Results Only Work Environment, or ROWE, is a management strategy adopted by Best Buy where employees are paid for productivity, not just activity. A Results Only Work Environment focuses on achievement instead of solely being at work.
Employees control their own work calendars and the focus is on how much work they get done, not when they accomplish it. There are many pros and cons for this type of work environment:
Pros of ROWE
- Disciplined, focused employees thrive.
- Employees strike the right balance of personal and work life.
- Reduces the likelihood your best employees leave for a more flexible work environment.
- Firms who properly implement report a major increase in productivity.
Cons of ROWE
- Can be difficult to manage.
- Employees who are not disciplined find it difficult to work in this type of environment.
- Internal push back from some employees.
- Difficult in some work environments, e.g. customer service, manufacturing or retail.
At Best Buy, where ROWE was coined the strategy fully implement, productivity increased 35% in departments which implemented the management strategy. Best Buy reports voluntary turnover – people choosing to leave on their own – dropped from 22% to 2%. Meanwhile, involuntary turnover, firing employees who weren’t productive, increased 77%. Like GE before them, Best Buy saw the benefits from pruning the bottom performers from its workforce.
What is ROWE?
There are many misconceptions as to what ROWE is and is not. Let’s start with what ROWE is not:
- A work at home concept.
- Effective in companies where the management team is obsessed with the time clock.
ROWE is a concept for firms who want to allow their employees to work any schedule they desire, to forgo mandatory meetings, to permit employees to work flexible schedules as long as the employee achieves the goals required. Do whatever you want, wherever you want, as long as the work gets done.
Phase 1: Department Buy-In and Work Process
The first phase in a ROWE implementation is to decide which departments go first. An entire department should move to ROWE so that individual employees do not feel targeted or separate from their coworkers. Best Buy accomplished this by voting to implement ROWE by teams and enlisting “friendly faces” in each team to promote the concept.
Once a team has been identified to move to ROWE, start out by implementing an online calendar where employees can log their schedules and where they are to help the transition to ROWE. If coworkers know where people are and when they are working, it can help smooth the inevitable bumps which will occur. Most teams will find that after a period of time, the calendar will no longer be needed.
You will need to hold sessions with employees implementing ROWE to explain how it works. Employees will need to understand:
- ROWE is a new way of approaching employees schedules, productivity, and business.
- Departments which implement ROWE need to not focus on timesheets, who’s in first, who stays late, and all of the stigma attached with employees who do not work long hours. The focus is now on productivity – getting the job done.
- Mandatory meetings where employees must be present will interfere with ROWE. Some meetings are ok – do the rest via conference call.
- Non-exempt employees must, by federal law, complete a time sheet of how many hours they worked to comply with over time rules. Your company will need to decide how to best comply and still implement ROWE for non-exempt employees.
- You cannot push your workload onto another employee who comes into the office.
Phase 2: Adjusting to Your New Schedules
ROWE focuses on productivity and results, so employees and managers will need to work together to address the goals and requirements of each job to ensure the employee is producing while able to take advantage of the benefits of working under ROWE. Employees will need to learn how to not work 24 hours – ROWE is not meant to increase your workload to the breaking point, but instead to shift your work into different times, provide the flexibility to work your own schedule, and provide an opportunity to the truly efficient and productive workers to condense working into less time.
As a manager, you will need to learn how to manage people, their goals, and tasks while they are working flexible schedules. This is one of most difficult processes of implementing ROWE and you may find that some of your managers and supervisors are not up to the task. Some employees will not survive the transition to ROWE and you will need to deal with those situations as they arise.
Phase 3: Implement in the Next Department
Next, we will move into the next department that desires to move to the ROWE model and implement this work strategy. We recommend implementing a department at a time – move towards the ones that have “bought in” to working in ROWE and will provide the less resistance. Over time, as managers and employees see the benefits of ROWE in action, the migration will be easier.
ROWE isn’t for every company (though ROWE consultants will insist it is!), but it can make a big difference in productivity and employee satisfaction in the firms that implement it.