One of the key differentiators in today’s business world is the emphasis that companies place on work life balance. As new graduates have increasingly high expectations, companies must meet their demands in order to attract, retain and motivate the best talent. Doing so can create a competitive advantage, particularly in a people centered business like consulting.
This is where Results Only Work Environment (ROWE) comes in; it has been referred to as the ultimate work life balance package. Created in 2005 by Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson, two former Best Buy employees, it is a management practice that sets the foundation for employees to be evaluated on performance, not presence. The idea of ROWE was built on the foundation that happy people are productive people. From my prior experience I can attest to this fact.
Personally, as a soon to be university graduate I am attracted to ROWE and would be happy to work at a company committed to offering more flexibility to its employees. For me, the primary benefit of ROWE is the autonomy that it provides its employees with, the ability to focus on your deliverables and creating value. I would be much happier working for a company where I was treated in a professional manner and my performance and compensation were based on my deliverables, rather than hours spent in office. While I recognize that ROWE is a progressive concept and involves a high level of trust and 100% commitment, I think it provides companies with useful concepts that they can incorporate into their business.
In most roles work comes in peaks of busy times and calm times. When restricted to set hours during those calm times, most employees feel pressured to look for additional work, in order to appear busy so that they do not get reprimanded. Their search for work has the potential to distract or interrupt the ability of their colleagues to complete their work and deliverables. In my view, if an employee has completed their deliverables and cannot add value elsewhere they should be in control, rather than controlled by set hours which are restrictive and often counterproductive to a company’s overall goals.
Just like any initiative, there are concerns with ROWE. It is still in its infancy and requires 100% commitment, altering the general perception of work and having the right infrastructure and processes in place. The transition is very difficult, as you must change the mindset of your workforce. Many employees prefer black and white and are accustomed to asking for permission for very little things, making the transition exceedingly challenging. In order for ROWE to succeed, companies must focus on shifting the mentality of its workforce, including its leadership to a focus on outputs (deliverables) vs. inputs (hours). Additionally, ROWE lacks a universal understanding. The most common misconceptions are that it is a work at home program and that only some employees can benefit from it . Another challenge is the strain it puts on the ability to communicate with others. Working collaboratively becomes more challenging with people working different schedules, from different locations. In order to succeed under this practice, employees must commit to planning ahead.
During this summer internship we have been applying these concepts at ember. While ROWE is still in its early stage, its concepts are universal and can help ember advisory achieve its goals. ROWE’s deliverable based focus is relevant to ember advisory, especially as our mission is to enable its clients to achieve the goals they value most. Aligning our performance metrics and compensation with our mission, exemplifies ember’s genuine care for it clients and desire to provide them with the highest value. Evaluating and compensating based on deliverables provides employees with their desired autonomy and flexibility and provides Rob with the opportunity focus on the things that matter most. As ember continues to expand and recruit talented individuals, it may want to further develop ROWE’s outlook on flexibility. Ember already provides flexible work arrangements, but can go a step further by creating an individualized program including flexible time, flexible days and flexible vacation. ROWE has proved that it is possible for employees to work abroad, resulting in excellent networking opportunities and new lessons learned. This program would help ember achieve its growth goal as it would attract new employees and help retain our talented team.
As mentioned, happy employees are productive employees. By modelling ember’s flexible work arrangement based off concepts from ROWE we are fostering a productive environment in which employees have opportunities to learn, grow, develop and help ember achieve its corporate goals.
Candidate for HBA, Ivey School of Business (2015)