This post is part of our COVID-19 blog series, which includes practical tips about how your business can survive and thrive through the coronavirus pandemic.
We're hearing from a lot of clients who are struggling to get things done and trying to ensure their team is working as efficiently as possible in this new coronavirus reality.
Nine times out of ten, the ones who struggle the most are those who've never been allowed — or have never allowed their team — to work from home. Why? Because we as humans are conditioned to believe that work is a place you go, not something you do.
"Suddenly, office managers everywhere are realizing what workforce expert Jody Thompson has been preaching for years: work is not somewhere you go; it’s something you do..." -Twin Cities Business, April 9, 2020
We're a big fan of Jody Thompson and Cali Ressler over at Culture RX. They're former Best Buy employees who were tasked with the job of finding better ways for the company's team to work. They developed the Results-Only Workplace Environment (ROWE) framework, which has been embraced by companies of all sizes who are getting better results by turning traditional management principles upside down. (Kind of sounds similar to what's happening right now in the world, huh?)
So what's ROWE all about? You can learn more in the best-selling Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It or Why Managing Sucks and How to Fix It books by Thomson and Ressler. Both are available in printed form, Kindle format or audiobook. You can also view this fantastic video featuring managers who have implemented it:
In a nutshell, the unwavering foundation of a ROWE is that:
It doesn't matter where you work or when you work, as long as the work gets done.
The last part about work getting done (i.e. getting real, measurable RESULTS) is absolutely the most important part of a ROWE. No results? No job.
With a ROWE, employees are given more than just flexibility...they're provided the trust and freedom to make responsible decisions about how they spend their time. If they choose not to make work a priority, they don't get the privilege of working for you or your company.
Now before you go all rogue and implement that policy willy nilly without adhering to the true ROWE methodology, you must read the books and familiarize yourself with the philosophy. Culture RX is also offering a ton of free downloadable resources and leadership support to help companies navigate these unchartered waters.
You also must recognize that you're controlling people's livelihoods and destinies, so it's not something to be taken lightly or that can be implemented overnight. ROWEs take a lot of work to be implemented correctly. They also require managers to do some self-reflecting and sharpen their own skill sets. A ROWE is a very collaborative environment built upon trust, which doesn't happen overnight. But by creating a culture that allows your employees to flourish, you're setting the foundation for your company to flourish as well.
5 Ways to Get Better Results in a Remote Workforce
Here are five mistakes you could be making as a virtual manager and how to shift your strategy to get better results:
- Do you ask your team to react to a lot of fire drills? Not ok on a regular basis in a ROWE!
Before you ask someone to shift direction on the fly and interrupt their workflow, take a deep breath, count to ten and consider whether this is REALLY an emergency. Also, be clear if something else should take a lower priority to accomplish this new task. Take note of how often you're doing this and consider how you would feel if this was being done to you.
- Do you expect your employee (especially during COVID, when they may be balancing other family or home responsibilities simultaneously) to be chained to their computer, email or Skype and at your beck and call? Also not ok, whether you're in the office or working remotely.
Instead, work with your team to define "heads down" time and regular standing meetings (via web conference or phone) that will allow you to stay connected in a virtual world. Speaking of meetings...
- Do you expect your team to attend daily meetings, spend valuable meeting time shooting the breeze or schedule meetings for the sake of meetings? Ouch. In a ROWE, meetings are optional. Yes, you read that correctly. If an employee feels that a meeting is not necessary to meet the company's goals, he or she is allowed — and in fact, encouraged — to speak up and discuss. Does that mean that employees can railroad managers or colleagues into cancelling all meetings? Of course not. But you as a manager, will be held accountable for wasting the company's time and money on unproductive meetings just for the sake of meetings just as much as other employees will.
Before you schedule any meeting, reevaluate whether it's necessary or if the same task or goal can be accomplished via email, Skype or a smaller group. Don't waste people's time.
- Speaking of tasks and goals, be crystal clear regarding weekly and monthly responsibilities and tasks for each team member. Ditto for their overall quarterly goals. All of this should be clearly communicated and documented so there's no confusion about what needs to happen and when. You as a manager are responsible for this, although your team members can and should be involved in documenting what's happening right now and what their future workload (which is probably more realistic) should be.
Document daily, weekly and monthly tasks for each team member. Ideally, give them a template and ask them to fill in the blanks showing what they're currently doing and asking them what they think should be adjusted for better results. Use it as a conversation tool. Also, work with your employee to identify three to five quarterly S.M.A.R.T. (smart, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound) goals. Their goals should be a contract between you and the employee, and should be tied to the company's overall business or marketing goals. Start very small and increase the complexity of quarterly goals in future quarters, and do make sure that these are tied to performance bonuses and salaries if possible. Good examples of quarterly goals for marketing employees might be "Publish four blog posts per month starting on May 1st" or "Attend online XYZ conference on Wednesday, June 15th and define three ways we can implement what you learn". Note that both of these goals are simple, self-contained and can be expanded upon or continued within the next quarter. Don't expect someone to attend a conference, identify three valuable takeaways and implement all three of them within one quarter. It is up to the team member to make sure these goals are reached and to proactively notify you in advance if that can't happen. Meet quarterly to review whether he or she met, didn't meet or exceeded those goals. Don't grill or shame people in their quarterly reviews. On that note...
- Shaming and blaming is not allowed! With a ROWE, it's pretty cut and dry...if someone is not performing, you'll know about it because he or she is not getting agreed-upon work done or meeting quarterly goals. No need to get worked up about it or publicly shame that person. That only leads to a toxic "command and control" environment that will do more harm than good, leading to poor performance, increased stress and frustration, and decreased employee morale. Treat your team members like the grown adults they are, not like children.
Have an open, one-on-one conversation about what's happening and how to move past that to get better results. Give your team member the opportunity to define solutions, offer suggestions and work as a partner to solve problems. If results aren't happening, it's time to reevaluate. Everyone on your team should be getting results.
These common scenarios will make or break how your company performs in a virtual world, so we highly recommend that you take a hard look at what you're doing right now and pivot accordingly. We also highly recommend that you look further into "going ROWE" to see if there are valuable productivity and profitability changes you can make now to help you pull through the COVID crisis and come out stronger.
Need help implementing ROWE or with your digital marketing during this unprecedented time? We'd love to help! Contact us today to learn how we can help you get better results during and after this pandemic.