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Kyra Cavanaugh's picture

I’m just back from the Telework Summit in Philadelphia.  The conference was rather focused on the technical requirements for telework—issues of hardware, space and policy.  All necessary stuff.  But…

With all the technical set-up, training and coordination required (HR, finance, facilities, IT), it’s  easy to get swallowed up by those issues and not fully address the cultural and change management aspects of implementation.

So while there were some great telework leaders in the group, I heard my share of red flags:

Are you ashamed of your telework program?  One organization that presented its telework program didn’t want to tell us how many of their employees telecommute—because they were afraid it would reflect poorly on them in the eyes of their customers.  “We don’t want to say because we don’t want the public perception to be that our employees are sleeping on the job.”  Really?

Lots of lip-service from middle management.  Companies that invest in manager training still struggle with managers who pay lip-service to supporting telecommuting or flat out won’t support it at all.  Quotable quote from a manager:  “Yeah, we’ll implement telecommuting in my department, after I retire.”  Without formal guidelines and clearly communicated expectations from the C-suite, managers continue to think the rules don’t have to apply to them.

Seriously?  One manager refused to share his department’s productivity gains when asked.  He was afraid that if they were too good, he wouldn’t be able to get additional headcount approved later on.  Word to the wise:  don’t let your managers get the upper-hand like that.  Be clear about their reporting responsibilities from the beginning of the program.

What do you mean you don’t have any metrics?  Once again, I’m amazed by the number of companies who don’t identify baseline metrics by which to judge their telework success in advance of the rollout.  And who still don’t measure a year or two into the program.  (And, utilization metrics are not enough.)  One reason expressed by multiple companies stems from the fact that it’s hard to know what metric to pick since each department has different metrics they are held accountable for.  (Hint: let each manager pick their own.)

Missing mavericks.  By a show of hands, a small fraction of the companies in attendance had rolled telework into a bigger flexible work initiative.  Seems to me they’re missing a big external marketing opportunity in the war on talent.

And these aren't even my biggest concern.  Focusing on the technical and infrastructure aspects of telework implementation only gets you so far.  Culture issues are key.

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