The Results-Only Work Environment: How it Benefits More Than Just Millennials

Much ado is made of Millennial workers’ collective preference for clear direction, frequent feedback, recognition for achievement and the freedom to work autonomously. But, asks Greg Watt, president and CEO of WATT Global Media, isn’t that ultimately what all employees want?

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Whether a Boomer, a Gen-X-er, a Millennial or Gen-Z-er, “everyone wants recognition, to be really engaged and to feel like they’re a part of something meaningful,” says Watt.

Though WATT Global Media was a successful family-owned B2B publishing company that had been around for nearly a century, management had been noticing engagement needed improvement among their new, highly skilled employees, who seemed to lack a basic understanding of who the customer was and how their day-to-day duties were relevant to bottom-line results.

Greg Watt and his executive team decided it was time for something new. They discovered a management strategy called the Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE). The ROWE philosophy, simply put, is that work isn’t a place to go, but what you do. Employees are not managed; work is managed. In a ROWE, employees are free to do whatever they want—keep the hours they wish, work wherever they like, etc.—so long as they get the job done.

“When I have autonomy at work, I make better decisions, I’m a better employee, I’m more loyal and I give more to the company.”

It would be a huge change, Watt knew, but after some deliberation, the company took the plunge. Gone were annual performance reviews, set office hours, any requirement to go to the office and vague, top-down communication from managers to employees. All managers had to let go of the command-and-control style. “We lost a few who didn’t make it over to the other side,” says Watt. “But everyone else got on board and we came through with flying colors.”

The results have been tangible, to say the least. Since implementation in 2012, financial results have exceeded objectives; retention is up considerably, as employees are able to relocate around the country for personal reasons without losing step; employee satisfaction scores have improved measurably; and resumés for new positions have been pouring in, thanks to word-of-mouth referrals by employees. “People are working together, sharing ideas and learning from each other in a way they never did before,” says Watt.

That’s because they’re actually happy to be at work, notes Jody Thompson, who cofounded ROWE with Cali Ressler at Best Buy in 2003. “They’re being treated like adults,” says Thompson, also co-CEO of professional services firm CultureRx. “When I have autonomy at work, I make better decisions, I’m a better employee, I’m more loyal and I give more to the company.” That holds true regardless of company size, she adds, though larger companies will require a more robust and longer-term change management position and human capital strategy.

Watt, having lived through the change, agrees that size shouldn’t matter as long as the CEO is behind the change. “It’s no different than any other major strategic pivot or shift. If leadership, starting with the CEO, isn’t fully supportive and communicating clearly throughout the organization as to what the positive outcomes will be, then it’s very difficult to make those things reality and be successful,” he says. “In a culture shift, you need full engagement to have it be authentic.”

Hear more about WATT Global Media’s shift to a Results-Only Work Environment at the CEO Talent Summit on October 13-14 at Procter & Gamble’s headquarters in Cincinnati. For more information about the Summit and to register, visit

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