The human resources department can play a key role in helping define a company's culture. Taking their cues from the top executives, they're going to devise policies, disseminating ideas, creating and enforcing standards of conduct that, if effective, can set the tone in a workplace. But often, there's a disconnect between the goals and policies, and the results that HR teams are hoping to achieve. If you think that's a problem where you work, it may be time for some inspired rule breaking -- which, as it happens, is a specialty of Motley Fool co-founder David Gardner. His company consistently earns "best workplace" accolades, so it's fair to assume he and his team have figured a few things out on this front.
In this episode of his Rule Breaker Investing podcast, David invited Motley Fool people team all-stars Lee Burbage and Kara Chambers on to talk about 10 ways this company's workplace culture breaks the rules -- and yours should, too.
To catch full episodes of all The Motley Fool's free podcasts, check out our podcast center. A full transcript follows the video.
This video was recorded on April 10, 2019.
David Gardner: Volume V of a series says a lot. Longtime listeners know that we've crafted about a dozen series over almost four years of weekly podcasting here at Rule Breaker Investing. We have our five-stock samplers, like the one featured on last week's show -- Five Stocks for the Age of Miracles. We have our Great Quotes series. We have The Market Cap Game Show. We have Mental Tips, Tricks, and Life Hacks. And we go back to this series now and again -- volume I, II, III, IV, or, like today, V. Volume V of a series says a lot. That you like it enough, and we like it enough, to keep it going. That's certainly true of our topic for this series, and that's workplace culture -- basically, what it's like to work here or there. Do they treat people well? Is there an important sense of purpose? What traits or rituals are unique to that workplace? This matters not just to you if you're a working professional, but it matters to all of us as investors.
Joining me this week for their fifth appearance on this series, longtime culture collaborators and connoisseurs Kara Chambers and Lee Burbage present 10 ways our Motley Fool culture of breaks the rules, and you and yours should too.
All right, welcome back to Rule Breaker Investing! It's my delight to show off two of my favorite Fools. They're coming back for their fifth time on the show, four years running. Kara Chambers and Lee Burbage. Team, welcome!
Kara Chambers: Thank you!
Lee Burbage: Thanks for having us!
Gardner: I'm really so happy to have you back! Now, we do have some listeners who've literally listened to every podcast. They'll remember Kara and Lee. But for those many new listeners, I think we last did this a year ago this month, talking about how to make our workplaces better. Maybe The Motley Fool has some tips or some challenges for you if you're an entrepreneur, or somebody who is maybe head of HR, somebody who's driving culture at any one of the many motley workplaces out there in the world at large. Maybe we have something for you.
Kara, could you just briefly share who you are, how long you been at The Fool, and maybe what your motley is?
Chambers: Sure. My name is Kara. I work on the people team. I've been here for about 13 years. My motley is there's an app for that because I love technology. I like finding out new, innovative ways to do things. I started my career here as a recruiter and moved into organizational development. I do a lot of our coaching and feedback and compensation and service.
Gardner: We're going to talk about some of that coming up. All really important topics and a motley array of things for you to have your mind on every day and weekday here at the office. Maybe even sometimes the weekends, too.
Chambers: It all ties together.
Gardner: Lee Burbage.
Burbage: Hi, David! Thanks for having me! I've been here a little over 20 years. Mostly, I sit in awe of all the amazing things that Kara does. But I work with her on making sure people love coming to work and they're happy coming to work, and they're doing things that they enjoy that create value for the company. Setting people up for success, that's what I try to do on a daily basis.
Gardner: Thank you! And thank you both! This has been really fun to do together over the years. As we prepared for this show, I said, we could probably bring back some of our greatest hits from earlier in this series. Since we only talk about it once or twice a year, people may not remember some of the cool things that we've tried and that have worked here at The Motley Fool, even sometimes that have failed. So we might have some blasts from the past.
Kara, we talked about how we really want to focus this on breaking the rules, how to do things non-intuitively, against the conventional wisdom.
Chambers: That's correct. That's something I've learned from working here. I realized as I put this list together, I might be more of a rule follower. But having been here 13 years, I think that's been undone, in a good way.
Gardner: Absolutely! Of course, that is the name of our podcast and the name of our investment approach, breaking the rules, challenging the ways that other people think about the stock market and picking stocks non-intuitively, and that working. I know we're doing that with our culture, Lee, for a few years, in the last decade, we've been recognized nationally by Glassdoor as the best place to work among all small to medium-sized companies in the country.
Burbage: Yeah, we're very proud whenever we get that type of recognition. I think a lot of it is around just not taking things for granted and trying things our own way, trying to create the environment that we want to be in that works best for us. For any company out there, I think that's important. Know who you are. These things won't all work perfectly for you, but maybe they give you an idea or two, things that you could try.
