Lack of Telework Opportunities Makes Government Lose Out on Top Hires

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Employees leave when agencies cannot offer flexible work arrangements, study finds.

Federal agencies have made progress in implementing telework as a flexible work strategy, but it may not be enough, new research suggests.

A report released Monday by Mobile Work Exchange, VMware and Carahsoft found 88 percent of human resources managers have had an employee leave because of the lack of telework opportunities. Another 54 percent say they at least occasionally miss out on the best job candidate because they cannot meet his or her telework requirements.

Those numbers are surprisingly high, particularly as many agencies often are considered leaders across all sectors on telework implementation.  

“There’s a competitive advantage for agencies to have a telework strategy, and this finding is a big red flag for agency managers,” Cindy Auten, general manager for Mobile Work Exchange, told Wired Workplace. “As more agencies in the federal government, state and local government and the private sector offer telework benefits, this number is going to be higher and the number of employees leaving is going to be higher.”

Doug Bourgeois, vice president of end user computing for the public sector at VMware and former CIO at the Patent and Trademark Office, said while recruitment and retention was not part of PTO’s original intention in implementing telework several years ago, those areas have been key in moving forward telework initiatives.

“PTO was very early in getting their telework program implemented; word got out and people wanted to take advantage of that opportunity,” he said. “We had these unexpected positive benefits, one from a recruitment and retention standpoint and another from a pure morale standpoint. That wasn’t the primary driver, but that’s why PTO stuck to it and continued with the program through the years.”

The good news is the majority of agencies that have invested in telework are reaping benefits. More than two-thirds (69 percent) of HR managers surveyed by MWE said they have seen positive or very positive return on telework investments. Of those that have yet to achieve a positive ROI (31 percent), 64 percent expect to do so within the next three years, the study found.

Nearly all (94 percent) of HR managers surveyed also said they have made HR-specific investments to support mobile workers, including training (67 percent), HR-specific software (33 percent), collaboration software (21 percent) and hoteling software (15 percent).

Still, agency cultures (37 percent) and management resistance (31 percent) stand in the way of effective telework implementation, the study found. Perhaps the finding that 88 percent of HR leaders are losing out on top candidates because of the lack of teleworking opportunities could get your boss to start listening.

“To the federal government’s credit, just looking at the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey results, you can see that telework has become a great strategy,” Auten said. “But we have to do more and make sure every agency has a sound program. I think we’ve had tremendous success in the past few years, but there’s still a huge gap in who’s eligible and who’s actually teleworking. We really have to close that gap.” 

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