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Time-Based Management vs. Results-only Work Environment

Posted on October 8, 2009 by Arianna

If you look at the history of work we can see that the way wages were calculated has changed quite a bit. Before the invention of the assembly-line production people’s pay was determined by the amount of work done. After the great restructuring, pay was measured by the amount of time or hours it took to get work done. As of recent there has been talk about whether the End of Time-Based Management is near. Before we determine whether work environment will be going back to its roots, we need to understand what ROWE (Results-only Work Environment) is.

ROWE was developed by Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson, Best Buy HR Managers. ROWE is a management view which believes that trusting employees to manage their time will increase productivity in the workplace. Departments that have been using ROWE have reported increased amount of productivity, Best Buy alone had a 35 percent increase. Recently, Gap Outlet migrated 137 Corporate Headquarters employees to Results-Only Work Environment and their success has been amazing; according to Cali and Jody’s blog “voluntary turnover rate dropped by 50 percent and employee engagement rose by 13 percent”.

How it works:
“In a Results-Only Work Environment, people can do whatever they want, whenever they want, as long as the work gets done.” This isn’t just time flexibility, according to Cali and Jody a true ROWE has unlimited paid vacation time, no set schedules, no mandatory weekly meetings, and no judgments from co-workers or bosses about how employees spend their days. Trust is one of the key elements of ROWE, managers must trust employees to get their work done so that their performance and pay can be evaluated based on what they accomplished, not how many hours they spent looking “busy” at work.

Why it works:
ROWE forces all employees and managers to be clear about their job descriptions and expectations. Teams learn how to work together more effectively while motivating and retaining employees. Though ROWE can also expose underperformance, the end result provides a company with stronger teams that can make the company grow.

Who it works for:
ROWE would work for anyone whose work revolves around projects or tasks. However, in order for ROWE to be effective, there needs to be a strong goal-oriented manager that can provide employees with a clear understanding of what is expected of them. ROWE is a bit complicated when it comes to hourly employees or those whose jobs do not entail completion of projects; but the shifting from thinking about work in terms of time to thinking about work based on performance can still be effective.

Moving a department to ROWE is a drastic change that companies might not be willing to make. However, though the complete program might not be a feasible option, adopting new habits that can refocus your team on results instead of time-based, can be of a great benefit as well. Whether you decide to make the big change or not, I suggest that you first read Cali and Jody’s list of 10 ways to get ROWE working for your team.


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