Gardner: And that is indeed that focus. We're going to present 10 rule-breaking approaches to workplace culture, how we break the rules here at The Motley Fool. I sure hope that at least three or eight of these seem relevant to you, whoever you are, wherever you are listening to us, and that you can put them into play in your life and make the world around you, especially in your workplace, better.
All right, well, without further ado, we have our 10 tips. Lee and Kara have put these together over the last seven days. I'm fired up about this list! Let's get started with No. 1.
Burbage: That's me. I have the joy of kicking off today. It's a great phrase that Karen and I love. It's called, "if you have to make it mandatory, then it's not compelling." We love to run everything that we're doing through this phrase. If you're a traditional HR person or manager out there in the world and you find a part of your job is chasing people down and trying to make them do things, it turns out, that's not very fun. And you can blame them for not doing their homework; or you could look at whatever you're trying to get them to do and think, "Why aren't they doing it?" It's probably because it's not compelling.
If Karen and I are out there in the world, and we're trying to get people, let's say, to fill out performance appraisals, or you have to submit this form, and the people aren't doing it, you probably need to redo your process or system to make it something that they look forward to doing. We look for things that are compelling, not mandatory.
Gardner: Karen, Lee, can you give an example of what people felt like they had to do? Maybe a place they needed to be or something they needed to do, and you remapped it?
Burbage: Performance appraisals is a great example of that. We've seen a lot of companies joining the bandwagon here to stop doing performance appraisals. It turns out, no one likes to do them! The manager doesn't like it, the employee doesn't like it. Those things are easy for us. They'll write songs about you in HR if you stop doing something that nobody wants to do anyway and reinvent it in a new way that causes people to want to participate.
Gardner: Yeah, they'll say things like long live Dorothy, the Wicked Witch is dead. We're definitely looking to kill the Wicked Witch -- even though, as a Wicked fan, I also appreciate the Wicked Witch. Another part of me loves the Wicked Witch. But, yeah, that's a great example! Maybe the best of all. In almost every workplace, whether you're at a university or an early stage start-up or a longtime not for profit charity, probably somebody thinks we need to do performance appraisals.
Before we move on to No. 2, could you briefly explain what we do now in terms of getting some appraisal of your performance? How does it actually work here at The Fool?
Burbage: Sure. We have a system that we call signals, Karen and I, that we've developed over many years. It's definitely not perfect yet, but we try to create touch points where people are having meaningful conversations. Those conversations are with their boss, with their peers, and with a coach that they choose. So instead of ratings and filling out forms, we push more toward a meaningful conversation.
Gardner: Looking down my list, I see No. 5 is going to hell back to this one. I wanted to ask you a follow-up question about that or point out my own experience as somebody who'd like feedback here at The Fool. We're going to park that until No. 5 and keep moving. What's No. 2?
Chambers: No. 2 is people want to do great work. It sounds obvious, but really, some of HR practices assume people want to do very little work. We've found in our careers here, that's almost never true. People want to do great work. This has been proven by friend of The Fool Daniel Pink and his book Drive. You don't need to create all kinds of crazy incentive plans to get people to just do work. People come in and they're excited. They like being recognized. They like feeling like they're part of something, they're part of a higher purpose. So you look for that when you're recruiting. Again, very few people come to work wanting to take advantage. They want to come to work and do something great. And it's our job, we feel, to tap into that.
Gardner: I was looking at companies, studying it for stock research purposes recently. I watched one of their videos. They're talking about how a lot of their employees are people who, if you look at their background outside of work, they're volunteering for things. This particular company pointed that out as a hallmark or a strength of its culture, that it's typically attracting people who just raise their hand and volunteer for stuff. Does that also sound like something that would work well here at The Fool? Probably at any workplace.
Chambers: That that is very typical here. Fools have talents and things that they do out in the world. They're committed. They're musicians, they're athletes, they have many, many talents. We see them every year at our annual meeting and we're always surprised by them.
Gardner: [laughs] Right. We have some incredible dancers here at The Motley Fool, I'll say that.
Burbage: Oh, yes! I think it's an interesting maybe secret about a great place to work. A lot of people think it's about the perks or things like that. In actuality, it is about the work. People want to work someplace that they believe in what they're doing, and they want to work hard, and they want to be challenged every day. If you can provide those things, people are pretty stoked.
Gardner: Boy, that is a true bit of Foolish wisdom. Thank you for underlining that one, Lee. As Kara just said, people want to do great work. You're right -- so often, the conversations about the perks... at our company, for years and years, you all have helped oversee this, we've done stuff like, we don't count your vacation days, or you don't have to show up at nine o'clock. I don't know if that's one of our future points.
We'll get to that a little bit more. But the main point is, it's just about the nature of the work. It's not the perks. It's not that exciting to me that we don't count vacation days, but it sounds like a perk. It sounds attractive. Journalists will pick up on that and write about that as a hallmark of The Motley Fool culture. But really, it's doing that great work.
