Many business owners believe that in order to get employees to do their best work, they have to constantly watch over them and enforce rules to get expected results. There is a better way to get the outstanding team performance, increase productivity and reduce turnover.
A Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE) is one where employees are evaluated solely on their performance, which is judged on output instead of time. Under this system, there is no requirement that employees work a certain number of hours. More importantly, there is no expectation that they do their work at the office. Using ROWE, people can work wherever, whenever and however they want as long as they get their jobs done and achieve the expected results. It balances autonomy with accountability.
Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson, former Best Buy managers, developed ROWE to address problems they saw with the typical work environment that hurt productivity and employee satisfaction. Best Buy ended its use of ROWE in 2013 after eight years, around the same time Marissa Mayer shut down Yahoo's telecommuting policy. However, other companies stick by the ROWE way of management.
Major corporations that believe in the benefits of ROWE include Gap Outlet, a division of Gap, Inc., and Yum Brands, the company that oversees several national restaurant chains such as KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut. Netflix also uses a version of ROWE where they let salaried employees take unlimited vacation as long as their results are exceeding expectations.
Guidelines for ROWE
ROWE aims to increase productivity and employee satisfaction by freeing employees to make their own work-life decisions. It also helps managers to focus on strategic initiatives instead of constantly “babysitting” their employees.
The core guidelines for ROWE include:
• People are where and when they need to be based on agreed-upon results. Managers address performance issues, not attendance.
• Every person is 100 percent autonomous and are expected to make the right decisions about how, when and where they work in order to achieve results.
• There is no judgment about how an employee spends their time and people never talk about the hours they work.
• Not meeting objectives is addressed immediately. Ongoing non-performance means termination of employment.
Implementing ROWE at Your Office
As a business owner, you may be hesitant to implement such a policy. It's not something to jump into; you must carefully plan and test it out.
1. Business owners must put aside their need to control everything. You need to throw out the rulebook of do’s and don’ts for your employees. You have to trust that the people doing their jobs know what is best after strategic direction is provided by company leadership.
2. Develop job descriptions with clear measurable outcomes. These need to be agreed to and enthusiastically supported by each employee. Results should be open for team members to examine them on an ongoing basis.
3. Educate employees on how their job and department interact with others. They need to understand how their work impacts the results of other departments and the people around them.
4. Quickly fire and replace team members who can’t perform in this new system. The key to a successful program is to hold employees accountable, which means you can't be too slow to fire those who can't perform. This system forces every team member to do their jobs—and do them well—otherwise they must go.
5. Practice frequent communication. Business owners and managers must be intentional and frequent with all communication with team members. This means at least once a day by phone or video chat—not just an email or instant message.
As you work through these steps, think about how comfortable you are with such a radical change in culture. If you can't fully embrace the change, your employees won't follow suit. Modify the flexibility until you are 100 percent comfortable with the new way of doing things.
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