Results Only Work Environments – Can They Work For Modern Entrepreneurs?
This TED Talk by Dan Pink on The Puzzle of Motivation was fascinating. Not least because it threw up some interesting questions for modern entrepreneurs and small business owners; particularly those who use outsourced foreign workers.
It’s very easy these days to outsource tasks to workers across the globe. Pink stated that tasks that are governed by a simple set of rules and with a narrow focus are perfect for this type of work.
Hand the instructions over to the outsourcer and you get a completed task back. Often this happens at a fraction of the cost of a traditional employee.
Generally our approach to work is that if you work you get paid. If you increase output or do something within a shortened time frame you may get a bonus.
On the other hand if you don’t complete the task within a certain time frame or output level then your rate of pay is cut (a carrot and stick approach).
Dan showed the results of experiments conducted by economists that showed that this carrot and stick approach (do this and you get that) isn’t particularly effective.
The motivation for completing these tasks is extrinsic and outside the control of the worker. The employer has the power and control over every element of the task.
I have seen this through conversations with entrepreneurs who hire cheap outsourced workers from countries such as the Philippines.
They choose these workers because the rate of pay is low and then wonder why their productivity drops off over time. The worker may disappear for days at a time, even when there is no interference from weather or other catastrophes.
The most successful relationships I’ve encountered between entrepreneurs and their outsourced workers have been those where the worker has been given some autonomy.
They have a set wage for the week and have a set number of tasks or projects that should be completed within the time frame. As long as the work is completed the entrepreneur hasn’t been bothered whether it was done 9 to 5, in 12 hours or 36. The focus was on the project(s) being completed to a high standard within the time frame given.
Evidence shown in Pink’s talk proved that intrinsic motivation is the key to getting workers motivated. That is, the motivation has to come from within them. So how can you make your workers motivated to complete your tasks?
The answer seems quite simple; autonomy and the provision of results only work environments (“ROWE”). The argument for this approach seems quite compelling and is used in corporations such as Google. However, for the entrepreneur or small business where outsourced workers are being used this can be quite an alarming concept.
ROWEs are based on the idea that the modern business world requires workers to perform more right-brained or creative tasks. Those are the types of tasks that require them to use their thinking skills, solve problems and not simply to follow a simple set of instructions.
These types of tasks are not only more difficult to outsource but they are more time consuming to manage. Many entrepreneurs outsource tasks such as graphic design, web development, writing and software, plugin or app development; all of which are very creative and time-consuming.
Following the ROWE method would mean that you provide your outsources and any employees with flexibility to their approach to work. They would have more autonomy over their choice of work hours, location and task choices.
So how could you implement this approach to your business? Negotiate a set fee and timescale for a project. Discuss the requirements fully up front and schedule check in times so that you can meet virtually via Skype, for instance, to discuss progress, problems and new ideas that have occurred. Use a collaboration tool such as Asana to help manage the project and your team of workers.
By providing a greater sense of autonomy and power you should have a happier, more motivated and productive worker. Of course, you do have to ensure that your rate of pay is fair which will rule out dissatisfaction with pay as that can be a very negative force. Who can feel motivated to work hard when their rate of pay is too low?
As a modern entrepreneur you are still building a business and while it may not have traditional employees any freelancers and outsources are still working for you during their period of freelancing. You are therefore still managing staff and for that to work you require their engagement and motivation. Without that there will be little productivity.
Could this work for you? Have you tried giving your outsources or employees flexibility when working?