Over the years they've shared the best practices, tools, and philosophies that make The Motley Fool an award-winning and wonderful place to work. Today, Lee Burbage and Kara Chambers are back to sort through years of practical advice to pick their top 10 tips for making your workplace culture thrive.
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This video was recorded on Nov. 11, 2022.
David Gardner: Seven full years of podcasting has enabled Rule Breaker Investing to have a pretty deep bench of topics, personalities, stories, memories shared by you and me. When you return to a certain topic, return to certain guests, the experience becomes something more. More integral, more on our minds, deeper. One such topic recurring over the years has been what makes for a great company culture. From our first Company Culture Tips episode seven years ago to today, we have asserted that the culture of your workplace really counts, and that our award-winning culture at The Motley Fool might have some tips, tricks, and life hacks that can work for you, my dear Fool. Might have benefits that you can put into play in your own workplace, whether you're a CEO or oversee benefits or are just a new employee who can be a breath of fresh air in her workplace. Company Culture Tips, nine episodes worth of 10 tips each over history precedes this week's podcast. This week is the 10th. As we said earlier this year we would do, we are making this 10th the best of Company Culture Tips Volume 10, the 10 all-time best only on this week's Rule Breaker Investing.
Welcome back to Rule Breaker Investing. I'm David Gardner. I'm very pleased to be with you this first week of December, and I'm even more pleased to be with my two guests here in the studio for this edition of Rule Breaker Investing. Now this is Rule Breaker Investing, but we're actually going to be talking a little bit more about business today and even more so, the business culture. I have two people that know how to do corporate culture better than almost anybody else I know, Kara Chambers and Lee Burbage. Both longtime Motley Fool employees who are really partly the architects and partly the stewards of Motley Fool culture. As I mentioned last week, we're very proud of the Motley Fool that our culture has been recognized nationally in a number of different ways as the best employer. I really wanted to get underneath that this week. I figured why not have Kara and Lee here to talk about 10 things that we do at the Motley Fool that, if I'm listening to this podcast, maybe I could do in my business, too. Maybe I'm a small business person, we have a lot of them listening, or maybe I work within a business or non-business. I think any organization can really benefit from what Kara and Lee are bringing this week. Thank you so much for joining us.
Lee Burbage: Thanks for having us.
Kara Chambers: Thank you.
David Gardner: We're going to go down the list. You've got 10, and I just want to say in advance that for a lot of the investing I do, I look for culture in the companies I'm investing in. We're breaking our own rules this week on Rule Breaker Investing. We're taking a half step out of investing. This ultimately does map right back to picking this stock and not that one for me. That's enough prelude. Team, before I get started, I'd like you each to introduce yourself briefly, say what you do at the Motley Fool, how long you've been doing it, and one or two Foolish things about you. Not to put you on the spot Kara, but how about you first?
Kara Chambers: I've been at the Fool just 10 years in the past couple of weeks.
David Gardner: All right. So that was the identical transcript. Lee, Kara, thank you for your bit parts. Sorry that you had bit parts. You'll have much bigger roles to play this podcast, but that was the exact start to this series on December 2nd, 2015. Discerning listeners will notice I welcomed everybody back to this first week of December. Now, please don't tell me I missed Thanksgiving, do we? Thanksgiving didn't happen.
Lee Burbage: Yeah.
David Gardner: Okay. Good. It had not happened, but because we wanted to do the identical transcript from seven years ago where we started this series, Company Culture Tips, we read it and reconsider the record scratch there, Kara, because it's certainly not true anymore that you've only been at the Motley Fool for 10 years. We did that in 2015. How long have you been at the Motley Fool now?
Kara Chambers: I will be here 17 years next week.
David Gardner: Awesome. Lee, I think you'd been here about 17 years. There's some kind of?
Lee Burbage: Yeah, karma, kismet, something's happened.
David Gardner: Kismet, karma happening here. Now, how many years have you been? I'm doing the math.
Lee Burbage: Next month will be 24 years at the Motley Fool.
David Gardner: Spectacular. You both have been present all the way through the series from the start to the celebration, the best of, the 10th edition. We talked about this earlier this year when we did Company Culture Tips Volume 9 together, we talked about the possibility of doing 10 near the end of this year as a best of, looking back over seven years of Company Culture Tips. We're now in 2022, we're no longer reading a transcript from 2015. You've both brought your favorite 10, looking back over the nine previous volumes of the series. This is a best of. We don't have fireworks. Well, actually, we do have fireworks. Thank you, Rick.
We don't have the solid gold dancers. Oh my gosh, maybe we do have the solid gold dancers. We don't have elephants or trumpets for you. Oh my gosh, I guess we do have those for this special edition. Kara and Lee, what a delight to have you. Seven years and what an incredible seven years it's been. In fact, let's delay your introductions for a second. Let's just talk about the last seven years. I listened to this first podcast, Lee, and there we were talking about how we had just, within the past year, introduced this cool new thing at the Motley Fool Slack. It was from a new upstart company, and it was reducing email in the office.
Lee Burbage: It's just incredible. The number of emails that I get today, they really rounds to zero compared to the amount of Slack. My whole life is Slack. I can't imagine it without it now.
David Gardner: Seven years later, that really has been true for you.
Lee Burbage: Fully taken over.
David Gardner: Same for you, Kara?
Kara Chambers: Absolutely. I feel like we all live and die by Slack now.
David Gardner: It's fun to think you were saying, since we listen to the podcast seven years ago, you were talking about how our techies had brought that to us. It wasn't an HR initiative or CEO Tom Gardner saying, "I've discovered this new tool." It bubbled up from, of course, some of the smartest people at our company, our techies.
Kara Chambers: Absolutely.
David Gardner: We talked about Slack back then. We had also just introduced Trello as a project management tool. Are we still using Trello?
Kara Chambers: We've grown up now, we've gotten bigger. So now we've moved to Jira, which is Trello's cousin, owned by the same company, Atlassian. But just bigger and more complicated, and I'm still learning it myself.
David Gardner: J-I-R-A?
Kara Chambers: Correct.
David Gardner: Okay. Yeah. Speaking of bigger, we were talking in that first episode seven years ago about having about 300 employees at that point. Lee, how many employees do we have about today?
Lee Burbage: About 600 employees today. So we've doubled in size since that first podcast.
David Gardner: As you looked back over the 90 previous tips that have come through this series, did you see ones that in some cases made more sense for a company that was 300 instead of 600? Does it feel different today where you with today's eyes, as you thought about our top 10 all time, were you thinking more about any company or more about the mid-sized company of 500-plus employees today?
Lee Burbage: When I look back at the list, there really just things that we'd love to do that I think works for us. I'm not sure. I felt limited by numbers. Some of them did not age well, and some of them have aged really well that we'll talk about today.
David Gardner: One other thing I was thinking about, Lee, is another tool that came to the Fool in these past seven years. It was not there in 2015. We weren't thinking yet or using Zoom yet, but when did Zoom come to the Motley Fool within these past seven years?
