March 2, 2015

How to Transition to a Results-Only Work Environment

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Tags: HR

We’ve all heard stories of employees that just sit back and watch the clock tick. Tales of bosses that publicly shame workers for tardiness. People getting promoted for working late, even if it’s just for show.

In many businesses, measures of productivity and success are broken. Rewarding presence over performance is commonplace because productivity is measured by hours worked, not by output.

A Results-Only Work Environment, or ROWE, is the response to this issue. In a ROWE, work is no longer how long you’re in the office, but what you produce.

Research shows that employees crave flexible work environments, and ROWEs are one of the best ways to fulfill that need.


results only work environment infographic

If you’re reading this article, you’ve likely heard about the benefits and you may be planning to transition to a results only work environment. Becoming a ROWE doesn’t have to be an overwhelming process. Let’s examine the steps you can take to make the transition successful.

Lay a solid foundation

Building a solid understanding of ROWE ensures it’s right for your workplace and creates executive buy-in. Since ROWE is often a significant culture shift, you need everyone’s support. Consult your HR team to see how the transition affects the employee handbook, time-off and vacation policies, and the company culture as a whole. It’s also smart to collaborate with accounting to produce a cost-benefit analysis that determines if the transition will save the company money.

Smooth out all the gritty details that could cause erosion later.

For this step, don’t be afraid to seek outside help. Hire an expert. Speak with a workplace consultant. A qualified professional can ensure you’re ready for the next step — building the ROWE framework.

Clearly define company mission

Establishing your company’s purpose will set clear priorities and direction. You can then focus on aligning employee performance with the company’s goals. The organizational mission should be common knowledge, and each employee should be able to link their work to overall company objectives.

This is done by creating cascading goals:

  • Align organizational goals to company mission.
    • Align team competencies and resources to organizational goals.
      • Align individual employee behaviors to team goals.

For organizations of any size, aligning company and employee goals is one of the best management strategies around. In fact, there’s even HR software to help companies simplify and visualize the process. With a clear line of sight, employees are empowered to take ownership in the business through individual objectives.

Create measurable results

Once you’re focused on the goals, you can create measurable outcomes that are supported with specific deadlines and responsibilities. Then, communicate expected results to teams and employees so everyone has a crystal clear picture of expectations.

After measurable outcomes are set, it’s up to employees to determine what they do on a daily basis to achieve that result. This is a complex step, since traditional workplace methods often focus on hours worked to measure performance.

But don’t worry — there’s a guide to help you switch gears and translate goals to results.

Provide the necessary tools

In a ROWE, employees focus on achievement. Rather than worry about when and how employees accomplish work, companies should invest in technology that enables employees to achieve results.

The right tools will vary from business to business, but comprehensive communication, collaboration, and project management tools are essential to all results only work environments. Providing employees with laptops or other mobile work devices can also improve flexibility while helping companies monitor sensitive business information.

Experiment, analyze, adapt

Once you have the appropriate goals, results, and tools in place, employees are ready to get things done on their own. While this autonomy is freeing to many employees, it’s a huge change and can be challenging.

Now is the time to track progress, as well as listen to employee concerns.

Achieving a successful ROWE doesn’t happen overnight. Consider starting with a pilot team to test the program. Transitioning to a performance based workplace one department at a time will help refine the process and identify hurdles as early as possible.

With measurable outcomes in place, it’s easy to have objective conversations about the work that’s getting done. Managers should work proactively with their employees to analyze what is or isn’t successful. Some goals may need adjusting and some employees may not have the skills to work independently. The latter opens the door for mentorship and coaching, rather than micromanaging.

Feedback, recognition, and transparency is key. If results aren’t being achieved, analyzing and refining both sides of the system is necessary. Setting performance goals requires flexibility and tweaking. The process of refining goals and expectations doesn’t signify failure though – instead, it will help you achieve lasting results.

A ROWE requires accountability and autonomy. They eradicate the “Mother, may I?” culture that plagues many businesses and instead positions employees as responsible professionals. If this sounds like the change your company needs, use the steps above to redefine how your company measures work.

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