Study: Best Buy’s Results-Driven Focus Reaps Benefits

U of M researchers found that the company's "Results-Only Work Environment" reduced employee turnover by 45 percent and resulted in improved work-life balances for employees over the course of an eight-month study.

A University of Minnesota study that took place at Best Buy Company, Inc.'s Richfield headquarters found that results-driven work environments offering flexibility reduce employee turnover and improve work-life balance.

U of M sociology professors Erin Kelly and Phyllis Moen conducted the study over an eight-month period-and the results were published in the April edition of the American Sociological Review.

Kelly and Moen collected data through surveys completed by 600 Best Buy employees and from company records comparing the period before and after the implementation of a so-called “Results Only Work Environment” (ROWE) initiative. They looked at differences between 300 employees who were part of the initiative and 300 who weren't.

Best Buy launched its ROWE initiative on a small scale beginning in 2003. As of late 2009, it was a way of life for close to 3,000 people-or roughly 80 percent of the staff at its headquarters.

Through ROWE, Best Buy redirected the focus of employees and managers toward measurable results and away from a set work schedule and location. ROWE employees can routinely change their hours and where they worked without seeking permission from a manager or even notifying one.

“With these changes in the workplace, employees gained control over the time and timing of their work in ways that benefited them and, by extension, their families and communities,” Kelly said in a statement.

The two researchers found that ROWE reduces turnover by 45 percent after accounting for factors like job level, organizational tenure, job satisfaction, income adequacy, and job security.

At Best Buy, only 6 percent of ROWE participants left the company during the eight-month study period; by contrast, 11 percent of the non-ROWE group left.

“By showing that a policy initiative like ROWE can reduce turnover, this research moves the 'opting out' argument-whether one chooses family over work-from a private issue to an issue of how employers can change the workplace to better meet the needs of employees,” Moen said in a statement.

The researchers found that ROWE reduced the incidence, among both men and women, of opting out of the work force to focus on family. It also reduced work-family conflict and spillover and improved time balance between work and family.