Lee Burbage: I'll have to ask Kara what the date is because she's actually the one that brought it to the company. But I will say it was a huge cultural challenge for us figuring out how to communicate with people that weren't specifically in the office where these fancy Cisco rooms. We had little like egg cartons on the wall trying to solve for sound. Skype was cutting in and out and it was a big challenge for us until we really got on Zoom, which, like you said, has taken over our life today. Do you remember the inception of that, Kara?
Kara Chambers: Yeah, I do. At the time, we had opened an office in Denver and we had had maybe I want to say 10 percent of our employees working just remotely, but we're very office culture. It was about 2018 and I was laughing about this because I found a document because, Lee, you and I sat down and said, "Let's make it easier for people to work remotely." We wanted to talk about like, but you can work from home if you want. But everybody's habit was just coming in an office and we're trying to encourage those. I wrote up this whole document, put Zoom as my top proposal, and on the document I wrote a goal and it says, "All Fools are able to work remotely by April 2020."
David Gardner: Wow. Spooky.
Kara Chambers: It freaked me out. I didn't mean it like that. So we were luckily prepared, at least to some degree, because we had started out this conversation. It has never been a great experience to be sitting in a conference room and being the face on the wall that's working from home or all kinds of comp. We didn't realize that Zoom was going to take over our lives within a year.
Lee Burbage: Well, the story gets even a little creepier because as part of Kara's plan, we developed a test day, where we closed the entire office and everyone worked from home as a day of test. That was pre-planned and it turned out never came back. We did that test. It was the first day we really closed for COVID, and we didn't reopen during all of COVID for a two-year period.
David Gardner: That is amazing. My recollection is it was something like Friday, March 6th. I can't remember whether that was the exact day.
Lee Burbage: Something like that.
David Gardner: Let's go with ish. Do you have in your minds what day we reopened?
Kara Chambers: Today.
David Gardner: We're still reopening.
Kara Chambers: It is our first time in this room together.
David Gardner: I'm glad you said that, Kara, because for any discerning longtime listener, you might notice our sound quality is back to snuff pre-COVID levels. That's because this is the first podcast we've done from Fool HQ, our studios here in Alexandria, Virginia, since before COVID. Meet with my little Scarlett Solo audio interface box that plugs in the headset that I used for my den for the last few years. That's been discarded for at least this week, and we're back to better sound. But even better, we're here with each other and that's special, too. Kara and Lee, thank you so much. Kara, thanks for bringing Zoom to the Fool. That was an important thing. We were Zooming before Zooming was cool. Well, let's go back to where we were before the record scratch. I was just asking, and I'm going to ask you both again to just reintroduce yourselves and one or two Foolish things about you. Kara, you're up first.
Kara Chambers: Sure. Well, as I said, I've been here 17 years now. I have the learning and development and rewards team. I focus on helping Fools grow into the best possible career they have, and I do a lot of work on data and engagement surveys. I guess one Foolish thing about me I was thinking about is I think I got a little of this from you, DG, but I love random pairings very much. As someone who is a little bit introverted, I love the idea that I don't have to introduce myself to people. There are three people at my table at lunch or someone I'd been paired with at random for coffee or Zoom has breakout sessions I would have to be dropped into, and that slightly forced so you don't have to go through that. So I love any kind of random pairing group of things. That's my Foolish thing I always add to my stuff.
David Gardner: Thank you, Kara. Thank you for doing that and making that happen. Yes, randomness and random pairings brings, sparks joy for both of us. Thank you for sharing that. Lee Burbage, how long have you been at the Fool? Twenty-four or so years next month?
Lee Burbage: Yes. I've been here 24 years. I've always worked in and around the people team and really just focused on I want people to love coming to work every day. I want them to be doing meaningful work for the company that they're really good at. I've just always focused on that trifecta of being good at something, loving what you're doing, and that creates value for the company. I was trying to think foolish. I think something that I've really enjoyed about working here all these years is the opportunity to have fun and then insert fun into things, and it's something I always try to do. I'm in the process now. We have our companywide meeting next week, and I'm building with Kara a flashcard memory game of Fools faces where you have to play the game of your youth and hopefully it teaches people a little bit about who all works here and reminds you some faces and some names. But it'll just be something fun. I always like to try to bring a little bit of fun to everything that we're doing.
David Gardner: Something that I really have appreciated about both of you is your open-mindedness and your willingness to scrap something that wasn't working or try something new, and we might get back to that with our top 10 all-time Company Culture Tips. We'll see, but I do want to say that a number of things we do habitually today at the Motley Fool, which still make us an odd company when lots of other people here, what we practice, those things were often because either or both of you decided, you know what, let's not make that compulsory. Every other company makes that compulsory. If we can't make it a compulsory, we need to make it fun, we need to make it compelling. That would be one example of the great open-mindedness that I hope you've felt agency and autonomy in your roles because you've created that for so many employees now over the years. Thank you both among many other things for that.
Lee Burbage: Well, I would just say one of our shared favorite parts of our job is that you and your brother, Tom, have so many amazing ideas and we really enjoy. Some of Kara and I's favorite days are when you've dropped a cool idea on us that maybe seems impossible and we're able to craft it in a way that it works.
David Gardner: Thank you. We've got 10 queued up and, of course, we have to do a count-up model. These aren't necessarily highly, highly forced rank, but we're going to go with that just to make it more compelling from a human narrative perspective. We're going to start with our 10th best tip ever and we're going to roll up to number 1 by the end of this week's podcast. Let's start it then. I think, Lee, I'm going to you first for top 10 all-time Company Culture Tip number 10.
Lee Burbage: Thanks, David. Yes. Actually, as I look through all of these, some of them seem maybe obvious, but they've been resilient, they've stuck with us through the years, and I think work well. Number 10, I call dreamy check-in. Dreamy check-in is just simply the act of asking people how they're doing, do they need anything, or anything else they'd like to be working on. A couple of things that are key there.
Just asking people how they're doing and if they need anything is so powerful and so meaning that people are like, wow, you care about me, you want to know, you want to help. What we found was every person in every job at every moment has something that they could use for help. Sometimes it's a small thing. I sure could use some more paper, or sometimes it's something big where I want a role change or I'm dreaming of working in a different part of the area. You just might not know if you don't ask. Taking the time to ask everybody at the company on some kind of regular basis, how are you doing, do you need anything, what can I do to help has been very powerful for us.
David Gardner: How many times a year do we do that? I'm putting myself, which I will be regularly throughout this week, in the seat of our listener who might be an entrepreneur, small business person. How often do you do this?
Lee Burbage: Well, it's a great question. When we first started this, it was just me and I went around and asked everybody that question.
David Gardner: How many employees did we have at that point?
Lee Burbage: Probably about 150 people at that time. It took a little while.
David Gardner: Did you take notes, or was this all from memory?