All right, No. 3.
Burbage: You've teed me up perfectly. No. 3 is about our culture of trust. We do get a lot of PR about not tracking vacation, not tracking time off. I'm actually on a personal mission. You mentioned the media. Often, this article is written about unlimited vacation.
Gardner: Yes, that phrase.
Burbage: Yes. I am anti "unlimited." What we do is, we just trust people to manage their own time. It turns out, if you do a really good job recruiting and you hire amazing people, they can handle their own schedule. Of course, any hardworking, intelligent person will realize they can't take an unlimited amount of time off. At some point, you do need to do the work. But we've found that we don't need to manage that. We just simply trust people. They own it. That sort of freedom to manage your own time is a big deal here.
Gardner: Now, did we ever have a leave policy? Kara, did we throw that away? Is that something we had? Or have we never had one?
Chambers: Never had one!
Gardner: Right. That makes it easier to break the rules, doesn't it? When you're not having to actually change the rules, you just made it that way at the start.
Burbage: Yeah, for sure. I will say that Kara and I have each counseled many companies who've wanted to move to this. They have lots of questions. We've gotten on the phone with boards of directors, it's been such a big deal. And the feedback is always the same. Just do it! And then they call us and say, "Oh, my gosh, that was easy!" It's not that complicated to just stop tracking.
Gardner: If I'm hearing you, and I'm in a workplace -- and many of us are -- where there is a leave policy, what's a positive step? I mean, you all are basically, among many other things, human resources professionals. You understand how people think about work and how they approach you. What would be a constructive step that I could take to try to get my manager or even my boss or CEO to consider changing to a no leave policy?
Chambers: I would try and testing it out. See if one department might test it out. Find out how it goes. That's the first thing that's coming into my mind. I see companies step away from having leave instead of, "These are sick days. These your vacation days. Get a doctor's note. You have to bring in a note." I think companies stepping away from that is at least one step in the right direction.
Gardner: Before we move on to No. 3, I think one of the truisms that makes a policy, or in this case, no policy like this work, is if there is a sense of trust in the workplace. I know that word underlines and runs underneath a lot of how we think about culture and a lot of the ways we break the rules. But you have to have, don't you, you have to default to trust and have trust just there in your workplace in order to say, "Hey, we don't need a leave policy."
Burbage: The rules and the policies in themselves create a culture that doesn't have trust. The more policies and rules you have, the more you're saying to people, "We don't trust you." I have two teenage boys, and I like to use their school as an example of life. There's so many rules at school, and they definitely don't feel trusted to go to the bathroom or to leave your locker unlocked, that sort of thing. I think we're seeing a change in that in the world. I find, the more rules you have, the more you're sending a signal, "I don't trust you."
Gardner: Well put! All right, No. 4.
Chambers: No. 4 is, default to generous, it'll pay off in the long run. This is one of my favorites. It's something I've learned in my career here, hopefully I started out with. It's been proven more and more. I was just talking to a Fool today, saying, "I'm so grateful that The Fool gave me this opportunity, this flexibility, I really want to work harder for you." I hear that almost every day. It's funny, because you don't even think about it now when you do it, but just making sure people feel like, not only do we trust you, but we want to take care of you, you're part of our family. Going in with a mindset that someone will be taking advantage of you or taking from you is really just going to put both parties on the defensive, and it will denigrate the relationship. So, for us, I hear a lot of defaulting to generous. When I come back and check with my team, we check each other, and say, "Hey, are we defaulting to generous on this one?" And you'll see, those people will come back in the long term.
An example I heard elsewhere, at Google, Laszlo Bock, friend of the Fool, came to talk to us --
Gardner: Former head of Google's people and culture.
Chambers: Yes. He said they offered a very, very generous maternity leave policy, which we matched, I believe. They said people don't have a child every year for a 25-year career. It's usually a short amount of time to offer a generous parental leave policy, and then that person has a great relationship with the company coming back. I think we matched that. It was very philosophically aligned with how we did it.
Gardner: OK. So, default to generous. And I have to say in my life, the person that I think of as probably the most generous person that I know happens to be my brother Tom, who's the CEO of The Motley Fool. I think it makes it easier to default to generous if, in fact, at the top of the organization, whoever it is, is a very generous person. How important is that? Let's give the guy a little love.
Chambers: You just outed our secret! [laughs]
Gardner: Yes. Tom is extremely generous. One of the great gestures over the years that I look back on with pride was during the really tough times in the Great Recession, 2008 and 2009, we froze, we stopped, matching employees' contributions to 401(k). I remember Tom with the whole company and his leadership saying, "We need to do this just to keep control of our own finances. This is important for us as a company. We can't do it." But then, Lee, as we came out of it in 2010, we announced, "Not only are we going to unfreeze, but we're going to go back and recompensate you as if you had maxed out your match all the way through." We did that, right?
