The workplace has long been familiar with the notion of flextime and telecommuting. Now, there’s ROWE: Results Only Work Environment. ROWE was created by two former Best Buy employees who wanted to reshape their company’s culture. Now Gap Outlet has adopted the practice for its more than 137 employees.
ROWE is a corporate culture initiative designed to significantly improve employee productivity, accountability and engagement. Departments that implement a ROWE environment empower their employees to work when and wherever they want to – as long as their performance goals are met.
ROWE methodology is different from simple “flextime” in two key ways: 1) it’s employee-driven and 2) it’s self-policing. In a ROWE environment, the emphasis is taken off time/hours worked and placed on performance. The fear of employees abusing ROWE is minimal, as each employee has a stake in their ability to work in an incredibly freeing environment. They’re not afraid to “snitch” on someone who could sink the ship! ROWE deals with nonadaptees in a performance management framework, thus removing the “I worked 60 hours this week” excuses of workers who still don’t hit performance targets.
The program seems to be working: Productivity increased more than 21 percent at the GAP outlet. A post-pilot assessment conducted in February 2009 revealed that productivity increased 21 percent and quality improved 15 percent among the pilot group.
The ROWE program was adopted in San Francisco, one of the worst cities in the U.S. in terms of commuting. They found it particularly helpful to female employees working to balance work and family needs.
In my book, Blueprint for Success, I noted that there will be a sonic boom as part-time baby boomers and flextime Generation X & Y’s collide. It’s important that we hire the best talent that we possibly can, and adapt to their skills and demands. Generations X and Y are highly motivated by autonomy and flexibility.
If your company is considering a ROWE-type experiment, be sure to do your homework. It promises to a remarkably effective generational bridge.