Lee Burbage: I did take notes in a ridiculously long Word document. We found, A, that doesn't scale one person doing it or using a really long Word document. So then we went to the human resources team. Then today we've expanded to we have about 60 coaches working across our company. They will do our check-ins for us and we partner with another company to have a tool that helps us manage those check-ins. To answer your question, we're checking in at least a couple of times a year and we have a couple of other formal places that we check in as well. But if I'm a company out there, I would recommend at least once a year asking those questions.
David Gardner: Can you give me a sense of some of the most popular responses that we get or requests? Can you buck it up? What's top five? Not necessarily all five, but what are a few that jump out to you as regular things that we hear?
Lee Burbage: On the very easy side, often you'll find people that are limited by the technology that they have, and usually their hardware is older or slower or they don't have the tools that they need. Those are so easy to fix to create great efficiencies. Again, on the other end of the spectrum is that people that are really thinking about a role change or something else, those are the ones that I love because traditionally in the world, people decide that they're getting ready to leave a job because they're looking for something else, and they just leave and the company never has a chance to respond.
David Gardner: All we ever had to do was ask.
Lee Burbage: Correct.
David Gardner: Before we go to number 9, the other thing that jumps out to me there, Lee, just your choice, diction matters. For a parent like me, and I think my fans have got to know this over the years, I really care about language, the words that we choose. Why dreamy?
Lee Burbage: Dreamy, I specifically chose that word because a lot of people do check-ins, but they tend to be very scrum-world-type check-ins. What did you do today? How are you doing on that goal? Really, daily task-oriented. I'm talking about stepping back and saying, "No, really, David, how are you doing? What do you need? What do you think in long term?" It's purposely up in that more dreamer world than it is the daily task orientation.
David Gardner: Outstanding. Onto Company Culture Tip all-time great number 9, Kara.
Kara Chambers: That is support systems are key. We talked about this in September 2020, and our big focus back then was the new world of work and what we were doing. But when I looked back, I realize this has been true for us all along and it's just very profound when people were spreading out. One of my favorite channels is called HDAH, hey does anyone have. That's the Slack channel.
David Gardner: Hey does anyone have dot, dot, dot.
Kara Chambers: There is a community of 600 people that will give you advice on who is going to tune your piano, or where to find a mortgage broker, or you're raising twin toddlers, or you live alone, and the dog channel is very active, Lee and I will tell you. It's whatever life situation you're in. Again, we really focused on. I remember during the pandemic, we had groups where people like raising children by themselves and then people were homeschooling and things like that. It's been true the whole time. I think we were just more deliberate about it this past year or in 2020 by necessity.
When I hear, sometimes you hear about companies supporting work-life balance, I like the word support. Whatever is going on in your life right now. It can be peer-to-peer support. It can be the company's supporting you with some creative benefits. We were just talking about one that we have is if you're moving, we will send you moving boxes. That's support. Just an extra thing we take off your plate. It's super nice. I think just thinking about in your company how you're supporting people at different stages in their life and different situations and as we've grown and gotten bigger, just the variety has been there, but I found people have found their tribes out here.
David Gardner: I'm thinking about how much support one can offer largely comes down often to the size of the company. But even apart from the size, the resources that a company wants to give, whatever its size is. With 600 employees, I can imagine we can't do as much as a company with 6,000 or 60,000 employees. But presumably, more than if we had 60 or six. But I guess part of it, Kara, it's almost not how much you do, it's how much you show that you care.
Kara Chambers: Absolutely. Again, its peers, but it's also the company, too. I would say in the bigger companies, you're getting that scale. There's going to be bigger populations.
David Gardner: What support do we wish we could offer that we can't yet because of our size? Because we're just not big enough yet, or maybe we're not grown up enough yet.
Lee Burbage: I think that one thing that we dream about, and maybe it's less about our size, but maybe you get this at scale when you're huge, is some really personal medical care. What we see in the United States at least is finding the right doctor for specifically what you're dealing with, having access to that person who really gets to know you the way that we get to know our employees. I think that we provide a really personal experience as a company, and we dream about that for our employees in the world of medicine, mental health, etc. So maybe we get that at scale. We'll see. Maybe that's just not available in the marketplace yet. I'm not sure, but it's definitely something that weighs on us.
David Gardner: Conscious Capitalism, one of the better presentations I've seen, and I go every year to the CEO Summit in Austin, Texas. I'm on the National Board. I love Conscious Capitalism. I think we all do. We try to practice it here at the Motley Fool. There was a wonderful presentation once talking about who are your stakeholders because that's an important decision you make. Who are our stakeholders? That person said this is next level thinking for me. I think we do this somewhat. I think we care about this. We haven't necessarily purposed it.
I don't know that we should, but I'm putting it out there for anybody else for whom your eyes might light up and you switch on. This person said an important stakeholder for us is actually the family of our employee. We name our customers. We name our partners and suppliers. We name our employees, but we also include the family of the employee. Now I know in some ways, we're providing some of that support, but I see you both nodding your heads. That really feels next level not just for us, but for most companies today, but I always love to know what the next level is.
Kara Chambers: That reminds me of a quote from an author we like called Gretchen Rubin. She says, "You're only as happy as the only happiest person in your house." The more you take care of someone's family, the more you're improving their quality of life. So that sounds right.
Lee Burbage: Now those family members are right there with you in your office because we're all working from home. My wife works about, gosh, 15 feet away from me and I will oftentimes lean over and say stuff to her, and she'll yell something back like, "Tell Kara not to take that," or whatever. They're part of our work lives in very real ways, now that many of us are working from home.
Kara Chambers: I call them my Fool-in-laws.
David Gardner: Let's move on to number 8. Company Culture Tips all-time great number 8 back to you, Lee, what is it?
Lee Burbage: I often say we are a project culture. Here I was talking about in August of 2019 side of desk projects. The way I normally describe this is we've noticed at the Motley Fool, it takes about six months to figure out your job. Whatever you've been hired for, after about six months, you kind of have got that going. You'll start working a little more efficiently, and then you'll create a little bandwidth for yourself. So we're very curious about what you choose to do with that bandwidth. We're very open as a company to getting involved in all sorts of things. Maybe you're an investor but you'd like to get on a podcast, or maybe you're working in human resources and you'd like to do a little bit of coding. So we highly encourage the journey through your career by using side of desk projects to experiment with things that you might be curious about that could actually end up being your next role.
David Gardner: How many times do we have butterflies turned into different color butterflies here at the Fool, especially for employees who have been with us for 5, 10, 15, 20, 25 years? Andy Cross, our Chief Investment Officer, do you remember what Andy was initially hired into or some of the roles that he's had? He's a good example.
Lee Burbage: He was doing ad operations. I think when I started, he was running the backend of our advertisers when we're in advertising base model at that time. I just couldn't remember being here on a Sunday late at night and Andy was always here.
David Gardner: Andy is not the only one.