Burbage: Yes. Including market returns.
Gardner: That was really great! In fact, I think that night we were on ABC's Nightly News as an example of a company that had done something really special. I, anyway, look back on that with pride. But, that's about defaulting to generosity.
Now, Kara, you mentioned Google's generous maternity policy. We've matched it. I think a lot of people are wondering, "Well, what does a generous parental policy look like?" So, how do we do it today at The Fool?
Chambers: I'm not sure what Google's is now. But ours is 16 weeks for either parent's parental leave. For us, we also added, it starts when the baby comes home. Sometimes we've had people with their babies in the NICU, and they were there a little longer. We were able to stretch that out a little bit longer. Again, defaulting to generous. How much are those two or three weeks going to matter in the long term of the health of your family?
Gardner: That's a great example, and a very important one for us here at The Fool. I wish we'd had that, Lee, back when you and I were having kids. You and I have been here 20 years or so. I don't remember that policy early days of The Fool.
Burbage: It's another good example of, we're always learning and changing and growing. There'll be some things that we do today that we're going to look back five years from now and be like, "I can't believe we did it that way." Right? We're always looking for places where we need to reinvent things or reimagine what we're doing.
Gardner: One of our cultural traits, one of our values really here at The Motley Fool, is topping it, and just always looking to improve.
OK, let's go to No. 5. People want feedback, I'm reading here on this carefully curated list that Kara and you have put together for us. People want feedback, Lee.
Burbage: Yeah. This is really about, what we've found is that feedback is for the individual. So many companies out there are building feedback systems to fuel a performance management process, or to somehow back into a compensation system or something like that. Here, we've found that actually, individuals really want feedback, and they don't want it to be linked to anything else. So our feedback system is private. It's between the individual and their coach. They're the only ones that see the feedback. What we've found is in this little private bubble, people tend to give better feedback, more honest feedback, because they know it's not being shared around, doesn't have some ancillary meaning that can skew things. We've found that private moment, where people can really get genuine feedback, is so important. So that's the way that we set our system up.
Gardner: We talked about this, and I referenced this when we were going through No. 1, which was, if you have to make a mandatory, it's not compelling. This is a great example of it. But yeah, as an employee of our company, that's been my experience. I'm invited to ask for feedback. No one is required to get feedback. But most people, it seems -- what are the numbers, roughly? What percentage of our employees, when asked voluntarily, "Would you like feedback," will ask for it?
Chambers: I believe it was 70%.
Burbage: Yeah. And we've also watched, in the early days, you could give anonymous feedback. You have the option, anonymous or not anonymous. And now, it's 100% non-anonymous. We built that program to see -- like, how many people in the world look forward to their feedback process at work? I think it's pretty low.
Burbage: We get excited to say, "Hey, what if people actually looked forward to feedback and put their name on it?" So, those are two metrics that we chase. We feel like we've made something pretty compelling.
Gardner: I feel like I want to summarize our first five points. We're going to do that in a sec. But, Kara, one more here on No. 5. People want feedback about our coaching system here at The Fool.
Chambers: In many organizations, your feedback goes to your boss, so there's not a feeling of safety there; feeling like you're going to have to send a report to someone's boss. That doesn't feel good. There's a power dynamic. We have a whole system of volunteer peer coaches that meet with you and deliver the feedback. And the feedback only goes to them. We've found that's helped people offer constructive things, helpful things. In the end, going back to No. 2, people want to do great work. They're sitting down with their coach and they're excited to read and hear about how they can be better, because they want to be better, they want to be doing great work. That coach is there to help guide them, help them not over-focus on anything.
Gardner: And our coaches, these are people who are not necessarily professional coaches. Do we have a training session for coaches? I think we do that.
Gardner: But these are not HR coordinators at all. These are people from across the company.
Chamber: Yes, that's correct! We have 29 right now. It's about 10% of our company. They're people who are known as effective managers, people who are good leaders, they're good at the coaching part. We meet with them every other month, I believe, and we take them through some kind of new framework they can use or any organizational challenges that we're seeing and deploy them out to be good listeners out in the world.
Gardner: All right, I'm going to call that halftime. Just before we bring out the marching band, Lee and Kara, could you just quickly summarize our five points in order so we can all grasp them and start learning them, internalizing them? What was No. 1?
Burbage: No. 1: compelling, not mandatory.
Chambers: No. 2: People want to do great work.
Burbage: No. 3: a culture of trust.
Chambers: No. 4: Default to generous.
Burbage: No. 5: People want feedback.
Gardner: All right, speaking of people wanting things, I can imagine that at least one of our listeners among Chris Hill's so-called dozens out there in Foolville, I'm sure at least one of them would like a little bit more information from either of you about some of the things we're talking about this week. If I wanted to reach out and either learn more about The Fool culture, or talk to one of you directly, maybe by email, are you open to that? How would they do that?
