The Potentials of Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE)

ROWEResults Only Work Environment is a human resource management strategy co-created by Jody Thompson and Cali Ressler whereby employees are free to choose when and where they work.

By focusing solely upon whether or not an organization’s well-defined goals have been met, ROWE allows leaders to overlook insignificant details related to employees’ daily routines, while simultaneously affording higher levels of freedom and autonomy Opens in new window to those employees to accomplish their goals in a time and manner that they prefer.

With ROWE Opens in new window, virtual team members need not “clock in” or “clock out” like traditional employees. Nor are they expected to work eight hours a day over the course of five consecutive workdays.

Instead, during the course of a typical week virtual team members of ROWE should be expected to complete whatever tasks or duties are appropriate for that duration of time — nothing more, nothing less.

They should subsequently be evaluated by their results, and left free to utilize VC software in order to accomplish those results in whatever time arrangement they deem fit.

The Results-Only Work Environment program at Best BuyOpens in new window provides an illustration of outcome control carried to the extreme.

When Best Buy managers noticed an alarming increase in turnover of headquarters employees, they began looking for ways to reverse the trend. They realized that the Best Buy culture that emphasized long hours, mandatory procedures, and managers “acting like hall monitors” was no longer working. So, what was the best approach to keep talented people from reaching burnout?

The answer turned out to be an innovative initiative known as ROWE (Results-Only Work Environment), which lets people work when and where they want as long as they get the job done. The experiment started in one department, where morale had reached a dismal low. Under the ROWE system, claims processors and data entry clerks now focus on how many forms they can process in a week rather than how many hours they put in each day or how many keystrokes it takes to complete a form. The program worked so well that it quickly spread to other departments.

The results? From 2005 to 2007, the turnover rate in departments using ROWE decreased nearly 90 percent, while productivity shot up 41 percent. Managers have now implemented ROWE throughout corporate headquarters. There are no set working hours, no mandatory meetings, and no managers keeping tabs on employees’ activities. Senior vice president John Thompson, who was at first skeptical of ROWE, became a strong believer when he saw the results. “For years I had been focused on the wrong currency,” Thompson says. “I was always looking to see if people were here. I should have been looking at what they were getting done.”