Lee Burbage: We have a great recent story, someone that worked for Kara and I for many years, Christine Noonan, who managed our benefits. We were just talking about our medical benefits and incredible care we try to take there. Now she's a software developer at our company. She came forward and said, "Hey, this is interesting to me." She went to school on her own time. She got involved in some projects here, doing a little bit of coding, and now she's a full-time software developer. To go from benefits manager to software developer all at the same company, I think a lot of companies would have lost that person without paying attention to allow the kind of culture where you could test out other things, to leave the room to learn and encourage it. We get to retain an incredible human who does amazing work.
David Gardner: Yeah. I sure hope Christine is a good coder because she was awfully good at benefits. She is an award-winning employee for us, so she must be a really good coder, too.
Lee Burbage: Absolutely.
David Gardner: All-time great Company Culture Tip Number 7. Again, we're going from 10 up to 1. Kara, what's number 7?
Kara Chambers: This is one of my favorites, gratitude and thank yous. This was true back when we did this in 2015. It's still going strong, so that's why I picked it up for our list. But we have a program colloquially called Gold. It's been a couple of different companies we've used: YouEarnedIt, Kazoo, WorkTango. They've changed names a couple of times. We call it Gold and hilariously, they never have, but it's really about sharing gratitude. Every Fool gets a set number of points every month, and then you give out those points when someone does something great that you appreciate and you say thank you, and it's public so everyone can see it. That's the key. As everybody's watching what great things other people are doing, so they're learning.
Then you can cash those points in for gift cards or trips. I just did. You can cash the gold in for prizes. It's a little bit of everything. It's democratizing a bonus program. You're not leaving your bonuses in the hands of just your senior leaders to go out and people are giving them to their peers. It builds the habit of gratitude, which is good for your brain and good for your morale, and this came back from just us learning about how people. I always said this was part of our culture long before we had this program. It's just we opened it up and made it accessible. But still there are thousands of gold posts that go out every year at the Fool 24 hours a day to just fly out there, and you read them and they warm your heart. It's one of my favorites.
David Gardner: I was going to say you brought that to the company care because I thought that's what we said seven years ago on the podcast. But, Lee, this was your doing?
Lee Burbage: Just teamwork.
Kara Chambers: Teamwork.
David Gardner: Good. Well, speaking of teamwork, YouEarnedIt, which was the original name of the program, was started by Autumn Manning and Autumn Manning later took that company. She's sold it. It changed names a few times, as you mentioned. What is the present name of this program?
Kara Chambers: WorkTango.
David Gardner: WorkTango for those looking for. But now Autumn is on staff with Motley Fool Ventures, so we were invested in YouEarnedIt. She made us some money as an entrepreneur, and then we later hired her. Now she actively consults with Motley Fool Ventures, venture capital investments that we make. Lots of circularity going through this. Part of the fun of doing this series over seven years is we can see things play out. We can see stories like that. In fact, sometimes we've been wrong about some of our tips. Well, our heart was in it at the time, but maybe in retrospect, we look back and say that one we don't do anymore, and I thought it'd be fun, if you don't mind, park one or two in your minds. We'll do it at halftime of this show.
After number 6 coming up, I'm going to ask you each for one of the tips we've given through the series that we don't still use for whatever reasons. Anyway, lots of circularity and part of the fun of working together with people over long periods of time is that shared knowledge, that shared experience. Again, thinking Lee, Kara, 24 plus 17 equals 41 years of combined Foolishness, and that is such a powerful component really to obviously our culture, but also these series of podcasts, your knowledge and that you've been there, done that. Gratitude and thank yous, such an important part of our culture at the Fool. Maybe my favorite thing, too. I don't know why you made it number 7, Kara. What it implies is that it's about to really heat up here with more and more awesome. Lee, what is Company Culture Tip all-time great number 6?
Lee Burbage: Number 6, I call small surprises. This is something I talk about in a new manager class that I teach periodically as we grow. It's really about paying attention to the people that work for you and the little things that are happening in their lives that you can recognize, and it doesn't need to just be birthdays. It could be special anniversary. It could be knowing what chocolate they like to eat, that sort of thing. Normally, it's a very small expense in today's world, ships something to their house or have something at their desk, or even just acknowledge something that's going on in their life that really shows that you're paying attention, that you care and you understand who they are as a person. It's not just about the work.
I find this to be very powerful for team building and for leading teams. When you all show that, hey, we care about each other. It's little things like, I know that someone on my team loves the hundred grand bar. They're normally, mostly available around Halloween, and I try to get those and get them to her. Kara and I have worked together for a very long time, and she can just tell when I'm having a little bit or a rough time. All of a sudden, somewhere on my desk or in the mail will arrive a box of Mike and Ikes, which is my all-time favorite. It's the little things like that. When the Mike and Ikes show up on my desk, she doesn't say anything, she doesn't put a card and everything, and I'm like Kara is just saying like, "Hey, hang in there. It's going to be OK." That's a big deal.
David Gardner: Great examples. There are dozens and hundreds of them because they're small surprises. One thing I know that we do as a company, again, I'm putting myself in the seat of the entrepreneur listening to us right now. Do we have a way of storing that information? Do we purpose it? Is it all just manager driven, or would I as a fellow employee think about that? I will say that I've benefited from dropping a note into the team from time to time about this or that employee, and you'll know 3-5 things that that person likes. I don't think that came about through osmosis. I think it came about through some intention or process. Could you pull back the curtain a little bit and explain how we manage that information or do it?
Lee Burbage: Well, it's a little bit of everything. Part of it comes from just Kara and I working here a really long time. But it's also about paying attention and tracking and everything from you could just use a Google Sheet to we use some of our HRIS systems. So there's places in there where people can self-identify the things that they like. You mentioned people's families. That's also very important. I tell a story in that class about the day that Tom Gardner, my boss, acknowledged my wife's birthday and work anniversary when no one at her office did.
Imagine the loyalty I feel in that moment when something like that happens. Then imagine six months later, something really big and difficult is going on at work and he needs to call on me or ask something of me. We've really built up some loyalty in that scenario. There's all kinds of ways to track it, and I don't think you have to be too bananas about it. But just noticing those little things and celebrate them, yeah, it means a lot. I don't know, Kara. You handle all of our people analytics and data. Are there hidden boxes that I'm not aware of or riding this information?
Kara Chambers: No, I would just say I realize right now that it's almost an implicit expectation on everyone on the people team to build those relationships. I think of Lee and I did know that person and we would be able to go into our channel and say, does anyone work closely with us and be like, "Oh my gosh, yes, she loves cats," or something like that. We would know, and I think we hired three or four people on our team, maybe more during the pandemic, and I think we were very explicit and when we recruited them, they would be the type of people that wanted to build those relationships regardless of their job. I think that I just realized now that the an implicit expectation for everyone on our team is to build those relationships.
David Gardner: I'm going to make a request of you both, though, because it occurs to me that we won't live forever, that the three of us won't always be at the moment.
Lee Burbage: I'm definitely going to die first with the three of us.
