How a “Foolish” Culture Became a Recruiting Powerhouse for This Finance Company

September 4, 2018

You’ve probably heard all about the cool cultures at tech companies Twitter and Google—from summer picnics and rooftop gardens to indoor rock-climbing walls and beer on tap. But a fun company culture isn’t exclusive to tech.

One company proving this is The Motley Fool, a financial services firm intent on breaking free from the buttoned-up image of its industry. The company’s creative culture is complete with life-size Mario Kart races, marshmallow diorama contests, and more.

“Finance can sometimes be this scary thing to people,” says Cheryl Palting, the recruiting team’s self-proclaimed “Director of First Impressions” (Fools choose their own job titles). “We were founded as a company that speaks truth to Wall Street.”

Here’s how The Motley Fool smashed the standards of its industry to build a fun and unique culture—and some tips to help you do the same.

Owning onboarding: “Foolientation” immerses new hires in the fun culture from day one

The Motley Fool makes culture a priority from the moment a new hire joins the team. Highlights of a new recruit’s first day (aka “Foolientation”) include finding their desk decorated with their favorite things and pushing the “New Fool Cart” around the office.

It’s an easy way to help new Fools get the lay of the land and make new friends—considering the cart is loaded with beer and food. Few new Fools can resist snapping a picture and sharing it.

New hires are also pre-onboarded using Slack, helping to familiarize them with the company’s systems and giving them a chance to start chatting with the team. This is super practical, but the recruiting and HR teams still found a way to make it fun.

“We started creating ‘new Fool’ gifs,” Cheryl laughs. “They create one on their first day, doing whatever they want. We post the gif of them showing off their personality in Slack and introduce them to the whole company.”

If you’d like to take a leaf from The Motley Fool’s playbook, Giphy is free and easy to use—and a lot of fun.

Fun inside the office and out: Fools enjoy a colorful, board-game stocked office and an unlimited vacation policy

Rather than taking cues from other businesses in the financial industry, The Motley Fool’s offices are designed around its unique, fun-loving culture. Far from stuffy cubicles and muted color schemes, the workspaces are brightly decorated, filled with comfy couches for working on, and well stocked with board games.

Elsewhere in the company’s Virginia-based headquarters, employees can unwind with ping pong, foosball, and an enviable wellness program.

The interior design also has a practical purpose. The laid-back atmosphere, public treadmill workstations, and rolling desks encourage collaboration and allow employees to work wherever they feel they’ll be most productive.

But The Motley Fool doesn’t just encourage fun within its walls. Knowing from the very beginning that they wanted to build an inspirational culture, co-founders Tom and David Gardner launched an unlimited vacation policy way back in 1993—the year the company was founded.

“We were probably the first company to do [it],” Kara Chambers, VP of People Insights at The Motley Fool, says. “Thematically for us, this is about never having your leadership have an adversarial relationship with employees.”

The collaborative workspaces and unlimited vacation policy have helped create an environment of trust and belonging, allowing The Motley Fool to align its culture with its core values, such as honesty. This is something any company can do, regardless of budget. When employees live your values, their work feels more meaningful to them.

Finding your tribe: The Motley Fool’s culture is a great recruiting tool, while also helping candidates to self-select

The Motley Fool is very open about its culture to show candidates that a job in financial services can be just as exciting as a Silicon Valley gig. This isn’t just useful for attracting top talent. It also allows candidates who wouldn’t be a good fit to self-select out.

“This type of environment isn’t for everyone,” Cheryl admits. “As much as we want people here, we want to make sure that they’re set up for success. We’re always happy to be super upfront about how we are here at the Fool—in applications, in our job descriptions, in phone interviews.”

Unlike most financial companies, The Motley Fool doesn’t have strict deadline policies, a formal hierarchy, or a dress code (except the no plaid with polka-dots rule). For some candidates comfortable with the industry’s traditions, the weird and wonderful culture just isn’t compatible. But for others, it’s a breath of fresh air—and Cheryl says that has helped them stand out from their competitors.

“It’s definitely eye-opening for a lot of candidates,” she says. “And I think a lot of companies can do this. Just because you work in a Wall Street type industry doesn’t mean you can’t have fun.”

The creative culture even helps the recruiting team attract candidates who hadn’t considered working in finance before. The company is eager to help newbies learn to love the industry and work.

“We’re really lucky in that, because we have such a great culture, a lot of people know of us in that way,” says Cheryl. “[The founders] wanted people to feel comfortable saying ‘I don’t know everything about stocks, and I want to learn.’ It takes a lot of hard work, but we’re going to be there every step of the way.”

While embracing a fun and quirky culture can certainly catch candidates’ eyes, it’s important that all your messaging is aligned.

“The worst thing we could do is promise this type of environment to someone and it’s nothing like what we talked about,” Cheryl says. “They’re gonna leave, it would have been a waste of time for them, and that’s not a good thing for either party. Being totally honest about what to expect helps in the long run.”

Spreading the word: the recruiting and editorial teams create an authentic window into the company’s culture on social media

While the recruiting team knows that working at The Motley Fool is not for everyone, it’s excited to share Fool culture with the world. Beyond the monthly Foolosophy Tours, where anyone is invited to peek inside the offices, the team regularly posts fun insights into what the Fools are up to across all its social media channels. It also maintains a Culture blog to share more about the company’s values, culture, and events—highlighting that any company can have a fun culture if it puts the work in.

Telling a compelling story about your company and culture over social media, blogs, and more is something you can do right away. But for The Motley Fool, this type of content is only half the story.

“The best type of social media for us in recruiting is our employees doing it organically,” says Kara. “We try to create really creative experiences—we call it ‘Facetweet-worthy.’”

Regular Facetweet-worthy events include employee work anniversaries (aka “Fooliversaries”), where the Fool in question is greeted with a large balloon, personalized card, and more. This not only helps create a sense of belonging, but encourages employees to become talent brand ambassadors, since many are inspired to share their experience.

Cheryl emphasizes that at The Motley Fool, the employee experience comes first, while “putting it on social media is secondary.” The company creates these experiences because it authentically values its staff, and in turn, employees are moved to share these moments organically—making them all the more powerful to onlookers.

The bottom line: The Motley Fool’s approach to culture has helped with recruiting and retention across all their demographics

While some might view The Motley Fool’s fun-loving culture as being geared toward millennials, the recruiting team realized long ago that it could actually be a selling point for candidates across all demographics. After all, everyone loves Pizza Friday and Cake Day. And after all those tasty treats, the yoga classes and marathon training definitely come in handy.

“We pay attention to creating a great culture for everybody,” says Kara. “For example, we realized that we’ve got a lot of working parents here. And our surveys show us they’re among our happiest employees, because we’ve got such great benefits here.”

It’s true that benefits like health coverage are one of the key factors that keep employees from looking, but with so much effort put into creating a fun and nurturing environment on top of stellar benefits, it’s unsurprising that The Motley Fool has great retention.

“Our retention is very strong and the turnover is low,” Kara says. “We take steps to make sure people are happy here—whenever we see a pain point, we work to address it and keep it fresh.”

You too can have a culture worth blogging (or Facetweeting) about—and one that makes recruiting and retention a breeze. Looking for creative ways to make work fun, communicating your culture transparently to candidates, and turning existing employees into brand ambassadors are steps that anyone can take, regardless of your industry. Find fun in the everyday, one gif or Cake Day at a time.

*Photo from The Motley Fool

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