I had a boss once who used to say, “I don’t care about output -- only outcomes.” He managed a small team in a competitive organization, and he was unconcerned with how many hours we spent trying to tackle a project challenge. At the end of the day, he just wanted to know how many solutions we -- his employees -- took to our twice-weekly staff meeting.
Though he did not call it by name, my boss seemed to subscribe to the management innovation known as the Results-Oriented Work Environment (ROWE). Developed by two employees at Best Buy, it’s grounded in the idea that employees should be compensated not for the hours on the job but the results they bring to the company. The ROWE prescribes that when you give employees the ability to master skills and the autonomy to get the job done, you will maximize your company’s productivity. Employees in a ROWE will feel like they have more control over their day-to-day work and a better work-life balance. Employers will have happier workers, and revenues will increase. By giving employees greater independence, a ROWE could spur creativity and innovation.
ROWE is meant to put work directly in the power of the employee. Of course there is direction from the manager, but in an ideal ROWE, each employee feels empowered to achieve on their own. Employees go from being stuck at the office to setting their own terms as long as they get the job done. Bosses go from managing people to managing results.
But could ROWE really work for manufacturing and other industrial companies? An accountant might leave for the day a few hours early, knowing he can get back on his laptop later to finish the quarterly reports. A machinist is less likely to take the engine of a new commercial airliner home with her.
The answer is that a modified ROWE could be a factor in American industrial innovation. Telecommuting may not be realistic, but the concept of employee autonomy behind it is. Employers can identify key, objective metrics in their work environments to measure productivity. Leave behind the tired metrics -- like pure hours on the clock -- that might be weighing your company down. Track your employees’ success with measurable product outcomes over time. Make them feel like their work is being noticed and that they are investing their 40+ hours per week in a career, not just a paycheck.
Of course the ROWE can have its drawbacks without the right managerial buy-in and needs to be adapted to fit company needs. If managers do not support their teams with training and coaching, employees will be left to either sink or swim. The key is providing the basis for employees to take ownership to go the extra mile in both their work product and their career development.
ROWE is only one of many approaches that our company, XEMPLAR, is bringing to clients as a way to create more competitive workplaces and attract top talent. If you would like to learn more about these approaches and other solutions we deliver to solve the skilled labor shortage, please contact us today.
Adam Himoff is the founder and CEO of XEMPLAR, an innovative recruiting and workforce solutions company that enables U.S. industrial clients to beat the 'skilled labor shortage' and reliably source the high-value, high-skill, long-term employees they need to thrive. Reach Adam at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about XEMPLAR and to request a consultation about your industrial business go to www.xemplar.com.