Changing Work-Life Balance at Best Buy

Changing Work-Life Balance at Best Buy

Here’s an interesting article about how Best Buy is transitioning their workforce to ROWE, aka Results-Oriented Work Environment. The idea: instead of gauging employee productivity by hours, measure the results. So long as the work is getting done, as measured by metrics like “orders processed per period”, go ahead and watch a movie in the middle of the day, leave early to pick up your kid. The result: higher productivity where it matters (things done, not hours sat), higher job satisfaction, and lower turnover. From the Business Week article:

[…] Thompson, a former General Electric Co. (GE ) guy, was as old school as they come with his starched shirt, booming voice, and ramrod-straight posture. He came of age believing there were three 8-hour days in every 24 hours. He loved working in his office on weekends. At first, he pushed back hard. “I was not supportive,” says Thompson, who was privately terrified about the loss of control. “He didn’t want anything to do with it,” says Achen. “He was all about measurement, and he kept asking me, `How are you going to measure this so you know you’re getting the same productivity out of people?'” That’s where Achen’s performance metrics came in handy. He could measure how many orders per hour his team was processing no matter where they were. He told Thompson he’d reel everyone back to campus the minute he noticed a dip. Within a month, Achen could see that not only was his team’s productivity up, but engagement scores, or measuring job satisfaction and retention, were the highest in the dot-com division’s history. For years, engagement had been a sore spot for Thompson. “I showed J.T. these scores, and his eyes lit up,” says Achen. Thompson rushed to roll out ROWE to his entire department. Voluntary turnover among men dropped from 16.11% to 0. “For years I had been focused on the wrong currency,” says Thompson. “I was always looking to see if people were here. I should have been looking at what they were getting done.”

Very interesting! I’ll have to keep an eye on Best Buy. If the rules of the system are clear, apply to everyone, and everyone accepts them, a lot of good things can happen. This strikes me as being far more sustainable too, if you establish realistic expectations for productivity in the first place instead of trying to squeeze every last drop out of a person and burning them like cordwood. — Via Sean Johnson.


  1. ashley 15 years ago

    i read this recently and found it to be quite a great idea (working in the corp. world, changes for the benefit for employees is always a triumph!)

  2. Senia 15 years ago

    I also just read about this on Pamela Slim’s site too.  This is pretty neat.  Very neat.  Best Buy is super-innovative and ahead of what other companies are doing – when other companies are just thinking about flex-time, Best Buy is already doing it.

    Best Buy has also been a huge user of and proponent of Gallup’s StrengthsFinder, and allowing employees to praise each other on doing those things which they do best.

  3. John Athayde 15 years ago

    I love this idea and have actually been able to do it partially this past fall with a wi-fi card and a cell phone as I was up and down the east cost playing rock shows. Very odd to have to end a phone meeting that’s going past 6pm by saying “I’m sorry I have to go load my gear into the club.” But it’s worked.

    My concern is that companies who have an unreasonable expectation of what can be done will end up saying “you’re not hitting results” and judging an employee on what is in fact unattainable? How could that be avoided?

    I know that on a regular 45 hours a week I can barely touch half of what’s been assigned, and that’s more or less par for the course for everyone at my company. How can you avoid the overworking (and therefore, running into the ground) of employees?

  4. Spencer Hill 15 years ago

    This is the work environment of the future of the best and most productive employees. The most sought after employees will get this option or they will leave for environs that have it. Their less productive colleagues will remain in the cuurent status quo.

    This type of work environment was the subject of the book “Seven Day Weekend” by Ricardo Semler. it is a very worthwhile read.

  5. NarayanMishra 15 years ago

    CAse studies with actual achievement are more helpful.