Remaking the Association Workplace
New Ways to Work

A Workplace Focused on Results

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The visionary CEO of the Women in Trucking Association rejects the notion that her employees need to be managed. Instead, they need clear expectations about results and the flexibility and freedom to achieve them in their own way.

Ellen Voie’s shorthand summary of her management strategy at the Women in Trucking Association sounds both simple and radical.

“We don’t have vacations, we don’t have holidays, we don’t have set hours,” said Voie, WIT’s CEO. “We just pay people to get their work done.”

Far from being a provocative or idealistic statement of what a workplace could be like, Voie’s results-only philosophy is reality for the six employees of WIT, a 6,500-member organization committed to gender diversity and inclusion for women working in nontraditional careers in transportation.

Voie founded WIT 15 years ago with only one other employee, a director of member services, on the payroll. “We just did our jobs,” Voie said. And when they started adding more staff members, they didn’t start drafting complicated management policies.

A Hands-Off Approach

WIT’s unconventional culture is a byproduct of Voie’s preference for hands-off management. “I’m an entrepreneur, founder of the association, and more of the visionary,” she said. “I like telling people, ‘This is your job, get it done. And when it’s done, report back.’” She reasons that if you’re already trusting people to work for you, you’re setting expectations, and “you should be able to trust them to manage their time.”

“I like telling people, ‘This is your job, get it done. And when it’s done, report back.’” —Ellen Voie, Women in Trucking Association

Everyone on staff works remotely—always has—and employees set their own schedules. “We accommodate families very well. It’s the best place for a woman to work,” Voie said. A case in point is WIT Vice President Lana Nichols, who has worked for the group for nine years and recently had her fourth child. WIT is the first organization Nichols has worked for with this kind of flexible, results-driven culture.

“I would never go back to a corporate world where you have to clock in,” said Nichols, whose children range in age from one to nine years old. “There is so much more freedom and flexibility in this type of culture.”

Voie says the advantages are manifold for the organization too. Employee productivity is higher because staff can be more efficient with their time. And job-related stress is much lower. “The flexibility allows me to work from anywhere,” Nichols said. “If I’m visiting family in another state, I can still get connected and make sure projects are running smoothly.”

Motivation Matters

Voie acknowledges that not everyone is well-suited for a workplace that relies so heavily on self-direction and independence. In hiring, she seeks out candidates who exhibit traits like self-motivation and a proven ability to manage their time effectively, at work and in the other aspects of their lives.

A recent WIT hire not only works full time, but also juggles homeschooling her children and taking them to various sports practices. “We knew that her time management skills had to be excellent,” Voie said. She also looks for people who are volunteering in the community and involved in other altruistic endeavors. “It shows they have an internal desire to succeed,” she said.

WIT also uses the CliftonStrengths assessment to help employees and board members discover their own natural talents and how to turn those talents into strengths they can bring to the organization.

The three assessment traits that Nichols said identify her as self-motivated are achiever, maximizer, and responsibility. “I’m goal-oriented and I take ownership over the projects and programs I am involved in because I have that responsibility to my team,” she said. “It’s my motivation to excel. I don’t want to let other people down.”

Mindful Flexibility

WIT’s time-off policy is informal. When an employee wants to take time off, they are expected to be mindful of any upcoming WIT conferences and important projects and to schedule their time accordingly. Essential work may need to be done in advance, and it’s never acceptable to drop a ball that will affect someone else, Voie said.

“There is no 50-50 work and life balance,” Nichols said. “Sometimes there are bigger things going on in your personal life, or there are bigger things going on in your professional life. Having that flexibility to give each the attention that it needs without being confined to a 9-to-5 schedule is less stressful and you’re able to accomplish what you need both professionally and personally.”

WIT’s flexible approach might be daunting for a lot of groups that are used to a more traditional office cadence, but its emphasis on trust and accountability has never failed, Voie said.

“If people trusted people to do their jobs and get their work done, they wouldn’t be let down,” she said. “We treat each other like adults.”

Better Use of Time

A results-only workplace focuses on what employees produce rather than on time spent at their desks. And if they’re not required to be at their desks, that means they’re not wasting precious hours getting to and from the office. That regained time can be put to better use, says Women in Trucking Vice President Lana Nichols.

“You lose a lot of time commuting and being in your car,” Nichols said. “You’re not being efficient, you’re not present for your children, and you’re not really doing anything that is useful for your organization.”

The extra time allows employees to set up their day in a way that is more efficient personally and professionally. “I would highly recommend it,” she said. “Job satisfaction goes way up when you are in control of your time and can manage that time.”

Lisa Boylan

Lisa Boylan is a senior editor of Associations Now.

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