did you know?

When Gap Outlet gave high-commitment a try, turnover in the production and technical services teams dropped by 50 percent.

wise words we heard

Trust changes everything.

Ninety-five percent of all employees are responsible and ethical and want to do their jobs well.

High-commitment workplaces manage to them, not to the bad apples for whom so many restrictive work policies are created. In a high-commitment work environment, employees are treated as responsible adults trusted to manage their time and company resources well. Responsibilities at work and outside of work are respected and supported. Ownership of work falls squarely on the shoulders of those who need to get the job done, encouraging employees to buy-in to the organization wholeheartedly by giving them control over the decisions that affect their work.

High-commitment work practices come in a variety of forms. The results-only work environment (ROWE) was first implemented at Best Buy. ROWE evaluates and manages workers based only on their results. It narrows managerial focus to output (Was the product high-quality? Delivered on time? Did the worker hit his numbers?), not traditional productivity metrics (number of absences or hours worked) or face time. Workers are responsible for managing their own time.

A second form is the High Performance Workplace, spearheaded by HPWP Consulting. This organization has been working with manufacturers for 20 years to develop work environments where all workers are trusted and empowered to contribute to the company bottom line to the best of their abilities. The manufacturers benefit from team dynamics where workers understand that their success is dependent upon each other and that businesses success is dependent upon the teams. High performance workplaces eliminate signs of “second-class citizenship” among workers.

High-commitment work practices have been around for decades but have not yet become the norm, though most people who have worked in a high-commitment work environment never want to work any other way. Though it’s been a slow start, there is hope: In the spring of 2010, the federal government launched a pilot ROWE program that may well become a new best practice for managing government workers. Indeed, more and more employers are finding that when they treat employees with trust and respect, they get performance that validates that trust.

Advice for Employers

  • Adopt a management vision to recognize people as people. In a high-performance work environment, employees are whole people with skills and lives; they are not just subordinates.
  • Remember that one bad apple doesn’t spoil the whole bunch. Build your culture and organization around the 95 percent who can be trusted. Those who don’t wish to do their best will show themselves; management need not be tailored to “out” them.
  • Identify and eliminate signs of “second-class citizenship.” Executive dining rooms, reserved parking, and resources distributed based on seniority instead of need all signal to employees they lack value and significance.
  • Implement interdepartmental hiring teams. For high performance workplaces, distribute responsibility and tap into the experiential knowledge that workers already possess.
  • Train, baby, train! Before implementing a pilot ROWE program, participants should learn the philosophy and became well-versed in its tenets.
  • Manage the change. Make sure you don’t launch and leave. Communicate and check in often about how it’s going.
  • Measure the results. One of the most persuasive tools in overhauling management structures is good data.