Screen shot 2014-03-06 at 9.30.47 PMCOMPANY:, Inc.


INDUSTRY: Car-shopping website

COMPANY MISSION: Make car shopping easy



Q&A with Karren Fink, Director of Human Resources

1. Tell us about the most prevalent cultural & behavioral norms (i.e., around work and flexibility) at What is it most okay to do?

Edmunds has instituted a Results Only Work Environment (ROWE), where employees can work whenever/wherever as long as the work gets done. Here’s how it works: treats its employees as adults, and so it is accepted and expected that people will take time away from work to take care of other elements of their lives (appointments, errands, kids’ activities, etc.) and then return to complete projects and achieve goals within an appropriate timeframe.

We also eliminated our vacation policy and implemented a time -away-from-work practice that no longer considers formulas, tracking, or arbitrary limits. Our time-away-from-work policy fits hand in hand with a ROWE: Take time off whenever you need and want, as long as the work is covered. 

2. How did this set of norms come to be? Did someone or a group spearhead it? Was another company doing something similar?

One day in 2010,’s chairman shared an excerpt that focused on Netflix’s efforts to eliminate rules and policies that get in the way of achieving excellence. The excerpt focused on how eliminating the company’s vacation policy was in keeping with the company’s culture: They don’t track how much they work, so why would they track how much time they didn’t work?

Our chairman suggested that since this approach seemed to be consistent with our culture as well, we should further investigate how it might fit with our own company. The insinuation was that if we give our employees the liberty to take time off as needed, they would deliver all that they are accountable for — and more.

Our then-CIO, now COO, was eager to test this out and recommended two of his teams to pilot a ROWE, and evaluate its success against three criteria:

  • Are we meeting results?
  • Do the employees like it?
  • Is it generating buzz in other parts of the company?

It didn’t take long for us to get our answers. The teams regularly finished their projects ahead of schedule, which allowed them to tackle even more objectives. Employees felt a more powerful sense of pride in the work they accomplished, while at the same time reporting a more effective work-life balance. And others in the company took notice, especially as our CIO shared with other department leaders how satisfied he was with his teams’ performances.

We took another three teams through the pilot with similar results. At that point, we knew we had “tested” enough and we were ready to make the leap. Within 18 months from the first pilot, we rolled out ROWE into every part of our company.

Bottom line – ROWE is the biggest driver of employee engagement in the company based upon findings from our annual employee survey. 

3. What is it about your company’s culture that makes it possible for ROWE to work? executives have high standards, and that means that they expect their teams to also have high standards — not just for work-related projects, but as a way of life. Anyone with high standards living in today’s world wants an anti-burnout, work-life balance, and our work culture fully supports that.

There must be support for this mindset from the top. There must be a culture of setting clear objectives, tracking measurable results, planning, collaboration, teamwork and clear communication. Employee must take personal accountability for delivery of results and accountability for their non-work commitments

4. Have these initiatives helped with your recruiting? 

“With more and more companies competing each year for ‘Best Places to Work’ recognition, you can’t perform well without finding innovative ways to attract and retain top talent,” says CEO Avi Steinlauf.

Anecdotally, ROWE has had a huge impact on recruiting. It’s a great story line that recruiters get to tell about life at Edmunds. ROWE has developed into a key part of our culture, and company culture plays a huge role in a candidate’s decision. With the talent pool competition as stiff as it is here in “Silicon Beach,” ROWE is a big differentiator that separates us from the pack. Most seem interested in the work from wherever, whenever opportunity — and what that says about the company: We trust our employees.

5. How would you advise other companies thinking about implementing something similar? 

Just do it. Start small, pilot, learn, pivot, and scale. Start with a group of highly capable “friendlies” who can pilot the program and demonstrate that wherever and whenever they are working, they are delivering results and are engaged/happy. Use that as a business case study to encourage leadership that it make sense. Having workers have full ownership of their lives, who are able to coach their kids’ soccer games, do laundry on Thursday afternoon or support an ailing animal, will “pay that back” in spades in terms of dedication, commitment and delivery of results.