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Leading Change

Any successful organizational change depends upon leadership support.  The TMO performs a critical role by ensuring telework programs are aligned with strategic planning.  Because the TMO is a change agent for telework, implementing organizational change principles will help agencies to achieve the promise of telework.

  • Creates vision: Ensures agency compliance with the requirements of the Telework Enhancement Act, and as a leader facilitates the creation of a driving vision for change. 
  • Engages support: Provides key stakeholders (e.g., manager, employee) a clear understanding of what the agency is trying to achieve through telework, engaging support for telework policies and practices.
  • Plans for success: Develops telework policies and leads strategic program implementation, contributes to the actual success of telework programs by engaging in plans for success, and advises and participates in the creation of the telework policy.
  • Supports performance: Ensures key decisions (e.g., employee eligibility, participation) are based on a telework strategy supportive of and aligned with agency mission. 
  • Grows capabilities: Ensures that those individuals key to telework success, especially employees and their supervisors, have the necessary skills for effective participation.
  • Engages evaluation: Leads development of goals and metrics for measuring goal achievement with the purpose of assessing program effectiveness.

Agencies must strive to create a vision for change that leaders and employees can understand and support.  Essentials for establishing and driving an effective telework program to achieve anticipated benefits include creating a change vision, engaging support, and establishing the need for change.  All of these steps contribute to the development of a solid business case for telework.  Successfully building an effective business case for telework results in a very plain message of how an organization can increase employee recruitment and retention, increase employee productivity, increase employee satisfaction, reduce absenteeism, and save on real estate costs.  When considered comprehensively and effectively, the application of a telework program quickly becomes a win for all.

Creating the Vision

In order for key stakeholders to engage and support telework, they must be able to visualize the organizational and employee benefits.  It is important to demonstrate how telework can add real value.  There are multi-level benefits of telework that agencies can build into a strong business case, including:

  • Community/Social: improved air quality, improved neighborhood safety, reduced threats to public health.
  • Organizations: improved employee attitudes and productivity, reduced business costs (reduced real estate costs, improved employee retention), improved capacity to continue operations during emergencies, culture of trust.
  • Employees: improved general health, better management of life responsibilities, financial savings, improved work focus, improved job satisfaction.

Demonstrating the value of these and other benefits allows individuals from all levels of an organization to understand how telework adds value to the agency and can be used as a strategic tool.  OPM consults with TMOs to establish evidence of such outcomes through evaluations.  OPM encourages agencies to leverage existing data sources when finding evidence of benefits, because they are accessible and cost-effective.

Engaging Support     

The success of organizational changes requires the buy-in and support of key stakeholders.  In the case of telework, the manager is a key stakeholder.  Managers truly are the lynchpin to the success of telework programs.  Engaging support begins with an intimate understanding of any concerns held by leaders and managers.  It is critical that these concerns are addressed through clear and concise arguments made through the business case.  When a business case shows all major concerns have been addressed in a proactive manner, stakeholders are more likely to relax and listen.  Then benefits can be highlighted and all program aspects can be described. 

It is important to align a telework program with the accomplishment of organizational goals.  The information used to build your business case can later be tied into developing a larger strategic plan.  Consider the following questions before presenting your business case to your stakeholders:

  • How does the telework program fit into the overall business goals?
  • What resources - including people, financial, supplies and other critical assets - are available?
  • Who are the key team members that will be setting the direction and developing goals?
  • What is the organization's unique attributes, such as environment, culture, demographics, etc.?
  • What aspects of your telework project plan, timelines, expectations, budget and resources can you tie to your agency's mission?

An effective way to achieve this clear alignment is by establishing an evidence-based need for change.  Lastly, invite the participation and input from leaders.  Strive to keep stakeholders informed and leave room for their active participation.

Establishing Need

Agency leaders and other key stakeholders will need to understand why a telework program is important for the organization.  One way to do this is presenting agency data supportive of the notion that the agency and employees would benefit from the proper application of telework.  OPM analyzes Federal data sources, such as the annual telework data call and the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey.  Results from the annual data call are found in the Status of Telework in the Federal Government Annual Reports to Congress

There are a number of tools and best practices available to TMOs.  When considering which data sources to use, keep the following in mind:

  • Draw on multiple data sources.
  • Include data specific to your agency.
  • Draw a clear link between telework and valued outcomes.
  • Exercise caution when making causal claims.
  • Quantify outcomes in a meaningful way in relation to cost.

In addition to the presentation of hard data, anecdotal evidence can be persuasive.  Gathering testimonies from individual employees internal to the agency and/or from other agencies can be very motivating.  Sharing best practices from more advanced benchmark agencies can also help build a strong business case.  Lastly, assessing and sharing results of a pilot of telework practices is an important step.  An early stage assessment will inform coordinators where revisions need to be introduced and where processes are running smoothly.