All right, it's second half. Now, a lot of the March Madness basketball games -- I think I watched pretty much all of them over the course of the last few weeks, like I sequester myself and watch all the games -- but a lot of them, the second half was more exciting. After all, the end of the game and the final result is determined not in the first half, but the second half. So, I'm wondering, Lee and Kara, did you load it up? Have you saved the best for the second half? Or did we blow all our best ammo in those first five tips?
Burbage: I think you're asking me to choose my favorite children. I can't do that, David!
Gardner: [laughs] OK! So, you cannot commit to the idea that it gets better from here. But it might.
Burbage: [reluctantly] Yes.
Gardner: [laughs] Awesome! Let's go to tip No. 6. What do you have?
Chambers: I really like this one. People work when and where they work best. For us, the technical geek in me loves this one -- technology's always changing. People are working from wherever and whenever at all hours. Culture is changing. So I work with our tech team to figure out what kind of tools work best. We're big Slack fans. We've recently become big Xoom fans, we've put in Xoom, which is a video conferencing tool. Slack is instant messaging. There's a cultural change. I know, slightly before my time here, it was a culture of being here 18 hours a day, sometimes sleeping in the office. That was how the culture of started. I don't think those hours have toned down. I know that from working with all of you. It's just more where you are. You could be in line at the DMV, you could be at your kids' basketball game. You could be just sitting outside on your patio. I think for us, we want to help Fools work where and when they work best. The best phrase have heard about this is, you need to cave and a commons, a place to sit with others and talk and have meetings. That can be done virtually. Both ideas of each other. You also need your cave to go in and do whatever it is you do -- coding, picking stocks, analyzing data.
For us, we like to give people choices. Sometimes that's about how the office is designed. Sometimes that's about where you can work and technology. What I hear a lot of is, there's no one correct way for how and where people work.
Gardner: Certainly, Xoom, which we've recently implemented here at The Fool -- and Xoom is going to be an IPO somewhere here in 2019, and perhaps Slack will as well. It seems like we're finding all the companies before they IPO, and we're using their stuff and we like their stuff, whatever we'll end up thinking of their stock. But how do you view something like Xoom in terms of affecting our culture?
Chambers: We did a research project last summer about remote work. I got a lot of feedback in our surveys, and from people I coach, that it was a struggle for them to feel like they were an afterthought when they were calling into remote meetings. If they were, maybe, calling us from Germany -- we also have an office in Colorado, so, what that experience was like for them. So, I started calling other companies and asking what they did, working with our tech team, having them look at -- we had a hilarious meeting about conference room problems. We had every conference room problem in that meeting in a very Foolish way. The sound would cut out. Whatever technology I won't name we were using before, everything broke during the meeting, and our tech people handled it so beautifully. It released the tension.
But, for us, we ask Fools what's going on. That's a constant piece of feedback we're always going to get. "I would prefer the office have more quiet spaces. I want more meeting rooms. I want more this. I want an open space. I don't want an open space." I think just giving a few options for everybody and making it easier is a way we've done it. So that's been Xoom. And Slack has a 24-hour culture, too.
One thing in Slack that has become true in the past year is, you can put your status on Slack, so, where you are. We've been toying a little bit with different default statuses. A set of headphones, like, "sorry, I'm in the zone, don't talk to me." There's another one I really like called "low power mode." Like, "You might be able to get in touch with me, but I'm not going to put that spreadsheet together for you by the end of the day." Again, that person is mostly on a day off, but you can reach them. And then there's fully unplugged, like vacation. It's got a little palm tree next to it. So Slack statuses help us signal when we're interrupting people and when we're not. That's been one of my favorite things.
Gardner: I'm curious, do you both think that if everybody had license to be wherever they wanted to be, would everybody be at home?
Chambers: I don't think so.
Gardner: Because we want a commons.
Chambers: Yeah, we need a commons.
Gardner: The commons could be digital, right? In a sense, Slack is kind of a digital commons. But don't we want a physical commons? I think we do.
Burbage: Yeah, I think you find that there's arguments on both sides of that. And because of that, you want a little bit of both. There's pros and cons of working at home and doing your individual work. There's pros and cons of being distracted, maybe, in the office and so forth. We work here to try to see if we can't provide enough flexibility and autonomy for people to make their own choices on a daily basis, which is going to work for them. Some people will have that balance, maybe swing one way or the other. But we haven't found too many people that want completely one direction or the other.
Gardner: Now, certainly, some jobs you need to be in a certain place.
Burbage: Yeah, although, I'll say we're finding that less than last. If you're going to be our receptionist in the building, you probably need to be here. But I was meeting with a Fool earlier today, who I think a couple of years ago, I would have said they absolutely need to be here. And we were both laughing at, no... she's transitioned fairly well. Kara bringing Xoom to the company is a big change and makes things happen much easier. So, hey, technology has helped to the world a lot. We're in a better place as business people because of all the tools we have.
