Jason Dehne's brother called him one day in March and asked if he might like to have lunch and then visit the annual auto show in downtown Minneapolis. Without even checking his schedule, Dehne--a human resource manager of retirement and wealth strategies at Best Buy--agreed to the plan. The brothers spent a blissful Tuesday afternoon walking through showrooms full of the latest vehicles.
The story might not seem unusual if it were not for the fact that Dehne did not need to inform his boss of his whereabouts--he knew his boss could not care less. Nor did he feel guilty about it, since his job allows him to work wherever and whenever he wants as long as he completes projects on a timely ...view middle of the document...
They share a passion for shaking up the American workplace and replacing the 9-to-5 paradigm with one that emphasizes freedom for employees and results for employers.
In a time when many white-collar Americans complain of being chained to desks for 50 to 70 hours a week and of having too little time for families and hobbies, CultureRx offers a remedy for the prevailing zeitgeist--a prescription that has attracted the attention of national media such as "60 Minutes," National Public Radio, The New York Times and Business Week.
ROWE enables Best Buy employees whose departments participate in it the opportunity to do their work wherever and whenever they wish. They might play tennis in the morning, go windsurfing on a lake one afternoon, take a two-hour lunch or run a couple of days a week, as Dehne does.
Best Buy supervisors have been retrained to think less about line-of-sight management (Jim is at his desk, so he must be working) and more about the results of employees' work. Some employees work outside the office just one day a week, while others spend the majority of their work time at home or other locations.
Thompson likens ROWE to the college lifestyle, in which studying and writing papers can be done anytime and anywhere--the library, the dorm room or a coffeehouse. "Going from college to the workforce is like going back to elementary school--you have no control," she says. "The conundrum is that managers are always trying to manage people--instead of results. Think about it. People come into the workforce as adults, and they're treated like children."
The Early Returns
Results from and reactions to ROWE have been encouraging. Productivity has increased an average of 35 percent within six to nine months in Best Buy units implementing ROWE, a figure based on metrics reported or estimated by managers using the new system. Voluntary turnover has dropped between 52 percent and 90 percent in three Best Buy divisions that CultureRx has studied. The three divisions were chosen because they were otherwise unaffected by company reorganizations or other initiatives.
Ressler cites this voluntary turnover figure as an indication that employees who once would have left Best Buy decided to stay put after ROWE was implemented. Thompson says one procurement division, an early adopter, saw voluntary turnover drop from 36.6 percent a year to less than 6 percent annually.
A CultureRx study of attitudes of ROWE participants found that feelings of pressure and a sense of working too hard have changed. "They feel happier about work. They feel more ownership of their work. They feel more clear about what they're doing for the company, and they see it [ROWE] as a benefit that's almost more important than any other," says Thompson. "They talk about it as if to say, 'Someone else could offer me more money, but I wouldn't go because I now have control over my time.'"
Phyllis Moen, sociology professor at the University of...