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Talent Development

Going Rowe: What You Need To Know About Results Only Workplace Environments

Ever wasted time at work trying to look busy while counting the hours until you could head out the door? Ever wondered how to engage and empower your workforce while simultaneously providing them a perfect work/life balance and getting the most productivity? If you answered yes to either of those questions, the Results Only Work Environment (ROWE) is for you.

Ever wasted time at work trying to look busy while counting the hours until you could head out the door?

Ever wondered how to engage and empower your workforce while simultaneously providing them a perfect work/life balance and getting the most productivity?

If you answered yes to either of those questions, the Results Only Work Environment (ROWE) is for you.

If those don’t sound like things you can relate to, but you do want to recruit and retain the top talent for your company, keep reading.

What is a ROWE

Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson worked at Best Buy when they came up with ROWE (Results Only Workplace Environment) as part of the Employer of Choice committee tasked with making Best Buy a top consideration for talented people looking for employment.

Results Only Workplace Environments are exactly that: work environments where the only thing that counts is the result you get, not when or where you get it. Employees are tasked with creating a clearly defined result, and as long as that gets done, they can spend Tuesday afternoon at the movies or napping, no one cares.

ROWE worked so well at Best Buy that Ressler and Thompson wrote it all down in an easy to read book, “Why Work Sucks And How to Fix It: No schedules, no meetings, no joke—the simple change that can make your job terrific.” They even founded Culture X, a company that promotes ROWEs.

It’s about time

Traditional workplaces have time all wrong. Our best ideas are not necessarily formed from nine to five at our desks. Today, butts in desk chairs do not necessarily equal productivity.

Because we’re taught that hours at work equal dedication and good work, employees feel stress about being late and leaving early, spend time preparing excuses or rationalizations for their missed time, risk burnout and waste valuable time.

ROWE combats the stress and misuse of time by giving you control over when you meet the demands of your job. Deadlines still exist, but how you use your time to meet them day to day is up to you.

In college, I remember waking up at 4 a.m. one Friday morning with the solution to a physics problem. Genius did not strike in the three hours I spent toiling over that one problem the night before, but there it was at 4 a.m. I spent nearly four hours on that one problem because that is how long it took to get the required result. If I’d solved it in four minutes, I would have considered my homework done and watched Dawson’s Creek.

ROWEs operate on that same principal. If the result is achieved, the job is done, go play Frisbee golf.

It’s about communication

When you are working or managing a ROWE it’s very important that you define and communicate clear expectations.

Because not everyone is in the workplace at the same time, communication with coworkers must be efficient and planned. You can’t meander over to someone’s cube and expect them to be there to answer your questions. This means, when they give you information, you pay attention.

You need to have a solid two-way relationship with your manager and communicate frequently about goals and expectations. Managers become more like coaches and less like supervisors.

Meetings are all optional in ROWEs, which means if it isn’t necessary, don’t waste your time attending. If the same purpose could be accomplished in an email, don’t call the meeting. Every task must be evaluated for how it furthers a defined goal.

This way of working cuts out wasted time but requires a different type of highly focused communication in the workplace. You will need to adjust.

ROWE is a completely different way of working

It’s more than just a flexible work arrangement. Going ROWE is a fundamental change in the nature of work.

Unlike flexible work arrangements, in a ROWE, flex time is not necessary because you already have complete control over time. It does not need to be earned and isn’t treated as a privilege. It just is.

Ressler and Thompson talk about “sludge,” negative attitudes and assumptions based on how people spend time. Sludge needs to be eliminated from the workplace for ROWE to work; it takes time and training to recognize and eradicate sludge.

People like it

ROWEs give both Gen X and Gen Y exactly what they often lack in traditional work environments: complete control over their time, empowerment and engagement. ROWEs are built on the constant feedback that Millennials love.

When this system was implemented at Best Buy, in most departments there was an initial increase in people getting fired for not doing their jobs, but an even larger decrease in percentage of people who voluntarily left the company for a different job.

If that isn’t enough to convince you that ROWEs work, check out this nice list of benefits.

How you get started

Thinking about going ROWE? I’d recommend you pick up a copy of “Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It.” It’s a quick read and answers as lot of questions that might come up as you get going. Also, check out this practical resource to get started.

You are not alone. Lots of support exists for organizations considering going ROWE. You can jump into a community of experienced and newbie companies who are willing to share their insights with you.

Are you ready to go ROWE? If you already have, what works and what doesn’t? What concerns do you have?

Zs came of age in an era of disruption

In many ways, it’s symbolic that Generation Z is named after the last letter in the alphabet because their arrival marks the end of clearly defined roles, traditions, and experiences. After all, Gen Z is coming of age on the heels of what has been referred to as the most disruptive decade of the last century. America has become an increasingly changing and complex place.

