During the industrial age, it made sense, in terms of productivity and output, for employees to be at work for a set number of hours. The workday often revolved around static machinery and, for companies, broken or inefficient machines were the biggest costs.
In today’s knowledge-based economy, for many firms, it is now human innovation and creativity that are crucial to growth and success, and wasted time and potential are the biggest costs. Indeed, the greatest challenges involve acquiring and retaining talent and providing the right environment for people to make full use of their capabilities.
So far, so obvious. But how can you achieve this? At my company, our inspiration is a book by the business writer Daniel Pink, Drive. In it, he talks about employees having something called intrinsic motivation – in other words, they work because they love what they do and care about the results.
Pink also identifies three key drivers for unlocking intrinsic motivation: autonomy, mastery and purpose. Simply put, autonomy is having the freedom to direct your own time and actions; mastery is having full command of your skills; and purpose means you feel you are working towards something important.
One of the ways we have sought to give our staff autonomy, mastery and purpose is by implementing what is known as a Results Only Work Environment (ROWE). A ROWE means that people can work wherever they want, whenever they want, as long as they deliver against set metrics. Rather than measuring the time people spend in the office each day, we now only measure the value and quality of the work that is produced.
Operating a ROWE has brought about a transformational change in the way our employees behave and use their time, and this has meant that we no longer have to impose technical controls and unnecessary processes. Our office has also become a tool that helps people produce great work instead of just a place they have to go to each day. Overall, we’ve seen greater innovation, stronger relationships, and better results.
ROWE has also helped us build a strong talent brand and we have seen five times as many applications come from employee referrals. Our voluntary retention rate is at nearly 100 per cent, and some of our people have even turned down a pay increase at other firms rather than give up working in this environment.
Further, our last quarterly company survey showed that nearly 100 per cent of our employees prefer working in a ROWE and overall employee satisfaction has increased substantially. One reason for this is that it has brought balance to people’s lives and has removed the usual outside-of-work friction. Our employees don’t have to miss having dinner with their kids or going to a yoga class because they can choose where and when they do their work.
Introducing a ROWE may not be the best option for all businesses. But if companies want to recruit top talent, especially from among today’s young and driven digital natives, finding ways to make the most of people’s time and potential isn’t an option, it’s a necessity.
Callum Negus-Fancey is chief executive of Let’s Go Holdings.
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