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Recruitment & Retention

Agencies are encouraged to use telework as a tool to help attract, recruit, and retain the best possible workforce. The implementation of the Telework Enhancement Act (the Act) (external link) (PDF file) provides a unique opportunity to leverage telework as a human capital management tool.  Many people seek jobs with an option to telework as a means to reduce commuting time and costs, and to improve their work-life effectiveness. Telework can broaden the pool of highly qualified candidates because it provides flexibilities that meet varying needs. For example, telework may be used as a reasonable accommodation for an individual with a disability who may require, or prefer, to work at home. While not all persons with disabilities need, or want, to work from home, telework provides a viable option for individuals with disabilities that affect mobility or pose related challenges. Additionally, telework allows employers to hire individuals who live further away from what would be considered a reasonable commuting distance from their place of employment and who are not able to relocate. It also helps employers retain top-performing employees who want or need to relocate their residence beyond the local commuting area.

Telework can also help managers in other ways. For example, it can be used as an effective succession planning tool. Telework is an appealing option for many retirees who are willing to continue working with their former organization, thereby helping to facilitate a smooth and continuous transition of institutional knowledge and technical competencies.

Telework can have benefits both for the organization and the employee.  In challenging fiscal times, the work-life balance provided by telework can act as a non-monetary incentive that agencies can offer prospective employees.  According to the 2013 Report to Congress, the most common way in which agencies operationalize recruitment as a goal of telework is through describing possible telework opportunities as part of job announcements.

Agencies have worked hard to get the word out to prospective employees about telework through a variety of methods.  These include posting telework eligible positions on job announcements, agency websites, and recruitment materials, as well as mentioning telework during interviews.  A number of agencies are expanding telework opportunities to new employees and interns, and discussing telework policy during the onboarding process.  Some agencies also measure the impact of telework on recruitment through the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS), new employee surveys, exit surveys, focus groups, HR data, and tracking job offer rejections.

Promising Practices

According to the 2013 Report to Congress, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Defense (DoD) used telework as an important recruitment tool.  Both agencies made use of new automated systems to ensure that telework was applied to all vacancy announcemens, and that eligibility is determined and measured through data systems.

U.S. Department of Agriculture: The USDA is launching its "One USDA" Enterprise Management System.  Streamlined telework eligibility statements will consistently be applied to all vacancy announcements in order to advertise its telework program available to new recruits.

Department of Defense: DoD requires telework eligibility to be determined for recruiting for new position vacancies.  They will track and measure this through the DoD Civilian Personnel Data System.

Just as telework can be a way of attracting top talent, it can also serve to keep top talent and institutional knowledge within an organization.  Agencies clearly recognize that turnover is very costly.  With turnover cost estimates ranging from 90 percent to 200 percent of an employee's annual gross salary, the strong relationship between telework and decreased turnover intentions reported in the 2013 Report to Congress support the cost benefits of telework.

Promising Practices

According to the 2013 & 2012 Reports to Congress, agencies reported using exit surveys, internal satisfaction surveys, internal focus groups, the FEVS, and anecdotal evidence to measure retention.

Department of Treasury (Treasury): Treasury explained "With so many concerns about the level of churn within the government, Treasury is certainly looking for new and creative ways to maintain its skilled workforce.  Treasury's bureaus are focused on looking at their pulse check surveys, number of full-time telework requests, Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, and orientation information to check for signs of dissatisfaction, as well as opportunities to provide employees with alternative work situations."

International Boundary and Water Commission: The International Boundary and Water Commission explained "Telework has been offered to employees with family situations that require them to be away from work rather than have them resign."

Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO): USPTO explained "The USPTO Telework Enhancement Act Pilot Program (TEAPP), as part of the 2010 Telework Enhancement Act, will enable the USPTO to retain its highly skilled workforce.  In a May 2011 survey of USPTO full-time teleworkers who live over 50 miles from the agency, two-thirds (68 percent) said the ability to work over 50 miles from the USPTO headquarters either has, or will, result in their working longer for the USPTO.  On average, they indicated that seven years of additional service could be directly attributed to the ability to live more than 50 miles from the USPTO headquarters.  In view of the survery responses, the USPTO convervatively expects the attrition rate of full-time teleworkers on the TEAPP to be lower, and thus better, than the attrition rate of the non-full-time teleworkers by a factor of up to 5 percent annually over the seven year term of the TEAPP.  Looking at the expected participation level of 668 patent examiners in the first phase of the TEAPP for example, a reduced attrition rate of 5 percent would equate to 33 patent examiners who remain with the USPTO longer than they otherwise would."

National Transportation Safety Board: The agency has been able to retain several employees in mission- critical positions that are difficult to backfill, who have relocated to other states for personal reasons by allowing them to telework on a full-time schedule.

Farm Credit System Insurance Corporation (FCSIC): The FCSIC currently has one employee teleworking on a short-term basis due to a medical condition. Had this employee not been permitted to telework, she might have retired earlier than planned.

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