For example:

  • ‍Zs were born into a “modern family era” in which highly involved dads help out at home, and the nuclear family model (two parents, married, with children) represent only 46% of American households.
  • ‍Zs are the first generation to be born into a world where everything physical, from people to places to pennies, has a digital equivalent.
  • From the time they were infants, Zs had access to mobile technology. As a result, their brains have been trained to absorb large amounts of information, and Zs are especially adept at shifting between skills and subject matter.
  • Zs tend to have crystal-clear memories of sitting up for the first time at six months old because they can easily and quickly reference the photos and videos their parents shared on social media or saved in the “cloud”. 

Members of this generation have undoubtedly been shaped by crisis and disruption. This generation will largely be responsible for confronting the aftermath of the Great Recession, high youth unemployment, the effects of climate change, terrorism, energy sustainability, and more. These dark events have undoubtedly made this generation more cautious and pragmatic, but they have also provided this generation with the inspiration to change the world – and their grit will likely allow them to do it.

Coming of age during disruption means that most Zs will be comfortable being the disruptors. While Millennials tend to be collaborative and innovative, this generation tends to be sincere, reflective, thick-skinned, and self-directed, and will likely approach work in much the same way.

Zs were raised to be competitive

In the era following World War II, Boomers (1946-1964) were born and eventually became the wealthiest, most prosperous generation in history. Raised to aspire for the American Dream, this very large generation moved into positions of power and influence, and served as the workforce majority for 34 years.

With the American Dream alive and well, Boomers had no reason to teach their children, mostly Millennials, about competition. Instead, they taught them to focus on academic achievement and to be team players because if everyone works hard, everyone can win.

Enter Generation X (1965-1981). In contrast Boomers, Xers came of age during a time when change and economic and political uncertainty began to take root. They have lived through four recessions, struggled with debt and economic decline most of their lives, and watched the best educated and accomplished generation of all time (Millennials) graduate during the Great Recession and become the most debt-ridden generation in history.

Gen Xers can be defined by their independence and anti-status quo approach to life, and they have taught their Gen Z children to be competitive, believing only the best can win. They have encouraged their children to be realists, finding something they are good at and aggressively pursuing it.

Xers have raised their Zs with an intense focus on competitiveness -- in academics, sports, and other activities. This approach to parenting has many implications, but one stands out in terms of business: Gen Z is likely to lead.

Millennials in the workplace created and aggressively advocated for collaborative work environments. In fact, their aversion to leadership has been so strong, some Millennials sought out companies that boasted boss-free or team-managed workplaces.

In contrast, Zs have been raised with an individualistic, realistic, and competitive nature. They have been taught the skills to successfully defy the norm. This means we’re going to see the pendulum shift away from collaborative workplaces towards a widespread demand for, and pursuit of, leadership development.

Zs are career-focused.

While Millennials have been criticized for their “delayed adulthood”, Gen Z is showing signs of “early adulthood”. Educators and parents often describe this generation as being more serious and contemplative about the world. Zs are thinking about their career paths and exposing themselves to career training at an earlier age than Millennials. It’s probable that some of this early onset of adulthood is caused by parents, who are pressuring their children to be competitive and successful and to avoid the debt that plagued both the Gen Xers and Millennials.

The numbers from our global research found 46% of Gen Z said they know what career to pursue and 51% have taken a class at school focused on their career interests. Forty percent joined an extracurricular program (team, club) based on their career interests.

Zs are seeking financial security. 

Zs have been shaped by the aftermath of the Great Recession. They watched Millennials become debt-ridden and are concerned about falling into the same trap. XYZ University’s survey results show 66% of Zs said financial stability is more important than doing work they enjoy, which is the exact opposite of Millennial survey results.  Also, 71% of survey-takers have a paying job.

Zs value leaders who are positive and trustworthy.

When presented a list of leadership traits, Zs ranked positive and trustworthy the highest. While Millennials and Gen Zs both value trust in a leader, Millennials usually cite collaboration and vision as most important. In other words, Millennials focus on the outcomes leaders inspire, whereas Zs are more likely to consider leaders’ attitudes and personalities. To Z, what leaders encourage others to do isn’t as valuable as how they make them feel.

 

Zs want to be challenged.

Both Millennials and Gen Zs place a very high value on feeling challenged and appreciated in the workplace. However, according to our survey results Millennials rank appreciation slightly higher than challenge, whereas Zs rank feeling challenged slightly higher than appreciation.

Time will tell how Zs go down in history, but we know this generation’s influence on history will be unlike any other.

 

Does your organization have what it takes to engage the next generation? Take this quiz to find out.

 

Sarah Sladek is CEO of XYZ University. Our generational intelligence can assist you with engaging and retaining young talent and members.

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