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Results-Only Work Environment

Results-Only Work Environment

Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE) is a twenty-first century management concept that was invented at Best Buy company headquarters under the tutelage and guidance of Cali Ressier and Jodi Thompson. ROWE is simply a result-oriented work environment that attaches employee retention to output and performance. The distinctive nature of ROWE is defined by the following characteristics:

  • No working schedules
  • No fixed work stations
  • No clocking in and out of work
  • Greater performance accountability
  • Increased staff morale
  • Greater teamwork and cooperation
  • Increased output
  • No meetings
  • Increased employee engagement
  • Greater employee flexibility

Ressier and Thompson were serving as employees of Best Buy when they were tasked with the responsibilities of measuring human resource management practices at Best Buy against industry benchmarks, identifying problems and tracing roots of the problems, and suggesting the most appropriate solutions to eliminate the problems. Upon the completion of their research, Thompson and Ressier identified time wasting and lack of motivation among employees as being the biggest hurdles to the achievement of efficiency and increased productivity among employees. The two employees particularly identified the nine-to-five clocking system as being absolutely irrelevant to the prevailing company objectives. (Ressier and Thompson have since left Best Buy and are running a private human resource consultancy firm called CultureX, which guides different organizations in the process of adopting ROWE into their management practices.)

INITIAL IMPLEMENTATIONOF ROWE

After intensive research and experimentation, Ressier and Thompson finally came up with the idea of ROWE, an idea which marks a radical shift from the traditional forms of work environments (such as the clocking system, job sharing, shift work, or flexible workforce). ROWE debuted at Best Buy in 2002 on an experimental basis; it was gradually adopted by different departments within the organization, and by the end of 2007 the company had fully adopted ROWE into its organizational structure. (Therefore, apart from pioneering the founding of ROWE principles, Best Buy was also a pioneer in experimenting and integrating a management concept into the daily activities management structure of a company.) At Best Buy, the company policy allows workers to report to work at any time of the day and leave at any time; they can even choose to stay away for several days and work from any location, just as long as they perform their responsibilities diligently.

Unlike the traditional forms of work environments which measure work in terms of hours spent at the work-place, ROWE measures work performance according to output, with the ultimate objective of retaining only productive workers. As such, employees are allowed to work from any location of their choice, at whatever time of their convenience, and with whatever tools they prefer, as long as they deliver the company's output targets in an efficient and timely manner. ROWE stands out as one of the most significant human resource management concepts of the early twenty-first century because of its radical and pragmatic approach to organizational management and workplace processes.

ROWE is definitely a revolutionary approach to human resource management that transforms the work environment by capitalizing on the intellectual engagement of employees and knowledge-based resources of the firm. The underlying principle of ROWE is to achieve maximum work output from employees while guaranteeing unlimited flexibility at the same time. The workrather than the mode and location of workingis what should matter to the company's management. According to Ressier and Thompson, ROWE portends the following benefits to organizations:

  • ROWE provides the organization with the advantage of retaining only clear-minded, pragmatic employees who get the job done.
  • ROWE nurtures responsibility and ethical practices in organizations.
  • ROWE encourages commitment, tenacity, and drive among the employees by guaranteeing employee engagement.
  • ROWE provides employees with the flexibility to work offsite, thus eliminating the need for spacious corporate offices. This enables a company to reduce rental expenses or even generate extra revenues by renting out extra spaces to other business organizations.
  • ROWE significantly reduces voluntary turnover and increases productivity because of its motivational nature.

In the book titled Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It, Cali Ressier and Jodi Thompson emphasize that ROWE represents a dynamic cultural transformation that demystifies workplace attitudes and improves individual responsiveness by giving employees absolute autonomy as long as they execute their respective duties and responsibilities satisfactorily.

ROWE has significantly transformed operations at Best Buy with statistics showing that employee job satisfaction and output have taken the upward trend ever since the concept was introduced in the firm. According to a Time article titled Finding the Freedom at Work, Best Buy's productivity increased by 41 percent between 2005 and 2007. The Time article further notes that the move saw the voluntary turnover in the firm reduce by 90 percent during the same period, saving the company an equivalent of $16 million a year. These are impressive statistics that indicate increased flexibility for employees portends great output returns to companies relative to traditional work and management modes.

THEORETICAL BACKGROUND OF ROWE

The emergence of ROWE serves as a distinct testimony to the quest by organizations to embrace continuous improvement programs. In fact, the principles behind ROWE are defined by the concepts of total quality management (TQM). TQM emphasizes innovation and continuous improvement of processes in organizations with the objective of achieving increased efficiency in production.

