Susan Hoaby recently learned from Instagram that one of her employees was in Paris.
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But that wasn’t surprising – she doesn’t worry about when and where her employees work.
Her company, JL Buchanan, employs a results-only work environment (ROWE), a management strategy that focuses on results and employees’ performance, not where and when people work.
“That is the power of trust,” said Hoaby, who is the CEO of the retail consulting firm. “She is in Paris, but I know her job is still getting done. She might be doing some [work], coworkers might be shoring her up, but I am not worried about that. I am trusting she took the trip with everything in order.”
In a ROWE, employees don’t have to request to leave early, or work from home or even from a different country.
“Each person is 100% accountable and 100% autonomous, which means I am self-governing and independent,” said Jody Thompson, principal of CultureRx, who also helped create the concept of ROWE.
Generally, ROWEs still have physical offices for employees, but Thompson explained that the need for dedicated work spaces tends to decline.
“Real estate costs can drop significantly in a ROWE since people have let go of work as a place you ‘go,’ but rather as something you ‘do,’” she said.
Hoaby transformed JL Buchanan into a ROWE in 2009 and said employee engagement, productivity and efficiency has increased, along with its profits and top line sales.
The idea of ROWE seems simple, but it can be challenging to implement. It means giving up the deeply ingrained notion that the best employees are the ones who are always at their desks. It also means surrendering any guilt that comes with attending a child’s school function in the middle of the day or hitting the gym in the afternoon.
And it requires removing any judgment or questioning of other workers when they leave the office.
In a ROWE, employees have unlimited vacation days with no need for approval.
Giving workers complete autonomy
WATT Global Media, a content and marketing services company in the agribusiness industry, implemented ROWE in 2012, following a big transformation period with several new hires.
CEO Greg Watt was worried about retention. Not only has the shift been good for retaining employees, it’s also been a great recruitment tool, he said.
“Butts in seats doesn’t create good work. It gives you the perception, but it doesn’t necessarily drive excellent performance,” said Watt.
ROWE gives workers’ complete autonomy, but to be successful workers need to have clear and detailed goals and metrics, Thompson said.