By madivanvandermerwe, 24 April, 2015

A workplace in which employees are judged solely by the work and results they produce, rather than the hours they spend at their desk in the office, is a dream of mine—and many others. A new study from Pennsylvania State University puts this workplace system to the test, and recently was spotlighted by Andrew M. Seaman for Reuters.

The Reuters article notes a major finding of the study was that a results-based workplace enables employees to spend more time with their family, but I see benefits far beyond that.

I see the potential for exponentially better services, products, and other deliverables. If employees understand that they solely will be judged by the outcome of their labor, rather than the appearance of their labor, there will be a focus shift. The shift will be from the show (chatting up the right people, e-mailing the boss unnecessarily or at a late hour or on the weekend, over-the-top/showy meeting presentations, etc.) and toward doing exactly what they need to do (however much or little that is) to create the deliverables their boss and customers have requested.

How can trainers impact this kind of shift? The first step is educating the executive board about why such a change in work culture is worthwhile. You will need to show how the emphasis on the process of working, rather than the results, has negatively affected employee output. You could offer examples of employees who are high performers, who have requested greater flexibility, or have been granted more flexibility as part of a trial, and have continued to contribute significantly. You also could note examples of past employees (names kept anonymous, if necessary) who, despite appearances, did not deliver on goals the executives, or other managers, set.

Suggesting a moderate-scale trial of the new results workplace is a great way to get executive buy-in. Pick 100 (or more if you’re a large company) high-performing employees, and offer them a new way to work. Instead of having them work according to a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., in-office schedule, let them know they are free to keep any hours, at any location, they choose for the next six months. Then, have these employees’ managers fill out a report, or provide a verbal report, on how these employees with all that newfound freedom performed. Most importantly, what effect did the new work orientation have on the assignments, services, or products they delivered? Overall, did the deliverables stay of the same quality, improve, or suffer? If the results from this initial trial show the new system worked, then expand the trial to another 100 employees. As long as it’s successful, keep expanding it.

If your trial with high performers goes well to such a degree that you’re expanding the program every six months or year, the next question becomes whether the results-oriented approach is for all employees, or just those who already have proven themselves to be high performers. A compromise is to only offer it those who have been with the company for a certain number of years, or those who have gotten above-average annual review scores for a few years in a row.

However, I think all employees, not just those who already have proven themselves, do better when the focus is where it should be—on the work they are delivering and what they are doing for your customers or clients—rather than on how good they are at putting on a show.

Would a results-based work culture do well at your company? What challenges would this kind of system present? What are the advantages, and how would you optimize those advantages?


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