The revolutionary views of quality management were fronted by great management theorists such as Joseph Juran (19042008) and W. Edwards Deming (19001993), both of whom emphasized quality management as a key determinant of both operational and management success in organizations. Quality management places emphasis on the recognition of all the participants in continuous improvement processes both within and outside the organization. One conspicuous aspect of quality management is the expanded definition of customers to include even players within the internal organizational fraternity. This was seen to be a radical departure from the traditional concepts of management, which recognized customers to be external organizational players such as suppliers and buyers. Therefore, the concept of quality management views employee empowerment as a key factor of continuous improvement that enables organizations to achieve an effective and lean workforce environment.

Quality management further emphasizes the need for a teamwork approach to production processes. To this end, teams are viewed as empowerment tools for maximizing the potential of knowledge-based resources in organizations. Teams help individuals to understand customer relations management processes, identify internal and external problems, and provide appropriate solutions. ROWE increases the flexibility of workers to coalesce into organized teams because it provides employees with absolute independence to manage their work schedules.

ADOPTING AND MANAGING ROWE

The process of adopting continuous improvement programs is always coupled with changes in procedural structures and management activities in organizations. Therefore, the transition from the traditional work arrangements to ROWE is not an easy overnight task. The process is delicate and expensive because it requires significant overhaul and restructuring of human resource policies and management processes. In addition to adopting expensive networking structures that can enable employees to access the company's database from any location of their choice, the organization may also have to incur extra expenses on employee training before implementing the new model of operations to ensure that all affected employees understand how to execute their duties under the new policies and structures.

ROWE AND CHANGE MANAGEMENT

When introducing ROWE to the structures of organizational operations, managers must always endeavor to embrace change management to ensure that all employees are well prepared to adjust to the new models and styles of operations. This is because the task of psychologically and materially preparing individuals for change is not an easy one; it requires extensive consultations with employees and customers alike to offer explanations as to why change is needed and how the change will be implemented.

Employees must be made to understand what is expected of them during the transition period, what their responsibilities are in the changed working patterns, and what the new reporting structures and relationships are. The human resources division should be at the forefront in helping all affected employees overcome any barriers presented by the new operational procedures that may arise from both anticipated and unanticipated resistance.

Organizations must always recognize that ROWE is a radical approach towards improving employee performance and productivity, and thus, training and empowering employees must be a prerequisite step towards achieving the new organizational order. Employees should be made to understand how to delegate duties, how to work as teams under the new working arrangements, and how to determine and set their individual goals for meeting targets in time. For example, when Best Buy was gradually adopting ROWE into its management structures, the company provided employees with comprehensive training on interpersonal skills, advice on how to sustain teamwork even from virtual locations, and guidelines on how to meet management expectations and targets without close supervision.

In the book titled Fundamentals of Human Resource Management, ninth edition, David A. DeCenzo and Stephen P. Robbins reckon that training of employees is a learning experience that has the potential to influence permanent change in attitudes, knowledge, skills, and behavior among employees with the resultant effects of increased efficiency, production, and performance. This means that employee training during ROWE adoption processes will achieve employee motivation, innovation, dedicated customer relations management, positive working relationships, increased legal responsibilities and awareness, enhanced ethical standards, and individual responsibility and maturity among employees.

It is equally important to note that ROWE can be applied only in certain types of organizations or selected departments in organizations. ROWE fits well in highly homogeneous service-oriented organizations where employees can conveniently provide their services from remote locations. Therefore, implementing ROWE in heterogeneous industrial activities that require physical contact between employees, raw materials, machinery, and finished goods can be quite a tall order.

SEE ALSO Quality and Total Quality Management; Scalable Workforce

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Baum, Tom. Human Resource Management for Tourism, Hospitality and Leisure: An International Perspective. Thomson Learning, 2006.

Belkin, Lisa. Time Wasted? Perhaps It's Well Spent. New York Times, 31 May 2007. Available from: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/31/fashion/31work.html?_r=1&adxnnl=1&oref=slogin&adxnnlx=1219404441-lkeka6d/KH+vcJmXmwlVXQ.

DeCenzo, David A., and Stephen P. Robbins. Fundamentals of Human Resource Management, 9th ed. John Wiley & Sons Limited, 2007.

Ferriss, Timothy. The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 95, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich. Crown Publishers, 2007.

Finding Freedom at Work. TIME 30 May 2008. Available from: http://www.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1810690,00.html.

Kiger, Patrick, J. Throwing Out the Rules of Work. HR Management, 2008. Available from: http://www.workforce.com/section/09/feature/24/54/28/index.html.

Ressier, Cali and Jodi Thompson. Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It. Portfolio Hardcover, 2008.

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