By: Wayne Sleight

We’re going ROWE!

July 6, 2015

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We’re excited and proud to announce that 97th Floor is now officially a ROWE™ Certified Organization!

rowe-certified

ROWE stands for Results Only-Work Environment, and is a human resource management strategy that was created by Jody Thompson and Cali Ressler. The idea behind ROWE is to give employees 100% autonomy in exchange for 100% accountability. Employees are judged only on the work that they accomplish, rather than on irrelevant issues such as the hours that they spend in the office. Since creating ROWE, Jody and Cali have founded CultureRx™ to train, assess, and certify organizations in the use of their results-only approach to employee management.

To prepare for our transition into a ROWE workplace, all employees of 97th Floor completed an in-depth series of courses and discussions provided by CultureRx. Each employee was then given a test to ensure that as an organization we’d be successful at implementing this new—and very important—aspect of our culture. We passed with flying colors, and are now operating as a fully certified ROWE company!

If you want to learn more about ROWE, I invite you to read about it in Slate, Inc., or HuffPost. Better yet, check out the CultureRx website, GoROWE.com. However, the basic idea behind ROWE is found in this slogan:

“Work whenever you want, wherever you want, as long as the work gets done.”

the-rowe-system

At 97th Floor, we charge our clients based on the results we deliver them, not on the amount of time we work (other than consulting projects). Our clients couldn’t care less if we spent 100 combined hours or 1,000 combined hours during the term of the contract—as long as the agreed upon goals in the contract are met. As such, it seemed inappropriate to judge our own employees based upon the hours that they work, rather than the work that is being accomplished. This was a wake up call for us.

Despite the obvious benefits associated with ROWE, this isn’t a decision that we made lightly. In fact, we’ve been weighing the pros and cons since the beginning of 2014. It all kept coming back to one fear: How can we know that an employee is working, if they aren’t in the office? This is a valid question, but it is one that is rendered moot by a second question: How can we know that an employee is working even when they are in the office?

It’s normal for management to want to exert some form of control over those on the company’s payroll. After all, employees are expected to earn their pay, and when they choose instead to ignore their duties, it can cause serious problems for the business in question. However, the reality is that a bad employee will find ways to avoid responsibility, even while sitting at his or her desk surrounded by coworkers. In fact, by giving employees a standard of measurement based upon something other than accomplishments, leaders enable low-productivity. In essence, they tell workers that they don’t have to work; they just have to show up.

Well, after more than a year of discussion, we decided that we weren’t content with sticking with a flawed strategy. We wanted employees to be adults. We wanted them to be respected. We wanted them to be in control of their work and their lives. We’ve believed for a long time that our agency has the best talent in the industry. Now we are letting our employees decide how to provide the best work possible for our clients—which, in reality, is what we’ve expected of our people all along. Traditional HR tools such as time clocks, office hours, limited vacation/sick days, and mandatory meetings all just get in the way, and distract employee focus from what is really important. ROWE puts everything back into perspective, making it possible for employees to work at the times and in the locations that are best suited to their own talents, and it helps management improve as well, by freeing it from the need to constantly supervise and ‘hand-hold’ those who work below them. When all is said and done, the only viable measure of success is success itself. ROWE allows us to release control over a number of things that we are now realizing that we never wanted to control in the first place.

Being giving the freedom to work on my own terms has been absolutely amazing. Today I went to see Disney Pixar’s Inside Out with my wife and daughter at 3:30pm, and now that my daughter is in bed and my wife is out with a friend, I’m able to get back to work… albeit in my backyard with my dogs while I enjoy this warm summer evening! And I’m not the only one enjoying ROWE. One of our Senior Graphic Designers, Maggie Call, recently travelled through India for a month with her husband (and yeah, she represented 97th Floor at The Taj Mahal). And while she was traveling, she still produced amazing work and met on-going project deadlines. One of our Team Lead’s, Cole Rieben, just had gorgeous twin girls. Complications kept them in the hospital for a few weeks, and Cole was able to be there for his family as a husband and a father, while still providing exceptional work for the company. Think about what type of work Cole would have produced if he had had to neglect his responsibilities at home in favor of arbitrarily putting in eight hours a day at the office resulting in him being stressed out. What kind of quality would Maggie’s work be if she were burned-out from being forced to choose between occupying a desk and following her dreams? How effective would I be in my position if I was depressed from missing this time in my daughter’s life? The sad truth is that when freedom is restricted, results suffer. According to Gallup, over half of U.S. employees were not engaged in their jobs in 2014. I wonder how many employees would be happier and more engaged if they had more autonomy.

Success doesn’t breed happiness; happiness breeds success—that’s the happiness advantage (read Shawn Achor’s book). If we’re tired, stressed, burned out, or just having a crappy day, we don’t need to just sit at the office anymore and fake it. We can do something else and get back to work at a better time. Now our clients are getting work from happy people who are ready to share their own excitement and heart in everything that they produce. Our work in the past has been amazing—just look at our retention rate and the awards that we win. With this improvement to our culture, we can’t wait to see just how much better our work will be!

While one purpose is to attract and retain the best talent, another purpose is to increase productivity. Leaders at 97th Floor no longer have subjective conversations about how hard their team members are working. Now, they only focus on the results. This gives 97th Floor 100% accountability from all employees. To put it simply: No results, no job. That’s how clients treat us, so that’s how we need to treat employees. Does this mean that if an employee has a bad month, we simply fire them? Probably not. Clients usually don’t cancel on us if we have one bad month, or if one campaign fails to perform as expected; they look at the overall track record of our work. 97th Floor will do the same with employees. So while we’re not absolutely cutthroat, we are completely serious about maintaining an A-Player culture. This requires fast firing, regardless of how hard an employee is working. Our clients deserve the best talent working on their accounts, and our employees deserve to be surrounded by the best individuals. ROWE helps us recognize those individuals, and to offer them the best possible environment for them to be able to reach their full potential. In the end, it is the employee who achieves the best results that is recognized and rewarded, regardless of how many hours he or she has spent in the office.

We’re excited about this as a company! If you are a client or a prospective client, you should be excited as well. 97th Floor will be even better than what we’ve been in the past! If you’re a prospective employee, you should be excited as well. Come join us, and see for yourself just how great of results you can achieve!

There is obviously much more to be said about ROWE and what it means to us here at 97th Floor. I’ve talked enough though, so I’ll now let our work and our culture speak for themselves.

 

Written by Wayne Sleight on July 6, 2015

Chief Operating Officer

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