Gardner: Let's go to No. 7, except that I do want to ask just one more thing about this. Some of our employees a few years ago, Kara, said, "Hey, love Alexandria! That said, a little expensive to live in the Greater Washington D.C. area." And there's this state, Colorado, which is a place where at least one of them needed to move for a spouse move. So we decided, "Yeah, I guess you can go to Colorado," we said to a few of our employees. They opened up an office. And today, we call it Foolorado. The Ascent, which I know a lot of our listeners have checked out, but if you haven't been to theascent.com and you're looking for a better bank rate, or a better credit card these days, check out theascent.com. That's all done by Foolorado. So we kind of let a movement happen where people said, "Hey, we want to live in a cheaper, maybe even arguably healthier place."
Burbage: Yeah. I think we got a little bit lucky there. We just sort of went for it. I think what we're learning over time is, the United States is a little bit more like Europe, maybe. Not every state is the same. Doing business in different states has different costs. I think we're getting smarter about that. But I like that sort of flexibility, giving people other places that they could live. I think this is something you've said for a long time, at least the 20 years I've worked here David -- assuming all the best talent is right here in Alexandria, Virginia, would be a mistake. Finding ways to access talent not just in other parts of United States, but all over the world, that's just good for business.
Gardner: No. 7.
Burbage: No. 7. What Kara and I have found is, for the most part, people don't really like to be told what to do. You maybe mentioned this earlier, people like to volunteer. People like to raise their hand. They like to make their own decisions about what they want to do. We've had a lot of success in recent years of posting projects. If you have something interesting that you need to get done, you haven't had time or you need some specific expertise, we've opened up some Slack channels, emails, this sort of thing where you can post opportunities, and people can raise their hand. It's a fascinating thing. You would think that people who are A-players, who are really busy, couldn't possibly find time to do anything else. But it turns out, if it's something that they volunteered for, that they're passionate about, they will make the time and they'll do it well.
Gardner: All right. So, No. 7: no one likes to be told what to do. In particular, posting projects and seeing who has some side-of-desk time and interest, and if they volunteered, as Lee said, Kara, probably they're going to be committed to it if they volunteered. Do you have an example of a project recently that popped up?
Chambers: I'm realizing as I'm thinking about, it's not so recent. It's a couple of years old. But the same philosophy. We had an employee that was a techie. He had this real passion for fitness and wellness. He said, "I think this company should have a wellness person." So he started just teaching CrossFit classes at night and talking to people and doing his day job. That eventually turned into a full-time job. He wound up moving away, and we did wind up saying, "We do have a need for a full-time wellness person," and we've had one ever since. But, that's an example of somebody who said, "This is something I'm doing on the side. I'm really passionate about it. I want to add to our culture."
Gardner: Love that one. That's really how The Motley Fool got its wellness program started. I'd say within the city, we've been called the fittest company in Washington, D.C.
Burbage: And the state of Virginia.
Gardner: And the state of Virginia most recently.
Chambers: And we did how many pushups last month, as part of our contest?
Gardner: That's incredible! I did about 75 to 100 for our company.
Chambers: Me too.
Burbage: I did 5,001. I'm pretty stoked about that.
Gardner: That's great!
Burbage: We have even more recent examples. We find our member services team is particularly interested in this area because they have access to a lot of customer data and information and they get excited about things they're learning. Then we found them working on projects in other parts of the business where they can apply the knowledge that they're learning. We see a lot of people start in member services and move to other parts of the company.
Gardner: You bet. No. 8.
Chamber: No. 8: we want employees for life. This is the last job you'll ever have. I love this one! We talked about Fools navigating their careers. One of the things our coaches do, and one of my favorite parts of my job, is helping people navigate their different types of roles and ups and downs and twists and turns. Technology changes. People change. The market changes. People are constantly moving around. They're posting projects or everything else. I've had this conversation three times this week, of someone saying, "If I have to do this for the long term, I think it's going to get old. I see this as my next step in my career, but I don't see myself doing this forever." That's a typical sign for Fools, for someone who's really good at their job.
We always say when we have career development conversations, it's never about the type of person you are. It's about, where are you now? What's your situation? What opportunities are there for you next?
Gardner: Now, it certainly helps when you're growing. Not every organization out there is growing in the way that we are right now. I think we're adding about 25% to our workforce this year, which for The Motley Fool is a lot of growth. We were a little bit more staid over the last 10 years. We're accelerating. Now, a lot of us are working at really big companies that might even be downsizing or smaller charities, let's say, that have a stable workforce of 15 people that doesn't change much. So it's probably true, Kara, that you need to grow in order to have people stay with you and make that the last job they ever have.
Chambers: Yeah, and there's ways of getting scrappy about it, too. I think our coaching was an example. That's an area of something people are interested in, to be a coach. It's an opportunity they picked up at the side of their desk to learn to be a better mentor and leader. That was a skill they needed when they eventually were leading a team. So I think that there's some ways you can navigate around that.