David Gardner: Anyway, we're hoping that we're building something that outlives us. One of the better speeches I've ever seen given by a business person was Danny Meyer speaking at a conference, and Danny said, he's the great restaurateur of Union Square Hospitality Group, his New York City-based restaurant group. He's written a great book called Setting the Table that many of our listeners will be familiar with, and if you aren't, go ahead and read it and understand what true hospitality is. Anyway, Danny said as a younger man, as he built out his company, he had a great intuitive, implicit sense of how to make a great restaurant. Indeed, his first restaurant was very highly rated. But then he needed to expand, he wanted to expand. So he had a second restaurant and a third, and because he was only just him, he couldn't be at all three restaurants. So the talk and the framework he gave is about turning your intuition into intention.
He began to realize he needed to train in certain things he took for granted so that the team, when he wasn't on-site because he can only be on-site at one place, when the team would still be awesome when he wasn't around. That's the way Union Square Hospitality Group in a sense scaled because intuition turned to intention. I'm simply going to ask back both of you to make sure, if you haven't already baked it into a process, of small surprise identification, and capture that information, and holding into the database, and having some people accountable for it. If we're not already doing that, and I think we probably are, so I'm grandstanding a little bit here, but I would ask both of you to make sure that we do because one day we won't all be at the Motley Fool, but I sure do want the Motley Fool to be doing that just as great as you both are doing it every day here in 2022.
Lee Burbage: Thank you. Again, not to harp on this too much, but I do think it's something that we learned from both you and Tom. Very early on I would observe you paying for a bill, recognizing something small for someone. I think you both famously know every person's name that worked at the company and we hear that all the time. We just heard it recently. Someone that works in our team who is in the office says, "I can't believe David Gardner knows my name." That seems maybe so simple, but little things like that are so powerful.
David Gardner: My brother Tom Gardner is the most generous person I know. Thank you, Lee. Well, we've reached halftime and just a few minutes ago, I asked you each to provide at least one of the past 90 tips, again, nine podcasts, 10 culture tips each over these last seven years. Surely, at least one or two of those ended up not working for us or we've discarded it. I'm sure listeners know we're just as vulnerable and, well, Foolish as anybody else. So we learn as we go. I think it'd be fun to highlight a couple of those. So thank you both for doing that. This is halftime of the show, of course, because we've done five, there are five more to come. We couldn't hire Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson. But we do have this brief musical interlude letting our listeners know it's halftime.
David Gardner: Lee, you're raising your hand to volunteer. You go first.
Lee Burbage: Well, I'm thinking back to May of 2016, and the tip was how we do as little as possible. The concept there was to keep things simple. Kara and I like to look for places where things are overengineered and people aren't having as much fun, and how do we make things simple.
David Gardner: Love it.
Lee Burbage: One place that I've always helped to manage are reception area. There can be some tedious parts to being a receptionist, so we've wanted to raise up that job and allow those people to do other more impactful things at the company. We got this idea from one of our partners that we could have a virtual receptionist.
David Gardner: Yes, I remember this.
Lee Burbage: It was just an iPad, and so you'd walk into the lobby. It was actually a large iPad, as I recall. You'd walk into the lobby, and the idea was there's like Max Headroom sort of person there that's like, "Hey, welcome to the lobby and let me help you." But what was actually happening was you're interfacing with someone who is often Des Moines or somewhere, and they're doing something else in their living room and they happened upon you. It was very awkward interaction that just did not work very well. In our minds, we were really solving a problem. We were giving someone here who's in a role to do bigger and better things and outsourcing it to a contractor who was happy to do it from home. But in reality, it was super awkward.
David Gardner: It was really eerie. You'd walk in and a place of reception I think is supposed to be a warm welcoming place. There was a screen, and while you say Max Headroom, Lee, that was a AI generated. That was all, Max was never a person, but we had a real person.
Lee Burbage: It was a real human and they're living there.
David Gardner: I think it was, I'm not even sure, like it was a big iPad. It was a big screen. I'm of course embellishing. But I'm picturing like a 50-inch HDTV. It wasn't quite that, but it was like a big face there.
Lee Burbage: I don't think Danny Meyer would've been too happy with the reception that we had created.
David Gardner: That was from May 2016. That was our second, which was Volume 2 of this series. I think that one lasted, Lee. How long did that experiment last?
Lee Burbage: It was about a week before there was a revolt and they were like, "Can we have humans back in the office and paying attention?"
David Gardner: I'm looking across the glass. Rick Engdahl, do you remember our virtual receptionist? I thought that she lasted more like a month, or it's just a week?
Rick Engdahl: I don't think anybody can not remember the virtual receptionist. The weird thing for me is that, because our lobby was also like a corridor. You'd go to conference rooms or go to the elevators, and you'd be walking through the lobby, not necessarily trying to interact. You'd be walking past the desk, and suddenly someone would shout out like, "Hello, can I help you?" I was like, "No, I'm just walking."
David Gardner: Don't bother me, and what are you?
Rick Engdahl: I don't think any of our human receptionist ever did that. It went way over or something.
David Gardner: Kara, for me anyway, that one's going to be hard to top.
Kara Chambers: It is.
David Gardner: But looking back over the 90, what do you see that you wouldn't necessarily advocate for strongly now in 2022?
Kara Chambers: I would say in our culture, and it's a similar theme of the robots. I've mentioned Donut more than once. Donut is a Slack app, as I said at the beginning, that randomly pairs you with a person to have coffee.
David Gardner: Yeah.
Kara Chambers: I love it. I love the concept. There was one called pint time where you could go and have a happy hour with four random Fools. In theory, that sounds amazing. In practice, to get four random Fools, especially now to get together in-person, is impossible. But what we found was there are some of us that still use it. By the way, we love Donut as a Slack app. It is fun. It does a lot of our onboarding, too. But it never fully took off because people did not like being told what to do by a robot. It says, "Hey, Lee, your scheduled to have coffee with Rick," and Lee would be like, "Ignore, ignore," and everyone would do that. Then they would message me like, "How do I turn off that Donut? It's yelling at me. It tells me I need to be friends with Rick," and they would just get really frustrated and turn it off.
Again, I think this is a great tool and a lot of companies use it. I love the randomness, but I think in our culture, we have spent a lot of intentionality around building those interpersonal connections in other ways that it never took off the way I hoped it would. In fact, I can remember, I think earlier this year someone from our team did like, we've paired you for coffee. Everybody is going to meet for coffee at four o'clock on Thursday and were like, "That was so great. I met with my four people," because someone intentionally wrote a spreadsheet and they found these groups of people. Someone took the care and they reached out personally and got us to join. Everybody is like, "That was so much fun, why don't we do that more often?" This Donut robot has been doing it for years. No, people do not want to be told. It's like there's just so far that a nudge will take you. I've noticed that in a couple of areas in our team you need a person in some cases to get you to do a thing.
David Gardner: Well, I will say as a frequent Donut participant, I really did find it fun and I enjoy it, but I also have to admit I haven't done it for some years now.
