t match.

Tips: The more variety the better, as it lets people choose. The cost of the more expensive Skinny Cow ice cream bars is offset by the low cost of those sundae cups you used to get in the school cafeteria.

Cost: Generally under $1 per item, plus extras (ice, dipping sauces, etc.)

2. New Employee Gifts

What: When employees start at the Fool they each receive a jester cap.

Why: The jester cap let’s people know that we’re serious about being a Foolish community. It reflects our organization’s culture and immediately welcomes new Fools.

Tips: Buy wholesale rather than retail to reduce costs and make sure you always have the item in stock.

Cost: Depends on the item, but it can be done for $3 or less per employee.

3. Mark Employee Anniversaries

What: Every year on an employee’s Fooliversary (the anniversary of their hiring date), Fools receive a gift and a balloon. For 5, 10, 15 and soon to be 20 year anniversaries, employees receive balloon bouquets.

Why: Marking employee anniversaries sends a message of recognition for the employee’s time and service.

Tip: If gifts fall outside of budgetary constraints, even just balloons can make a big impact.

Cost: Balloons can vary in cost but can be purchased for very little. A disposable helium tank costs around $30 and can fill 30-50 balloons depending on size. Gifts can vary in cost depending on your budget.

Introducing the Blog Network Campus Challenge: Write for The Fool and Win!

Blog Network

Blog Network

By Mark Reeth
Motley Fool Blog Editor

Join us for the Campus Challenge!

A few months ago I, like many people around the country, graduated from college full of hope and confidence, knowing that a prosperous career lay right in front of me.  Scrooge McDuck-esque piles of money awaited me, and the world was sepia-toned and fancy free.

Of course I, like many people around the country, realized that getting a job is a lot tougher than it looks.  To kill time between rejection letters from prospective employers, I began blogging for The Motley Fool, a site I’d often referred back to during my college career.  The gig was easy; for $50 per post I could write to my heart’s content about any company of my choosing and The Fool would syndicate my work to sites like Daily Finance and Yahoo! Finance.

If only I’d started doing this back in college, I’d think.  Imagine how nice that would’ve been—$50 per post can go a long way towards beer and pizza…I mean textbooks.  Through The Fool’s syndication sites I could’ve gotten my name out there, and built a portfolio of work that would’ve gone great with all those resumes I’d sent out.

Now that I work at The Fool as a Blog Editor, it’s clear to me that the opportunity to write for a site like The Fool would have been invaluable back in college.  Keeping this in mind, we here at the Blog Network have come up with a great way to get college students writing.  Please allow me to introduce the first ever Campus Challenge!

A Call to Arms for the Battle of the Blogs!

The premise is simple; in order to encourage college students who are interested in finance to begin working in the industry, we’ve created the Campus Challenge.  Any undergrad or graduate students who love investing will write for the Blog Network as part of a school team.  Each team will be awarded points based on the quality of their posts, with bonuses for articles that are chosen as Editor’s Choice, among other commendations. At the end of the Challenge, three competitors will join Chris Hill and the Motley Fool Radio Show at American University’s Kogod School of Business to present their best investing ideas to the radio show team.  At this final event, the highest scoring team will be crowned the Challenge Champions, and will win a fabulous Grand Prize!

So if you’re a college student looking for to way into the financial world, if you know a broke college student who knows how to invest, or if you’re a concerned parent who wants their kid to find a job and move out of the basement (like mine were), then this is the opportunity for you!  The Challenge begins on January 22nd and goes until March 7th, which means you’ve got plenty of time to find some fellow students to blog with you.  And don’t worry, even if you want to participate but can’t put together a team at your college or university, we’ll be awarding plenty of individual prizes throughout the competition.

Honor, glory, and riches await the best blogging team!  For more information about the Campus Challenge, you can email [email protected], or drop me a line at [email protected].  And if you just want to be a blogger, check out http://beta.fool.com/ and get writing!

Fool On!

Get a New Perspective to Prevent Workplace Groupthink

Teamwork

TeamworkIt’s likely happened to you.

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.