Luther H. Graham
According to my research and readings, employee engagement initiatives should not be considered fuzzy, feel good opportunities merely to improve job satisfaction and employee retention. Instead, I believe they should be seen as a business tactic for achieving better productivity. Although fully engaged employees can indeed deliver higher productivity, as we all know, what engages one employee does not necessarily do much for another. Since ROWE incorporates things like flextime, telecommuting, concierge services and other benefits, that doesn’t necessarily contribute directly to the bottom line in my assumption. Unlike other work/life balance programs, ROWE is a business strategy that can positively impact the bottom line while at the same time stimulate employee engagement within the organization.
Results Only Work Environment, or R.O.W.E, is a human resource management strategy that was created by Jody Thompson and Cali Ressler and first implemented at Best Buy in 2003. While using ROWE, 80% of Best Buy's corporate staff now come and go as they please as long as the work gets done on time. Seemingly, the premise of ROWE is that employees are paid for results rather than hours worked. With this implemented, it provides both freedom for employees and results for employers. Seemingly ROWE is based on the assumption that employees will do more and better work when given the latitude to decide how and when it is done. Unlike flextime, ROWE is employee controlled not management controlled. ROWE requires accountability and clear goals, while flextime requires policies and guidelines. ROWE has unlimited options and is fluid, while flextime has limited options and ultimately is inflexible. Most importantly, ROWE is based on the work and not the hours. Moreover, the concept of ROWE is a lot like college where you decide when and where to study and write papers. In most workplaces today, employees are treated more like grade students with strict policies on when to show up, where to sit, how to do the work, and when to leave. It is no wonder that recent graduates have become disillusioned when entering the "real world." Now that aging Baby Boomers are mixing with Generations X and Y, it seems a perfect time to initiate a different approach to how work is performed. Moreover, it’s not like we don’t possess the necessary technology (teleconferencing, emailing, text messaging, and cell phone calling) to extend the workplace location and flexibility on when to do the tasks. Now it's just a matter of will of the employee. ROWE is not an entirely new concept; piece work, where workers are paid a fixed rate for each unit produced or action performed, has been around for more than a century. And then there is performance paid workers, where money is paid directly on how well a worker performs in the workplace. Commission-based sales are a form of this type of compensation.
High technology companies have been tinkering with alternative concepts for some time. According to my research, 40% of IBM employees have no official office. Sun Microsystems allows nearly half of their employees to work anywhere they want. Google offers their engineers the ability to spend a full day each week working on side projects to pursue their own interests. In a typical year, more than half of Google's offerings, including Gmail and Google News have come during this 20 percent time opportunity. ROWE builds upon these and other models to provide employees with more opportunities to do the job their own way, and mimicking this can lead to greater employee engagement and higher productivity for the company.
But ROWE is not without its challenges. Measuring output for some jobs (overhead, administration) can be very difficult. Some people have a hard time working with others if they are not face-to-face. And overall management can be challenging. Nevertheless, ROWE is proving to be effective…