Action Planning for Telework Programs

Action planning is a systematic change-management process in which people meet to address specific shortcomings and develop actionable plans for improving the workplace.  Put simply, action planning provides a flexible, systematic approach to producing an operational plan that sets, achieves, and evaluates your goals.  For telework programs, this can be a versatile and flexible tool to drive program improvement, increase participation rates, and address challenges, such as manager resistance.

The Action Planning Process

The action planning process can be tailored to fit specific situations and needs, but generally speaking, the process includes a few key steps, which can be accomplished through the work of individual TMOs or as part of an action planning team.

  1. The first step is to engage stakeholders.  Key stakeholders typically include people at each level of your organization – employees, managers, and senior leaders.  To the extent that all key stakeholders are engaged, the resulting information and plan will be more comprehensive and likely to achieve greater buy-in for developing and implementing the action plan.
  2. Next, identify and prioritize outcomes that enable your organization to transition to a desired future state.  What are the issues surrounding telework at your agency?  Which of these issues are most important given your mission and resources?
  3. In order to properly assess and prioritize these issues, it is necessary to analyze the change environment for your agency.  An analysis of people, technology, processes, and financial resources required to accomplish outcomes can inform the process of selecting focus areas. This information is also critical for the next step in the action planning process.
  4. Drawing on the analysis of your change environment, develop actions that result in clearly defined outcome goals.  It is important to identify specific, measurable goals and to develop actions that are clearly aligned with those goals.
  5. Once actions have been identified, specify action steps.  What needs to be done, when, by whom, and what resources or approvals are needed?  This level of specificity ensures accountability and makes achievement of goals more likely.
  6. Finally, it is critical to evaluate progress regularly.  Tracking progress over time is important for refining the plan.  An action plan should be a living document you can revise based on changing conditions.  Ongoing evaluation helps drive program improvement and provides data that can be presented to agency leaders in support of your programs.

Action Planning Approaches

There are different ways to approach action planning depending on which stakeholders you engage.

  • An employee-driven approach can be valuable because employees often offer some of the best insights into addressing issues and often value involvement in organizational change processes.
  • leadership-driven approach can be valuable because leaders may have access to high-level information or the ability to take action quickly and effectively on issues they deem to be important.
  • In most settings, a combined approach is best.  Incorporating diverse perspectives in the action planning process ensures you have the most comprehensive information for understanding and addressing the issues.  It also can increase the buy-in needed to implement your plan.

There are many tools you can use in this process.  As a practical matter, access to these tools will depend on the circumstances and resources available in each agency. To the extent possible, it is best to draw on multiple sources of information to inform action planning.  For example, these sources may include: 

  • Interviews
  • Focus groups
  • Surveys
  • Existing research
  • Practices at other agencies

Identifying and Prioritizing the Issues

It is impossible for any action plan to address every relevant issue.  It is better to focus on a few issues and address them effectively rather than try to cast too wide a net and end up without adequate resources to implement your action plan or track progress.

In the process of identifying key issues, it is often helpful to begin by casting a wide net.  Identify challenges related to telework or strengths that you may wish to build upon.  Do this through brainstorming sessions, formal discussions, or by applying SWOT analysis (described below).  Draw on as many sources of information as possible.

With this broad sense of what the agency faces, engage in critical discussion about issues with your action planning team or with colleagues who are knowledgeable.  This is an opportunity to challenge your assumptions.  It is best to engage participants who are open-minded and committed to organizational change.  These discussions should inform efforts to narrow down the list of focus areas.  One common approach is to group issues into clusters.  Perhaps, for example, a number of identified issues are related to different facets of participation or are relevant to a particular subgroup at your agency.

Ultimately, you should select a few achievable areas of focus by prioritizing items on your list.  Priorities will depend on the mission, circumstances, and resources available to you.  However, there are a few essential considerations:

  • Relevance: Is it related to program success in the agency?
  • Feasibility: Can it actually be addressed given resources, timeframes, and available support?
  • Control: Is it something that is susceptible to change?
  • Potential Benefits and Risks: Will the change add value? What risks could incur if this issue is or is not addressed at this time?

Using SWOT Analysis

As you assess your change environment and work to identify and prioritize issues, SWOT analysis is often a helpful tool.  SWOT analysis facilitates an understanding of internal and external elements, both present and future, that can help or hinder change initiatives.

SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats

  • Strengths: Internal factors that help to achieve success in your telework program.
  • Weaknesses: Internal factors that hinder or inhibit your telework program.
  • Opportunities: External factors to exploit to get closer to the desired state of affairs.
  • Threats: External factors to avoid that hinder or inhibit your telework program.

Identifying strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats can contribute to a well-rounded understanding of an issue.  It is best to draw on multiple sources of information to incorporate diverse perspectives. 