Gardner: So again, our 10 tips this week, 10 ways that The Motley Fool breaks the rules of workplace culture and how you can, too. This one, No. 8, seems almost the most contrary of all when we talk about challenging conventional wisdom. Lee, isn't it the cliche these days that, millennials are going to come, they're going to work one or two years, then have six different jobs in their first 10 years? Who would actually want to go to work for a place at almost any age where that's the last place you'd ever be? Supposedly, our culture doesn't work that way.
Burbage: It really changes the discussion in a lot of fun ways when you can have a really long-term view. I think it aligns well with the way that we invest. Yeah, we're not day-trading jobs here. We're thinking for the long term. But there's companies out there like LinkedIn that are great companies, but they find their focus is helping people move from job to job. We just approach it differently. We want you to come here and work here forever. Kara and I are here to help you try to navigate that.
Gardner: And you're living demonstrations, 13 and 20 years isn't forever, but I don't think you're leaving anytime soon. I hope not!
Burbage: I hope not!
Gardner: Because we have to do the sixth volume of this series at some point in the year so ahead. But I mean, yeah, you're great living examples. I think we punch above our weight class when it comes to being a 26-year-old company with a surprisingly high percentage of people who've been here at least 10-plus years.
All right, well, we have two more, No. 9 and No. 10. I know your setup for the next one. Lee. What's No. 9?
Burbage: No. 9 is really building on the previous two. We are a project culture. What does that mean? What it means is, we joke internally that we are going to destroy your resume if we come to work here. It's because there's not a very clear ladder to climb, where you're going to move from assistant vice president to vice president to what have you. Instead, because we have this long-term view of your career, when you talk to Fools, the question more is, what project are you working on? And we hope that people are like, "Oh, let me tell you about the project I'm on right now." So we look for people to be on a project that they're passionate about. As they move up in the organization, what does move up mean? It means starting to define your own projects, starting to get a bigger budget to do the things that you want to do, starting to get your own resources. The language inside The Motley Fool is about, what big project are you on? What value are you creating? What difference are you making? As opposed to what you might see on a traditional resume.
Gardner: I love the idea that we're destroying people's resumes, because that means they'll never leave. Right?
Burbage: That's right! They can't!
Gardner: I guess you're saying that because you're implying that you're just involved in a whole bunch of different projects over the course of time, and people can't read progression in your resume. It's unclear exactly who you are and what you're doing at the company. Is that destroying someone's resume?
Burbage: Yeah, you're following your passion. You're doing the things that you love, as opposed to, I think a lot of jobs were -- you'll hear as a recruiter, why didn't you advance in these two years? You're, "It's been 18 months. I have to move to the next level." We just don't have that kind of pressure here. We want you to be happy and adding value.
Gardner: Every week, I look through the glass at my friend Rick Engdahl, our producer, the producer of Rule Breaker Investing. Rick, I'm just curious, would you say that we've destroyed your resume here at the company? You've done a lot of different things over your years here at The Fool.
Rick Engdahl: I've been here for almost 20 years now. I cannot remember the last time I updated my resume, if that counts as destroying it. It does not exist!
Gardner: [laughs] Well, Rick, you've done brand work for us. I know you've worked on a lot of projects. I know you're a producer today. You're also our photographer around The Fool. Seems like, with a lot of new hires coming this year, you're being called on to take good-looking shots of all of our employees. What don't you do here at The Fool?
Engdahl: I don't say no, apparently. That whole thing about raising your hand for side of desk projects, I believe that's how this podcast started.
Chambers: That's really true!
Gardner: That is actually true! All Motley Fool podcasts started largely because of some combination of Chris Hill and maybe one or two others -- Steve Broido/ Mac Greer. A couple of people said, "Hey, we should just start doing podcasts." And 10 years now ago, it started that way. I just raised my hand a few years ago and said, "I'd like to do a podcast!" Rick said, "I'll produce it!" We are a project culture.
Before we close with No. 10, let me just ask, when you're a project culture, what does that imply about your structure? A lot of people have organizational charts, org charts, things where it would be maybe hard to be a project culture if you're bound to boxes connected to each other on a piece of paper or a PowerPoint. How are we structured? Is there any implication, if I'm listening to us, can I follow our advice or not based on the org chart that I work under?
Burbage: You have to free yourself from some of those types of tools. Instead, we go for, you need to still have some company goals. Your company needs to provide some direction so people are moving in the right way. Surround yourself with maybe different types of tools. We use Trello here, as an example of a great project management tool. But there's a lot of good ones out there. If you're a project culture, it turns out there's a whole industry of project management tools that we use. In fact, Kara and I as HR professionals are more drawn -- Kara smiled at me when I said 'HR professionals.'