Lee Burbage: It sort of yells at you sometimes. "David, have you not met with Kara?" I'm like, "Oh my gosh, Donut is watching me."
David Gardner: We needed to confirm with the thumb up or thumb down that we had it, it felt compulsory and it felt like there was a deadline.
Kara Chambers: Did you try? Anyway.
David Gardner: Well, you're not throwing any shade Donuts. I love random pairing.
Kara Chambers: I love it, too. I think just it didn't automate the way that I had hoped it would. I think Lee you talked about this one, it's like the human plus the robot is what we need. So a full robot telling you how to make friends. Again, still think we should use it, still think other companies should use it. But it only went so far for us.
David Gardner: I hear the ambivalence. That one was from August of 2017. That was Great Company Culture Volume 3. There are a couple of things that haven't stood the test of time in Motley Fool culture. Let's now bid adieu to our halftime entertainment and get closer to the mountain top. Friends, we are now at our top five all-time great Company Culture Tips. For Number 5, Kara, we turn to you.
Kara Chambers: This came up twice, in August 2019 and originally in December 2015, it was about trust. I heard myself in 2015, my early career was in recruiting at the Fool. I talked a lot about hiring great people, and then setting them free. You never want to have this adversarial relationship with the people that work for you. You want people that you love and give lots of freedom to. I can remember my early days of recruiting, anytime someone said I think they're going to get bored in this job, I would say no. People never get bored.
They will find new things to do, as Lee said. New projects, things like that. I think the trust of hiring smart people that you want to partner with, people generally, in all my years of coaching, they generally want to do great work. They just want to be trusted. It is about that, no matter what, with our no vacation policy, no set schedule, no dress code, I haven't even thought about dress code. I think setting your own priorities and just working toward those, I think that's where we really learned to say it's really at the theme, and it came up more than once in different ways. So I felt like this made it to the top five.
David Gardner: Wear what you want, work when you want, choose your own priorities. I think a lot of people hear that and it sounds great. But in practice, they wonder, could I actually implement that at my company? I know we've never counted vacation days. We've certainly made a lot of that over the years. We've been written up as the company. Sometimes we're in a headline, the company with unlimited vacation policy. Everybody can be on vacation all the time if they wish. In practice, of course, that doesn't happen, Kara. A big part of trust is knowing what you're trusting. When you do hire great people, you can trust them to be great. Not to take unlimited permanent vacation from their job, which, by the way, wouldn't really work that well since their teammates would be expressing that and we'd find out that there's a performance problem pretty quickly, but trust?
Kara Chambers: Yes. Again, it came from our recruiting days of hiring people that wanted to do great work. I will add a tip. There's a book that recently has described this really well to us, it's called Impact Players by Liz Wiseman. Come the closest to really describing what that type of person is. I say it's applicable anywhere. It was like reinforcing all the things we do about the types of behaviors you see in people. We looked for that before we even could describe it when we were recruiting, and we still do, people you can trust.
Lee Burbage: We've done a number of calls through the years with other companies who are trying to adopt this approach. It's hard because their question normally is, well, what should the policy look like when we write it for how to trust people? What we're trying to tell you is, no, you just trust them. You just have to jump in and go for it. That can be scary for a lot of companies. But we love when we get the calls back that are like, "I did it. I get everybody convinced and we just went for it and we tore up some of our things, and now we just hire great people, and trust them to do great work, give them some goals to go after." It's pretty special when you can get it rocking and rolling.
David Gardner: Do you find this has been particularly important in an era now where we're not actually seeing people every day at work or not? We never looked over anyone's shoulder, but at least we knew if they were there, and if they're smiling, or if they're sad at their desk. We don't see people nearly as much in 2022 even post-pandemic, as we once did at the Fool. Is trust more important?
Lee Burbage: That was a big deal back when we were all coming into the office. You would get managers who would say, well, they don't come in. So I don't know if they're really working. People would question each other if they weren't coming into the office. Now you realize, no, it's actually, it's fine. People are still out there getting their work done. I don't need to see them every day. I think that was just more tradition than an actual metrics-based policy.
David Gardner: Kara, Liz Wiseman, spelled as we would think with an A. I love that, among Fools, we're quoting a Wiseman.
Kara Chambers: Nice.
David Gardner: Impact Players, I haven't read it. It sounds good.
Lee Burbage: It's an amazing book.
David Gardner: On the Company Culture Tip all-time great number 4, Lee.
Lee Burbage: This one dovetails nicely with number 5, and I hope that's allowed because I was particularly excited about how this one aged. Back when we presented it in August of 2017, it was pretty early in agile and scrum taking over the world. We have a Fool here, Brian Ty and Chadwell Schirmer, who brought to us the idea that desks should be on wheels. It was revolutionary at the time that within our office, you could just get up and move your desk whenever you wanted and wherever you wanted. So if you're working on a different team or a different project, or you needed to have quiet or you wanted to be in the loud space, you literally just roll your desk wherever you wanted, and that was a big deal in our culture. I love this.
Mobility is what I call that till back then, and today, how does that represent itself? We at the Motley Fool are open in 17 different states in the United States, and Fools can go work from any one of those states that they want to. It's a big deal for us now. We're seeing a lot of people moving closer to their families or closer to a support network that, Kara mentioned earlier, the importance of support networks, or maybe a cheaper cost of living, or a place where they can be more efficient. It's opened up avenues for us to find new pockets of talent that we don't have to just search here in our immediate office areas. Anyway, we are fully in the camp of embracing mobility, letting people work from wherever they are going to feel like they're going to be most effective, and it's a big deal for us. Again, back in the day, it was drag your desk around. Today, it is, hey, pack up your whole house and move to North Carolina.
David Gardner: Yeah. It started with wheels on chairs and wheels on desks. Lee, you mentioned 17 states. What state do you wish we were open in or do some of our employees wish we were open in that we're not yet open into work for full-time for the Motley Fool?
Lee Burbage: Oh, that's a good question. We're we're pretty continuous now on the East Coast. We have California, we have Texas. I'm trying to think who else is on the list.
David Gardner: Illinois?
Kara Chambers: I love Illinois.
David Gardner: That's a big populist state with Chicago.
Lee Burbage: Yeah, I think people tend to move to the more warmer areas of the country.
David Gardner: So we tend to be open in warmer states?
Lee Burbage: Yes, I think that's where people are. Maybe Georgia.
David Gardner: Minnesota, you can't work for the Fool from Minnesota right now?
Lee Burbage: No, you cannot right now. I think Georgia is probably on that list. Some people would probably like to get down to Georgia. Alabama. Our beloved CFO is from Alabama as a few other Fools, and I think they would love for us to open that state at some point.
David Gardner: I think implicit in this conversation is the notion that this is working, that this will work. I know so many people right now are wondering the future of work. There are conferences dedicated to this. We are but one example, we're sample size of one as a company. I really only know our company to how we're doing, what we're doing. It feels like it's working well enough right now. As a business, we're not having a great year, but we've already talked about that. All of our listeners know that.