This is a versatile analysis tool. You may choose to apply SWOT analysis early in your action planning process to understand the overall change environment surrounding telework at your agency.  Also apply SWOT analysis as the action planning process progresses to better understand specific issues or focus areas. 

Setting Outcome Goals and Benchmarking

Once you have identified your areas of focus and analyzed the conditions surrounding that area, set a clear goal and identify actions that will lead to the goal.  Setting a specific, measurable goal is important to tracking progress and defining success. The level of specificity will depend on your situation, but in general the more specific and narrowly tailored your goal, the better.

One of the best ways to approach setting specific outcome goals is to benchmark.  For example, you may consider:

  • Most successful components within your agency
  • Other Federal Government agencies
  • Other public organizations
  • Private sector organizations
  • NGO’s or non-profit organizations

Building a Successful Action Plan

A successful action plan will identify specific goals, an outline of plans for evaluating them, and specific detailed actions that will lead to these goals.

The more information you are able to include in your plan, the more likely you are to succeed. You may not have all the information at once, which is why the action plan should be a living document that is revised and updated regularly.  This is a flexible tool, but by applying a systematic approach to your program, it can help you achieve measurable successes that can both improve your programs and provide evidence in support of them.

The action plan should motivate change by presenting the value added to your agency.  In addition, as the name implies, it should above all be actionable.  This will be true to the extent that it:

  • Aligns with organizational mission, strategy, and culture;
  • Clearly outlines timeframes, responsibilities, and required resources; and
  • Identifies specific metrics and methods for evaluating success.

As you adapt action planning to your own needs, keep these key points in mind:

  • Prioritize and focus on a few achievable goals.
  • Make sure each part of the action plan aligns with the others.
  • Construct your action plan with enough information that anyone who picks it up can understand the value of what you are doing.

The Telework Enhancement Act (external link) (PDF file) requires agencies to set and assess participation goals.  It also encourages agencies to set outcome goals for telework and lists several possibilities, including: emergency readiness, energy use, recruitment and retention, performance, productivity, and employee attitudes and opinions regarding telework.  OPM’s annual reports to Congress demonstrate that telework does relate to a number of important outcomes, such as job satisfaction and retention of employees.  Similar beneficial outcomes can be achieved by individual agencies.  Such intended ends are achieved and demonstrated when goals are deliberately set and evaluated on an ongoing basis.  Ultimately, setting and evaluating goals is critical for developing and maintaining effective programs.  

Tips for Establishing a Goal

  1. Choose a goal that is relevant to your organization’s mission, feasible, controllable, and clearly benefits your agency.
  2. Articulate this goal clearly.  State exactly what you plan to achieve and how you plan to achieve it.
  3. Present a clear timeline for achieving your goal.  Consider articulating your timeline as a series of small milestones and associated deliverables.
  4. Identify the budget, resources, and approvals you will need for accomplishing each milestone.
  5. Locate appropriate data for measuring progress.  Describe the data, metric/measurement, and method of analysis to be used.

Characteristics of an Appropriate Goal: Goals should be SMART

Specific: Set highly detailed and concrete objectives for your telework program.  Determine:

  • What exactly is your goal?
  • What exactly do you intend to accomplish through this goal?
  • How are you going to meet your goal?  Lay out which actions need to be taken by which people and when.

Measurable: On what evidence will you determine that your goal has been met?  Put a figure or value, such as a dollar amount or percentage, to the objective.

Attainable: Make sure to set goals within your reach.  It is best to focus on a few attainable goals, especially if you are just starting to set goals for your telework program.  Establishing successes by attaining a few "low-hanging fruit" objectives can be motivating, and reporting these successes to leadership can help gain necessary support.  Initial successes will also help to identify and support longer-term, more ambitious goals.

Realistic: Consider available resources and set goals that can reasonably be achieved.  Remember to assess the resources you will need to evaluate your goals, including access to data.

Time-specific and Timely:  Set a deadline to keep things on track.  Goals also need to meet the needs of decision-makers and reporting requirements, so keep any leadership priorities, deadlines, and reporting dates in mind as goal drivers.

In sum, choose goals that are relevant to the agency mission, add value, are feasible within resource constraints, and are within your control to change.

Example of a Goal and Goal Explanation:

Reduce our transit subsidy spending by 5% by Fiscal Year 2015.  [Clearly articulated, specific, includes a timeframe, and is measurable]  This aligns with our mission of serving the American public in that we will be able to control costs, spending as few tax dollars as possible.  [Aligned with mission]

We will achieve this goal by encouraging more frequent telework by more employees.  [Clear extension of goal, introduces process by which goal will be achieved]

We plan to hold briefings during mandatory, all-manager meetings to encourage them to suggest and grant employee requests to telework on a more frequent basis.  [Clearly articulates actionable steps and what you plan to do exactly]

We will also post signs around our main building and send emails to let employees know about this effort, showcase the benefits for the agency and the environment, and encourage them to request more frequent telework.  [Clearly includes assessment of resources and showcases a low-cost approach and a short-term goal that can be accomplished and measured prior to the next data call and is clearly realistic, attainable, and within your control – low-hanging fruit].

