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This company doesn’t make employees come to work — and productivity is sky high

Rolf Schroemgens, co-founder and chief executive officer of Trivago GmbH, center, and employees clap during the opening bell ceremony at the Nasdaq MarketSite during the company's initial public offering.
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Rolf Schroemgens, co-founder and chief executive officer of Trivago GmbH, center, and employees clap during the opening bell ceremony at the Nasdaq MarketSite during the company's initial public offering.

When Rolf Schrömgens co-founded travel site Trivago, he had a vision for the type of company he wanted to work for — which is one reason he doesn't force his employees to come to work.

By not counting hours, Trivago has become "incredibly productive," says the German CEO.

In the beginning, "we were not entirely sure what direction we wanted to take to drive the business model, but we were very sure what kind of company we would like to run," Schrömgens told CNBC Make It.

Instead of focusing on an aggressive business model, Schrömgens and his co-founders focused on creating a profitable business with a great work culture.

Rolf Schrömgens, founder and CEO of Trivago
Courtesy of Trivago
Rolf Schrömgens, founder and CEO of Trivago

"When we started Trivago we were not so much looking at how can we scale this company within the next month or years," he explains. "We were rather saying we want to build something where we want to work for the next 20 years and we want to make a living."

Part of building a profitable company with a positive culture meant hiring people who were self-motivated. "We wanted to have intrinsic motivation," he says. "We don't want to tell people what to do. We really want that people make responsible, independent decisions."

Giving employees the freedom to set their own schedules allows them to work more efficiently, says Schrömgens. This, in turn, makes the company more productive and efficient and keeps overhead low. He believes the concept that people who work 50 percent more will produce 50 percent more work is outdated.

"This idea that time and output is closely related — I think that comes from a time when people were still working in the field," he says. "Why do we still put people into an office and lock them down for eight hours or more? Why do we still do that?"

That mentality, he argues, doesn't serve knowledge workers or promote creativity, which he sees as essential to the vast majority of roles.

"Ninety percent of people here, and probably even more, have a creative job," he says. "Engineering is a super creative job."

As companies continue to automate repetitive tasks, jobs will become more and more creative, which will make the practice of counting hours even less effective, Schrömgens says.

It's a policy that's forced Trivago to find better measurements for success. Instead of counting time, Trivago uses degree peer reviews to assess employees' performance, with an emphasis on total contribution to the company. More precise metrics allow for increased productivity, says Schrömgens, "and that's adding to the bottom line."

This approach also allows employees to tailor their working hours to their specific roles. Schrömgens explains, "Those working on more collaborative projects would usually come at a time when most people are in the office, and people who work more independently or people who prefer to work with little distractions would usually come at a time when the office is the most empty."

Other employees choose to take breaks throughout the day. Trivago offers workers activities like organized sports programs, yoga sessions, bootcamp-style workouts and German classes.

"Although we live self-determined working hours, another goal of ours is to create an optimal learning environment to make employees actually want to come to the office to work," says Schrömgens. "If they are not interested in coming in, then we are not doing our job right."

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