The stock market is down. I was checking it just before today's podcast. The S&P 500 is down 20 percent this year. One-fifth of its value gone in less than one year, year-to-date. The Nasdaq has lost 1/3 of its value. Friends, in some of these past podcasts we've done together, Lee and Kara, we might have had an ABR mentality, always be recruiting. I still think we're ABR, but we don't necessarily have a lot of open positions right now. But for this company of 600 people now living in 17 states, how well do you think it's working? Are we going to keep going this direction? Is it going to be 27 states and 37 states, or will there be some recohering? For example, I'm enjoying doing this podcast with you guys in the studio in our old offices once again.
Lee Burbage: Those are a lot of big questions there.
David Gardner: Yeah. I just stuck it in here on number 4 and don't go along because otherwise it'll be too long of a podcast. We've actually had some conversations along these lines for some of our past Company Culture Tips. But since you're here with me and we're taking the temperature here short of Thanksgiving in 2022, I thought why not.
Lee Burbage: I can give the high-level answer. I'm sure Kara has some statistics to back it up. I would say in terms of getting your work done, efficiency, productivity, we're doing well. I think the technology is a huge part of that. So things like just Google Docs that are shareable, and using Zoom, and Trello, and Jira. So having all the right technology has I think helped a lot. We have long tenure here, so we have a lot of people that knew each other going into it, but then we have hired a lot of new people. I think where our challenges lie ahead are really staying connected.
I don't know of any company really that has uncovered the way that connectivity is going to work in this new world of work. We've all done the cooking classes and things on Zoom and I see companies doing their best, and I think we are, too. But there's some next level that I'm excited about that I think we haven't unlocked yet that probably has to do with smaller groups of people geographically located getting together and breaking bread in some sorts of ways. But I think that's still a big opportunity for us. I was just looking back in December of 2019, one of my tips number 6 was play games in the office. That just doesn't work anymore exactly the same way.
David Gardner: Although I will say that this month we're playing a companywide Codenames tournament using a combination of codenames.game, which is the website where you can actually play that wonderful, accessible, family oriented word game, Codenames, that I've talked about on this podcast in the past. It's a great interface online and you pair it with Zoom, you can play a good game of codenames with people from anywhere. We have a couple of hundred Fools playing Codenames this month. Lee, we're still playing games, but I hear you. I hear you.
Lee Burbage: There's an opportunity there, I think. Hey, by the way, everyone in my network is getting, is it called So Clover?
David Gardner: So Clover is an outstanding board game that came out this year.
Lee Burbage: You introduced that to me and I loved it. So all my friends and family are getting on to them nowadays.
David Gardner: So glad to hear it. You might be previewing next month's games, games, games once a year episode that I do in this podcast where I talk about the best games to put under someone's tree this year. Glad to hear that. Kara, before we go on to our top three to close, any further thoughts?
Kara Chambers: The only thing I'd add is I think it's something all companies are still learning, especially a company that went from such an office-centric culture is that asynchronous work. I think we are still in the wall-to-wall meetings type of culture and helping us think about who's in different time zones, who's working. I think it's taken a little longer for us to break those habits. That's normal. I think a company that going remote, you want to think about asynchronous work a little bit more. To me, I think that's probably our next challenge ahead to think about that zone.
David Gardner: Awesome. A drum roll, please, Rick Engdahl. Here we go, our top three all-time great Company Culture Tips. It's going to be Kara, then Lee, then Kara. Team, let's go. Kara, number 3.
Kara Chambers: Number 3 is find your own metrics. I think this is a thread that has gone through when we talk about trust and how we measure work. This is our metric as we measure by engagement surveys. But I think having metrics gives you a lot of freedom in general. But when you ask things like, is this working? We put that in our engagement survey and we check, and then we track. We use a tool called Culture Amp, which we've probably talked about a number of times here.
David Gardner: Culture Amp?
Kara Chambers: Culture Amp. They really do a great job of, let's say, you are on the West Coast in that example I just gave and you are feeling less connected because people aren't working in your same time zone or you have to get up at the crack of dawn to go to all your meetings. We would start seeing that in our survey and it would be something we address. I'm making that up. But that would be an example of just a chance for people to, what we talked about, uncovering what's happening. I divided it into three categories. One is before and after. People say they need more feedback, we might start a new feedback program and then measure it to see if it worked. There's also just pinpointing what populations are struggling with a certain thing. That really helps us. So they are able to help us cut demographically in different ways.
Then finally, really, we've been talking about this recently, but sometimes we uncover big questions in that survey and it just gets people to start talking, and it gets people to open up and talking about how to have healthy disagreements or how to give feedback or anything like that. Our surveys are taken seriously. They're read by everybody in our senior leadership team and we use that as a metric, but it also is a moment for us to pause and say, are these tips working? If I'm looking at these tips, you can tell the ones that have worked for us are the ones that we've measured and proven over time. Sometimes they work for lots of people and sometimes they work for certain populations and not others and every time. It's just good feedback loop for us. So measure. Again, if you are in a company that does engagement surveys or doesn't do engagement surveys and you are in a position where you can run one, absolutely do that.
David Gardner: We do it twice a year.
Kara Chambers: Twice a year.
David Gardner: Kara, I know what it is because I've taken many times. Roughly, how many questions do we ask typically on our twice-a-year engagement survey?
Kara Chambers: I want to say it's about 40. Because they're agree-disagree questions, you can crank through them pretty fast. I learned it's five a minute. That's a tip I learned. Then maybe one or two open-ended just to get people talking about what's on their mind. Again, it helps our team uncover what's happening there.
David Gardner: Roughly, how many of those 40 questions from one six-month period to the next repeat? Then how many are new?
Kara Chambers: I'm going to guess half over time. Because sometimes we'll ask a question and then we'll read the answers and be like, "I don't think people understood that or I don't even know what we're going to do with these." So I have a meeting at least in every other week and say, what are we really going to ask? What do we really want to know? How are we going to respond? I would say it's about 50-50. Sometimes we make up our own, sometimes we find some that are industry best practices that we can benchmark off of. We have our own recipe every time.
David Gardner: Love it. What percentage roughly of our employees fill out our twice a year engagement surveys?
Kara Chambers: It's usually in the mid-80s, like 85 percent.
David Gardner: That is awesome. I'm not going to steal from Lee's next point. I bend here. We don't make it compulsory, but I think we've had such high engagement with that survey, Lee and Kara, because as you just said, the leadership team at our company reads not just the results, but often my brother Tom talks about reading every single comment because people can make comments. Six hundred people can make comments up and down. There are 40 questions. Those comments are read and the results are acted upon. You both, Tom, and our team make a huge point in the following six months of saying here's what we heard from you, these are the areas we're focusing on for improvement, and then you retest later. Talk about trust, this was all-time great Company Culture Tip number 5 just a little while ago, when you have trust in place, people will engage and the whole flywheel dynamic starts setting in. The better you get, the better you'd better get. I think we do get better by maintaining the trust that leads to engagement. Company Culture Tip all-time great number 2, Lee.
