How Motley Fools Talk Back
If you've ever wondered whether building an intranet is worthwhile, then consider the example of Motley Fool, an online investor-education company based in Alexandria, Va.
Last November, in an intranet-based program called "Stop, Start, Continue," the company's 125 employees were asked to use an intranet board to assess one another's job performance and comment on the work habits of coworkers.
Tom Conner, a Web developer at the company, says using the intranet encouraged more honesty---especially when it came to offering constructive criticism to superiors he might otherwise have been reluctant to confront. "It feels good to formally tell people things you wouldn't say face-to-face," he says.
Here's how it worked: Employees clicked on a coworker's name in a particular section of the company's intranet, then wrote suggestions regarding specific habits that person should stop, start, or continue. The comments were forwarded verbatim to department coordinators, who were instructed to keep all complaints anonymous. Because it's not that big a company, however, "most people could tell from the writing style" who wrote the comment, says information technology coordinator Dwight Gibbs.
The company plans to use the system again, possibly doing three rounds of evaluations a year. For now the intranet "suggestion box" will be used independent of the company's official annual review process, through which promotions are decided and awarded. The idea is to help employees improve their performance by bonus time.
Of course, that adds a whole new round of evaluation duties to the demands already made on company managers, who spend a lot of time with workers in one-on-one conferences. "I don't mind," says Gibbs, "because peer feedback is still so much more valuable than a top-down evaluation. It's coming strictly from the people who work with you every single day.