From the ubiquitous Post-it® Super Sticky Notes to Post-it® Dry Erase Surface, Post-it® Brand offers a number of tools to bring out the very best collaborative experiences amongst your colleagues. However, we know that collaboration isn’t simply limited to tools — nor is it confined to a handful of techniques. To offer new perspectives on collaboration and its benefits, we partnered with The Motley Fool — a renowned leader in innovative collaborative experiences — to help understand their unique approach to make working together better.
Over the course of its 20+ year existence, The Motley Fool financial services company has tinkered, toyed and tooled with ways to build relationships amongst its current 350 person team through various collaboration methods. In fact, the company even has a Chief Collaboration Officer role whose responsibilities revolve around integrating employees and building relationships both within and outside of an individual’s expertise area.
While nearly all of their techniques started from small bets, the payoff has been enormous. The company has been hailed as one of the most collaborative companies in the U.S. and the company believes that it’s approach to facilitating relationships through collaborative actions has had a concrete business impact.
To help establish collaborative relationships, the company starts getting new employees acquainted with the staff from Day 1…but uses a rather unique approach.
“Every new employee starts on a Friday,” notes Todd Etter, Chief Collaboration Officer at The Motley Fool. “It’s all about helping get them familiar with the culture, people and environment first. Towards the end of the day, we’ll have them push around a Fool Cart stocked with drinks and snacks — alongside the person who hired them — so they can start meeting a variety of people right away. Once that first face-to-face interaction is out of the way, so is a lot of the awkwardness that many companies face when putting together teams together for the first time.”
In fact, the company uses a wealth of methods to ensure that their staff is never “siloed but rather gets exposure to various talents and skills across the entire company.” New hires are also grouped together into a “cohort” — a small group of 7-10 people formed around a variety of skills — and given a collaborative problem to solve for the entire organization.
My cohort developed a smoothie for the entire organization,” says Johnnie Weathersby — a business intelligence expert who has been with the company for a year and a half. “The project was great…but what’s even better is that when I have a question that’s outside my area of expertise, I can go back to any member of the cohort group who might have some knowledge in that particular area. It’s empowering for everybody versus spending days trying to ask around the office, looking for that special person. I think that we’re kind of unique in that collaboration is encouraged outside of your immediate team as well.”
This approach helps translate to greater product development efficiencies as well. Because The Motley Fool’s products are time-released and limited for a short amount of time, the company requires its employees to be incredibly agile in responding to product feedback but also developing new products.
The company continuously seeks to introduce new areas of expertise to each other — regardless of how long one has been at The Motley Fool —through a constant flow of new projects/initiatives. And sometimes the company will even introduce a new person to a team based on an intangible.
As Chief Collaboration Officer, Etter’s primary role is to help ensure that the company’s staff is never “siloed but rather gets exposure to various talents and skills across the entire company.” New hires are also grouped together into a “cohort” — a small group of 7-10 people formed around a variety of skills — and given a collaborative problem to solve for the entire organization.
Identifying passion areas is another area where The Motley Fool excels. Outside of the day-to-day, the organization offers several extracurricular collaborative activities ranging from sports clubs to a weekly board game get-together. The benefit: colleagues may recognize areas of skill in one another that may not surface during on-the-job situations.
“Ideas can come from anywhere,” says Burbage. “Most companies completely sleep on the diversity of talents within their business. If someone is absolutely passionate about something, why wouldn’t you want to harness that passion and put it to work for you in a way that everyone benefits? It not only helps motivate more people, but also dramatically improves the speed and efficiencies of exploring new ideas and innovations.”
Building on this approach, Nate McMahon — Senior VP of People & Technology at The Motley Fool — notes, “When people go outside of their traditional roles, magic happens.”
“We’re not interested in ‘best practices’ — we want to develop the ‘next practices’. And we do that by giving people the freedom to work together in a way that doesn’t feel like ‘work’.”
Outside of the benefits of exposing team members to new talents and approaches, however, comes a very real benefit to forging relationships: lasting friendships. Studies have shown that employees who have a best friend at work tend to be more productive, passionate and loyal to their organizations.
“Ultimately, we want to create an environment where people love coming to work,” notes Etter. “When you create opportunities for people to meet more people, you create more opportunities for people to create lasting relationships. According to an internal survey, 77% of our employees say they work with a close friend and we couldn’t be happier to have helped bring those people together.”
The Motley Fool is a multimedia financial-services company that provides financial solutions for investors through various stock, investing, and personal finance products. In addition, they’ve been heralded as one of the U.S.’s best places to work through a collaborative environment that brings all manners of expertise together.