Monday, January 12, 2009

Using teleworking to drive outcomes-based governance

I keep a watch on events in the teleworking world as an adjunct to egovernment - it is a move away from geographically restricted service provision and a strategy for betters managing recruitment and retention outcomes.

If much of a government's business is conducted online and by phone, and widespread broadband access allows teams to be in constant communication by video, voice and chat, the reasons for co-locating teams diminish.

This type of change requires leadership at the top to fully buy into the model and make it part of the organisational culture.

Over in Virginia in the US, led by the Governor, they've run the state since 2005 on an outcomes-focused model of governance, with the emphasis on results rather than traditional time-based measurement methods.

Reported in The Teleworker, one of the key initiatives Virginia has implemented was a teleworking program that is,
...enabling state agencies to improve productivity significantly, slash turnover rates and excessive leave time, and save money.

Quoting from The Teleworker,
"Governor Kaine immediately acknowledged that when it comes to managing by outcomes, the very natural question is: ‘Why do we care where you work?'" [Aneesh] Chopra [ecretary of Technology for the Commonwealth of Virginia] recalled, noting that one of the Governor's very first actions was to create an office to promote telework, managed by Karen Jackson, and he set an ambitious goal of enabling 20 percent of the Commonwealth's workforce to telework on a regular basis by 2010. "Telework became a very natural priority for us as we thought about outcomes-based government."

The outcomes have been amazing, from the article,
"This has rocked our culture," Chopra stated. "Prior to this, the attitude was, ‘Yeah, telework is important for the agencies because those people process paper, but we're really important people in the Cabinet. It's going to be hard for us to telework.' Gov. Kaine said, ‘Not in my administration.' Now, I must report weekly who teleworked and how many days, by name. That's leading by example."

The Tax Department, meanwhile, volunteered to conduct a telework pilot program, and the effort effectively illustrated telework's benefits - but with a few surprises, Chopra noted. Teleworkers who do mail processing achieved an 80 percent improvement in productivity when compared to the standard by which they're supposed to perform, while data-entry workers at home showed efficiency rates of 110 percent above the standard. In addition, employee turnover is considerably lower among full-time teleworkers at the Tax Department, just eight percent versus the overall agency average of 58 percent. This retention rate, coupled with productivity gains, translates into $141,000 in measurable decreases in retraining and job vacancy costs.

Today, the Virginia Tax Department's top executive teleworks, as do 62 percent of its eligible workers. All of this shows, Chopra told his audience, that telework "is not a nice-to-have but a need-to-have - especially in this budgetary environment. It's why more and more agencies are looking to telework as a strategy to meet the tough goals."

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