We're more drawn toward project management tools, the things that maybe a scrum master or traditional project manager would use as opposed to some of the more traditional HR tools.
Gardner: Trello, you mentioned yet another one of those tools that we adopted early on. These days, it's owned by Atlassian, which I know some of our listeners, as Rule Breaker members, will know has been a very successful stock pick for Motley Fool Rule Breakers. Atlassian, the Australian-based company, today owns Trello, and does a lot of good work in this world, including helping investors make money over time.
All right, well, Kara, bring it all home for us. No. 10.
Chambers: No. 10 is internal culture carriers that don't have to be HR. It's a lot about communication. There's no rules we have about who can send a note to the whole company. For instance, we have a colleague that is not in HR and he will host a horror movie marathon --
Gardner: Throughout the month of October, every year, a different movie every single day.
Chambers: It is the only way I consume a horror movie, is in a conference room. But this is a business intelligence analyst. It's not sanctioned by HR. It's announced across the company. We reward that. We want people to be culture carriers. It's leadership here. We do not have rules about who's allowed to invite the whole company to a thing. If it is your --
Gardner: Passion project.
Chambers: Yes. Cookie bake-off, customer service --
Burbage: Gummy bear tasting.
Chambers: There's a sandwich club where they just debate on whether something is a sandwich, I think.
Engdahl: They also provided waffle bowls. Club Sandwich does more than just debate.
Chambers: Yeah, they consume waffle bowls. I believe the consensus was a waffle bowl was a sandwich. We can leave that to the internet decide. So for us, that sense of community is also online, as you see at The Fool. But we don't try and be the police over that.
Gardner: Again, here, very rule-breaking. I can imagine it wouldn't necessarily work for every workplace, but the idea that anyone can post any communication anywhere, anytime, that is very capital Foolish.
Burbage: Pretty big night last night. One of our Fools who is a big University of Virginia fan, his team won. He posted to the entire company his joy. I think we all just emoji-ed happy. We were stoked for him. I was excited to share in his joy.
Gardner: Yeah, I think he selfied from the stadium in Minneapolis.
Burbage: He did.
Gardner: It was great! This is, of course, taped on Tuesday afternoons, which we tend to do on Rule Breaker Investing, so you're hearing this on Wednesday or later in the week. We're referring to the college basketball national championship game, won by the University of Virginia, not so far away from Alexandria in Charlottesville, Virginia. Congratulations to all our Wahoowa friends!
All right, there you have it: 10 rule-breaking culture tips for you from all of us here at Fool HQ. Kara and Lee, I want to thank you again. I'd love it if you could, again, summarize No. 6 to No. 10 in order. Kara, what was No. 6?
Chambers: No. 6: People work when and where they work best.
Burbage: No. 7: No one likes to be told what to do.
Chambers: No. 8: We want employees for life.
Burbage: No. 9: We're a project culture.
Chambers: No. 10: Anyone can communicate anywhere, anytime.
Gardner: All right, and there you have it! I just want to reflect at the end of this time -- first of all, thank you very much Karen, Lee, for being with us and sharing all of the wisdom that you've acquired through real actions taken to build our culture. Doesn't always work, either. We can do that maybe next year, the 10 things that failed. We'll see. But you have learned so much. To share it out through this podcast is our pleasure to do for all of you here, Volume V of Company Culture Tips, this series.
I wanted to close with this thought. I led off with it a little bit. Didn't speak to it much this week. But in addition to trying to make your workplace better, all of us as investors are investing in companies that have cultures in their workplaces. One of the edges that I think that we've gained as investors here at The Motley Fool, all of us, everybody who picks stocks or analyzes them, is we think a lot about what it would be like to work at that company whose stock we're thinking of picking. After all, when you are invested -- Lee, you spoke so well to how long-term minded we are with our culture here. We're also, as you know, long-term minded with our money and our advice for you. If you think about holding a stock for 10-plus years, chances are, the CEO that was there at the start may not be there anymore; the products or services probably have changed; the industry itself will have changed. You can only imagine all of the changes that you're going to take on as an investor, as somebody, by definition acting for the long-term.
But really, the thing that stands strongest that runs underneath, to me, all of these companies, are their cultures. Those things are built up over time. They're slower to change. So if you really think about it, as an investor, I think you're buying a culture as much as any other thing you think you're buying when you buy a share of stock. Think about that.
All right, coming up next week, we're going to be reviewing two five-stock samplers. I'm going to have a few friends joining me as analysts. We're going to look back at five stocks I own that you should, too, and five stocks for April the giraffe. These five-stock samplers, picked a year or two ago this month. We'll review them on next week's show. In the meantime, Fool on!
As always, people on this program may have interest in the stocks they talk about, and The Motley Fool may have formal recommendations for or against, so don't buy or sell stocks based solely on what you hear. Learn more about Rule Breaker Investing at rbi.fool.com.