Lee Burbage: Well, you've alluded to it. It's something that I find myself saying a lot and it is compelling, not mandatory. This really comes from me growing up in the world of human resources and in my early days not enjoying being the HR police. It's no fun to run around and make people do stuff.
David Gardner: Adults?
Lee Burbage: Yes. Things like filling out performance reviews, attending training, reading company communication, or even attending happy hours and things like that. I try to really think about for myself and talk about with our team. If people aren't showing up or they're not doing the thing that you're asking them to do, instead of getting angry with those folks and trying to make them do things, go back and redesign what you're doing such that they're going to want to do it, and then you'll know you have a really great program.
Things like the engagement survey that Kara runs, we have high participation because there's a lot of care that goes into that to make it amazing and to make it powerful and that we do follow up. If you find yourself out there in the world trying to make people do things, what I like to say is those are sometimes the easiest things to stop doing and the things that you'll get the most accolades for because people are stoked and they're like, "You mean I don't have to do that thing that I can't stand doing anymore?"
David Gardner: The wicked witch is dead.
Lee Burbage: Yes. Instead we're going to do something fun and enjoyable. Performance appraisals, I think we were a very early company to stop doing those because we saw that people just don't like doing them and they weren't very effective, and we've invented other ways that we've talked about in this podcast before. Make things compelling and it's a lot more fun for everybody.
David Gardner: This is just a classic Lee Burbage tip, so I'm glad that you parked it here for your top number 2 in this case just because we're alternating. But, Lee, that's your top tip. I'm not saying you should put something like this on your gravestone, but I think you have truly embodied this and championed this at our company. For years, I've seen you give at least one TEDx talk speaking to this in part. Lee, have you written a book about this or an article? This is your point, I think you own this one.
Lee Burbage: This could be one of those things where maybe I did read this somewhere or someone else, I don't know, but it's something that I love and is meaningful to me. The first time I think I saw it in action in my career was I worked for Bank of America in my early days and I was supporting the bank system. I used to go into the bank and meet with a teller, for instance, and we had huge turnover and a lot of things that I dealt with were people that were showing up late, or not showing up at all, or quitting. It was a real problem. When I investigated, what I found was the job was horrible. So we were spending all of our time trying to force people to get to work on time with policies, and threats, and firings and all of these things, trying to get people to force them to do something that just wasn't fun. So what I wanted to do instead was, why don't we look at the job itself and see if we can make it more interesting? The reason people are coming in late is because they don't want to be there. Let's make it so they do.
David Gardner: The grand finale. This better be the best of all, Kara, because we've positioned it in the poll position number 1. Kara Chambers, Lee Burbage, thank you both so much for a special week. You can only do best of if you have some pretty good stuff, and you can only do best of if you've done some pretty good stuff for a long period of time and here we are, our 10th Company Culture Tip podcast The Best Of. Speaking of best of, what is the single greatest all-time Company Culture Tip that has issued from our series, Kara? No pressure, I'm not hyping this at all.
Kara Chambers: I'm 100 percent confident in this, it is caring matters. When I look back and you can hear it in what we talked about today is showing that you care matters more than anything. If you do nothing else, then you take nothing else away. In our engagement survey, we ask, does someone at work care about you as a person, your manager, somebody? About 95 percent of Fools say yes. I think it's just important to build a community. That is when we've grown to 600 people, it's when we've hired 200 people remotely in a global pandemic. I think that's been true the entire time, all seven years that we've been doing this podcasts, all 17 years I've been working here.
Probably, I'm assuming the history of the Fool. I think for us, it's just come all the way through. We were putting this together last night as usual, and I was looking in our benefits channel and there was a Fool saying, "I'm trying to get into the Doctor On Demand, my is toddler sick." It's 8:30 at night and moments later, another Fool who didn't know her said, "I know how it is. Here's the app, here's the password, here's how to get in." They didn't know each other. They just had the common experience of a sick toddler and they helped each other without any of us being involved at all because those were the types of people we hired. Then later HR stepped in, helped her get on there or something. Again, just seeing that example almost pretty much every day here is really how it works. We talk about community, the people that look out for you. Once you join the Fool, your part of our community and that's how we would close it.
Lee Burbage: What's great about Kara's story is, when she and I saw each other today, it's the first thing we talked about, the thing we're most proud about, that 8:37 at night, East Coast standard time, someone out in our Fool community was struggling and other Fools were jumping in to help them. No one asked them to do it, that's just who we are. I think that culture of caring is palpable. You know it exists, you see it everywhere. Kara and I just beam with pride as we see it exhibited every day across Fooldom.
David Gardner: One thing I'm conscious of, I'm never wanting us, and I hope we haven't done this in this amazing 10-part series now, I hope we haven't been bragging. I hope we haven't been saying we're so great and look what we're doing. I hope we've also never been saying this can only be done by us. In fact, the whole point of this series and all of the contributions Kara and Lee that you've made to this series are freely sharing what we're trying, what we think works, no strings attached. Some of the things that we've shared will be highly relevant and eye-opening and some of the others, depending on who you are, might not even apply. But I really appreciate that you took the time to say that, Kara, that the care is clear and care is not something that we have a monopoly on or that we're even the best at. Care is something that every one of us hearing us right now is capable of at an individual level to start with, but then certainly at a family or community level, certainly at a corporate level, and maybe especially that last part, at a corporate level, seems surprising to some.
I guess I shouldn't even say corporate, I should just say business or professional because we're not just talking about corporations here. You might work for the government, you might work for an NGO. Everyone can care, every workplace can be more caring, and boy if it doesn't count for so much. Thank you for that, Kara. I always put in mind the great Maya Angelou quote, I'm sure I've rocked this on the podcast before, I'm sure many of us are familiar, but if you haven't heard this one, "I've learned that people will forget what you said," Maya Angelou, the poet, said. "Forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." Kara and Lee, you've made me feel like a pro because I get to, in some ways, share in this or sound like I deserve credit as a co-founder of this. I know Tom and I feel the same way.
You both have brought your own unique vision, your professionalism, your love of the tradition of HR, your belief that we can do it better, that we're never going to get there, you can always top it. In fact, I'd be the first to say, dear listener, if there's anything we shared with you this week in our Best Of that you think you can top or that puts you in mind of something new, [email protected] is our email address and we do have a mailbag at the end of every month. I'd love to hear reactions, challenges, or better ideas shared out from our listenership. Kara, Lee, thank you very much. This has been spectacular. This was the besties, pre-besties. I'm going to do a besties later this year of our best podcasts. I'm going to forewarn you, this will be in our besties this week that we spent together in part because I think it's so relevant to so many people listening because we're all working somewhere, most of us. Even if you're retired, you're working somewhere and we're trying to make it better. Kara, Lee, thank you.
Lee Burbage: Thanks for having us.
Kara Chambers: Thank you.