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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments

Flex time

I was going to make a joke about this, since that seems to be the mood I'm in today, like: Based on my recent trips to Best Buy, I thought they were already doing that:

If you walk into a Best Buy store this summer and see a tanned, rested sales-clerk clocking in or out of his shift on a whim, congratulations. You may have stumbled on a radical experiment: letting store employees work when they want.

You may also be looking at the future of your workforce, if Best Buy has its way.

With a classic flextime structure, workers arrange their schedules with their boss in advance. But under a program called Rowe, for "results-only work environment," the boss has no say in scheduling and can judge employees only on tasks successfully completed - even if none were done in the office. The five-year-old plan now covers 60 percent of the employees at Best Buy's corporate headquarters near Minneapolis.

And by all accounts, it's working. Employee productivity has increased an average of 35 percent in departments covered by the program. Rowe "has forced managers and employees to be really clear about what needs to be accomplished," says spokes-woman Dawn Bryant.

But this is actually a good idea for most workplaces. Let people know what they have to accomplish, then let them accomplish it when they want to, never mind the time clock, and give them a bonus if they exceed expectations. There has to be a little common sense, though. In my profession, for example, meetings have to be covered when they happen, and deadlines for stories have to be met. And I'm not quite how this would work in a retail establishment that is open for set hours, when customers have to be served no matter how flexible management wants to be about its employees' schedules.

Well, OK, one attempt at a humorous aside: What the heck is a spokes-woman? Someone so rotund she looks like a wheel?

Posted in: Current Affairs


Kenn Gividen
Fri, 03/16/2007 - 6:48am

Imagine standing in line at the bank during lunch hour.

Steve Towsley
Fri, 03/16/2007 - 5:26pm

I'm not sure if this would work in Fort Wayne, simply because so many managers think they have some mysterious right to change tasks and job descriptions at their whim, depending upon how they feel when they get up in the morning.

I know few bosses who are happy about being held to their own deals, promises and commitments to employees, even if they're tape recorded or on paper.

If you rate success in terms of projects completed, while alleged assignments and job descriptions change at the whim of any disorganized or unprofessional management, the judiciary system will have to nail down the facts in every single disagreement.

Chances are, sloppy management will take the beating in most cases, but time lost in productivity during the dispute will be significant regardless.

Flex time is a great idea, especially in a rough climate, especially for companies reluctant to embrace the concept of employees working from home -- assuming that management is committed to stand by commitments it made as far back as the original hire.

Flex time doesn't work if management stupidly moves the goal posts daily. Management's word is its bond, as well as the test of its trustworthiness. Any manager who has never gotten over the habit of saying anything to make a deal and forgetting it immediately afterward is going to get badly burned in court these days.

That inadequacy is management's fault, not the fault of the employee with a hiring deal, a legal company title and a business card. Don't hire a manager and treat him or her like an entry-level employee unless you yearn for trouble in the executive suites.

Steve Towsley
Fri, 03/16/2007 - 5:48pm

Let me add this bit to the above:

I have a near-photographic memory for significant conversations from any and every time in my past. I can quote interchanges of interest that happened 40-plus years ago. Friends and acquaintances have marveled at the accuracy. (I don't boast, I just report.)

So, I can usually quote people's precise language after having interviewed for a position -- most certainly for a position I decide to accept. The details of the interviewer's information are the reason I am convinced to commit, so these representations are always key, and highly memorable. I usually make notes afterward.

Obviously, no interviewer has any moral or ethical right to "sell" me falsely, as a potential staff member, with hype -- any more than I have the right to "sell" any interviewer with hype or prevarication. No party to the process may fudge the truth without the earned consequences applying to the crime.

We know that an employer will disqualify an applicant from consideration for lying -- and the interviewee will always just as surely pull an employer up short for misrepresentations after the hire. That's a wash.

kent strock
Fri, 03/16/2007 - 7:26pm

Damn Steve,
You sound like a disgruntled worker who can't quite acknowledge your position as a worker and the fact that class and power actually operates. Maybe try going to college to sort it all out.

Steve Towsley
Fri, 03/16/2007 - 8:49pm

Sorry dude. Been to college, been salaried, been a manager. Your intution leaves a lot to be desired.

The trouble around here is that people think titles don't mean anything, whereas in major markets and Fortune 100 companies (where I have worked alongside the most senior management in the largest cities) they don't happen to agree with us on that sentiment. Since the tail doesn't wag the dog, they're not wrong.

And this kind of attitude makes it hard for established world class corporations to interface or partner with Fort Wayne companies. If our firms don't understand the S.O.P. necessity for commonality of title and job description, companies who try to interact and/or partner with us become increasingly horrified as their expectations gradually fall apart, while our managers become increasingly and ignorantly uncomfortable with the pressures of acting like global professionals. So they wind up dissolving partnerships and firing their best people for being businesslike. Sad, I agree -- but uncomfortably true. I imagine certain local managers reading this and squirming already. Or getting P.O'ed, if they're not willing to face their own past failures as they try to "go national." It can't be done with a provincial mindset, and the point is that a lot of the best people leave town to find more professional, successful, and more appreciative (and higher paying) places to contribute.