80 Hours Per Week vs. ROWE

Tim Sackett Bad HR, Benefits, Change, Culture, Employment Branding and Culture, Good HR, HR, Innovation, Organizational Development, The HR Profession, Tim Sackett, Trench HR

A while back I wrote a post called “What Would It Take To Get You To Work 80 Hrs Per Week?” over at The Project. The post was meant to dig into what it would take to get employees to go beyond their normal 40 hour work week, and give you that discretionary effort all of HR Pros want to get out of our workforce.  What I didn’t see coming when I wrote the post was how the ROWE folks would lose their minds! For those not yet familiar with the ROWE concept – check it out here (www.gorowe.com).  Safe to say ROWE advocates believe it shouldn’t be about hours, it should be about results – which I agree with.  So, I’ve asked Stacey Swanson from the Culture Rx team to join me in a little conversation…

 (Tim) So, Stacey – I get it should be about results – I tell my own team all the time, if you reach your goals – I could care less if you even come to work!  But (oh there’s always a but!) – what about those times when the organization needs to go beyond “the goals”?  How do you get your team in a ROWE environment to give discretionary effort beyond what they are measured against?

(Stacey) In a ROWE, people are given control over their time. No asking permission. No judging where a co-worker is at a particular time.  That control is freeing.  People will do whatever they need to in order to achieve results for an organization.  They will go above and beyond because they want to see the organization succeed and personally, they don’t want to give up that control over their life.  At our client sites where we’ve conducted ROWE training, employees are consistently going above and beyond – not because they’re being asked to, but because they *want* to.  We believe this stems from the intrinsic motivation that surfaces when people are given…well, their lives back.  The carrots and sticks approach of the past may have worked to force people to put in more *time*, but it’s not how people are wired to actually produce more – as Dan Pink states in Drive.  The mixture of autonomy, mastery, and purpose – all catalyzed in a ROWE – are necessary to get the discretionary effort HR pros are looking for.

(Tim)  You know this really puts me in a no-win situation – how can you argue against people “having control over their own time”?!  You can’t!  Everybody wants that except maybe companies who have committed to a client to produce “X” amount, but Jimmy thought it was a nice sunny day and what the heck – I’m in control of my own time…  ROWE just doesn’t work in every type of environment.   There are work environments where reaching a “goal” might not be enough to fulfill the commitments the organization has that day/week/month/year.  So, now what?  Do you go to that employee(s) and tell them – “yeah, we really like that ROWE thing! But we also like getting paid and having benefits – so for this week I’m controlling your time – I mean you’re controlling your time – just be here at 7am if you still want this job!”   How do you work around those types of issues?

(Stacey) When I hear ROWE won’t work for some environments, it comes across as “not every job or every environment can focus on results.”  If someone shows up at 7am every day, does that mean they are achieving their results? As an HR professional, I can tell you absolutely not.  So, tie people to the outcome of the organization, get them to focus on results and they will be where they need to be to achieve those results.  Does a child care center need employees to be at the child care center to care for the kids? Absolutely. Do you need to spell it out for them like they are 3? No. They get that. Treat them like adults and trust them to focus on the results. And, if they don’t, then it needs to be addressed as a performance issue.  *This* is where we see organizations getting tripped up – it’s much easier to control time and say “you need to start being here from 8am to 5pm every day” than it is to say “We agreed you’d deliver X to the customer on X day at X time to keep our customer satisfaction level at X% – you didn’t deliver so let’s talk about that”.  Being in control of our lives and our time doesn’t give us a free pass to not deliver…at least not if we want to keep getting a paycheck!

(Tim) Ok, it’s my blog, so I get to end this conversation!  Arguing the merits of ROWE seems like I’m running in a circle – theoretically it seems like a great structure – but then why doesn’t every company in the world run under these principles?  I don’t think you’ll find a person who has a higher results orientation than me, but I still would find it hard to work in a ROWE environment.  But not because I don’t think I can handle it, I’m a HR Person – I know most employee CAN’T handle it!  That has nothing to do with trust – it has everything to do with most people just don’t have the results orientation high enough to work in such an open environment and be successful.  They want to try it, but they will fail.  That seems to be the key to ROWE – not the principles – but your selection of talent that you allow to work under those principles. It’s the chicken or the egg scenario, right?

If you haven’t already – check out the team at CultureRxCali and Jody developed some really cool stuff, that will more than likely just frustrate you because your leadership will never allow you to use it in your environment – but the principles have definite merit.  Even if you can begin to move in this direction you and your organization will be better for it!

And ROWE advocates – you can stop hating on me! You know I’m right – it just doesn’t fit your sales pitch!