Choosing a Timeframe

Consider your telework program’s stage of development.  Outcome goals are typically not realized until programs are fully implemented.  Consider both short- and long-term goals.  Some goals are achievable in a year, whereas others may take several years to achieve.  Long-term goals may be best expressed as a series of short-term goals.


We plan to reduce our office space needs by 10% by Fiscal Year 2017.  [Clearly articulates goal, is specific, and includes a timeframe]  This aligns with our mission of efficiently serving the American public by effectively using resources and strategies to limit business costs.

During Year 1 we plan to establish a 6-month pilot of a hoteling program by February 1, 2014, among our HR department employees.  [Sets a milestone goal clearly, specifically, and with a timeframe]

We will experiment with a shared office design in their office suite and move employees to a 3-4 day a week telework schedule.  [Clearly articulates specific actions]

We will evaluate the result using a survey of employees and managers in Year 2, with results distributed by March 1, 2015. [Describes metric (survey) and how it will be used]

If the pilot is successful, we will move towards an agency-wide effort in Year 3, with roll-out of an agency-wide hoteling program by the end of Fiscal Year 2016, and we will evaluate again in Year 4 to demonstrate our goal satisfaction of a 10% reduction in office space.  [Sets another milestone goal, clearly states how you will achieve it, and explains evaluation, with source of data (amount of office space)]

We assess telework goals to be able to demonstrate that telework caused an anticipated benefit to occur.  Systematic assessment of goals is important for building and developing your program, as well as for establishing the business case for telework. 

Choosing an Evaluation Method

How can we prove that telework was the driving force behind the benefits we see?  Depending on your constraints, you may or may not be able to show that telework caused the benefits you found, but you can find evidence that supports a connection between telework and your goal.  If your costs for the transit benefit went down at the same time telework participation went up, for instance, that’s a connection.

The following describe some sample approaches you can take to evaluate your own agency’s telework program goals.  The described methods are not exhaustive, and you should consider what is feasible or appropriate for your particular circumstances.

  • Compare Before-and-After: compare measures of benefits before you implemented telework and after.  Some agencies have collected HR data for years and you may have data showing absence rates or employee satisfaction, for example, before and after you met the requirements for the Telework Enhancement Act. 
  • Compare With-and-Without: compare teleworkers and similar employees who do not telework on measures of your goal.  For example, if you want to show that telework does influence employee retention in your agency, compare quit rates among employees who telework versus those who do not. 
  • Time-Series Assessment: examine the changes produced by the policy, tracked over a long time period.  For example, if you have data on employee performance over several years, you could conduct a with-and-without comparison over time rather than only at a single point in time.  Examine your data (e.g., average monthly absence, job satisfaction scores on the FEVS) and analyze it for any changes over time.  Think about the context and try to rule out alternate explanations that may also have influenced your goal achievement (e.g., if your scores on job satisfaction decreased among employees over time, it may be that they are reflecting a downward trend for all agencies).


We will use a time-series approach for assessing and demonstrating the impact of our program on job satisfaction.  We will use FEVS data (external link) on telework participation and job satisfaction over the next five years.  Each year we will examine how teleworkers and non-teleworkers compare in terms of job satisfaction and observe whether this difference grows over time as our telework program expands.  We will also examine the overall scores on job satisfaction for the Federal Government during this same time period to see if there are any remarkable trends that could influence the results we see for our agency’s teleworkers.  Our examination of publicly available FEVS data show that Governmentwide job satisfaction scores have decreased over the past three years.

Selecting a Metric/Measure

Metrics or measures capture some characteristic of your telework program (such as size, capacity, quality, quantity, duration, or frequency) and associated outcomes (such as employee attitudes, absences, performance, retention, or costs) in a standard way so you can make comparisons or statements about your goals.


  • Amount of spending on transit subsidies or utility bills.
  • Number of participants in the telework program.
  • Percentage of employees expressing satisfaction with their job.
  • Square footage of space required for offices.
  • Rate of employee retention.

Finding Sources of Data for Evaluating Goals

  • Custom sources: surveys (employee satisfaction, supervisor, new hire, exit), focus groups, interviews
  • Previously administered internal surveys
  • Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey 
  • GSA’s Carbon Footprint Survey 
  • OPM’s Annual Data Call
  • FedScope (external link)
  • Time and Attendance systems
  • Utility and building/office space data
  • Transit subsidy data

For More Information on Evaluation

See the Government Accountability Office’s 2012 “Designing Evaluations” Guide (external link) (PDF file).

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