Work hard, play hard
At the Vail Valley Partnership in Eagle County, Colorado, President and CEO Chris Romer encourages staff to take a “work hard, play hard” approach to doing business. Under the VVP's Results Oriented Work Environment (ROWE), employees are evaluated solely on the results of their work—and given maximum autonomy to figure out how best to get the job done.
“At its simplest form, this is about treating adults like adults, and it’s about individual and team accountability,” said Romer. “If you manage people, they’re going to do the minimum of what needs to be done, but if you set the example and lead, then they will want to lead too.”
As part of the ROWE philosophy, VVP doesn’t adhere to the 40-hour, 8 a.m.–5 p.m. work schedule common at most businesses and nonprofits. Instead, employees are only required to be physically present in the office for 20 hours each week and are empowered to structure the rest of their hours as they deem fit.
“We don’t think the most effective way to lead a team is by tracking where people are at every single hour,” said Romer. “We encourage staff to go to their kids’ school plays or volunteer in the community. If someone wants to take a yoga class on a Tuesday at 10 a.m., they shouldn’t have to take paid time off or track comp time to do that.”
Employees at VVP are given unlimited time off, so they can handle unexpected events like illnesses or family emergencies. The chamber is also experimenting with a new policy that would incentivize employees to “unplug” for two weeks each year, meaning they don’t check emails or engage with staff electronically during their vacation.
“We’re asking people to leave the electronics; no voicemail, no email and no checking on work,” said Romer. “With the golden handcuff of the technology, you’re not fully present with your family and when you come back, it’s almost like you were never gone because you were checking your email and voicemail every day.”
Some Fridays during ski season, the staff will take a morning off to hit the slopes together. Employees are granted free ski passes as a perk, which they can swap for other recreational benefits like stand-up paddleboards or yoga classes, says Romer.
“It goes back to valuing people and recognizing what we are as a community,” he said. “If skiing is their thing or yoga is their thing and it makes them happy, then they can come to work and be jazzed because they had a great time in the morning."
Despite the generous amenities and flexible work schedule, it’s not all fun and games at VVP. Employees are expected to live up to their end of the bargain by meeting monthly benchmarks and quarterly goals.
“We don’t do annual reviews with our team—we set targets and benchmarks and we review those on a monthly and quarterly basis,” said Romer. “It’s an ongoing feedback loop and dialogue with the team.”
Romer says that a flexible and accommodative workplace culture has translated into higher employee retention and customer service levels.
“It’s great from both an employee and member retention standpoint,” he said. “We give people direct ownership over their jobs, and that encourages them to provide a really high level of service.”
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