Although I can’t find any empirical data to back this claim up, from organizations that I have researched or been a part of, I believe piloting telework greatly increases the chance of success for any telework implementation. There are 2 main reasons any organization should pilot telework before a mass implementation. The first reason is obvious. A pilot is a learning opportunity for the organization. You can find out what works and, more importantly, what doesn’t work before rolling the initiative out to more employees. The second reason to run a pilot is to create momentum through small scale successes. Keep in mind that the number one barrier to telework is not technology but manager resistance. One way is to break through this barrier is to show tangible results within your own organization.
If you are piloting telework in your organization, keep the following 4 things in mind:
- Pilot group selection. Carefully consider whoever is going to go first. Remember, you want momentum. You want some success stories. It’s probably not a good idea to start where you have the most resistance or select work that will be most challenging to be done virtually. Consider executive sponsorship. The leader of the group(s) should be fully on board. The people involved should be supportive and want to telework. Examine the type of work the people do. Make sure it can be done virtually.
- Communication. This is a recurring theme in most of my blog posts. You can never communicate too much. Make sure everyone involved is on the same page, has their questions answered, and knows where to go for support. Also, communicate with the broader organization. Let everyone know what is going on. You will eventually expand telework to the rest of the organization so get them engaged early.
- Training and equipment. Make sure people have the right tools to do the job. Conduct an assessment of the pilot organization to identify the assets needed to be successful. This refers to the physical things you provide, such as laptops, and the intangible skills, such as communication. Help provide the intangible skills through formal training.
- Metrics. The most important thing, I believe, is to have appropriate success metrics. Performance metrics can be used to highlight the tangible results of the pilot by comparing pilot results to a baseline or benchmark. The metrics may be a mix a qualitative measures (e.g.. survey results of how teleworkers or managers felt during the pilot) and quantitative measures (money saved, productivity improvements, or key process metrics). If your organization already has established performance metrics, then leverage the same metrics or at least ensure alignment for any new metrics created for the pilot.
Have you run or participated in a telework pilot before? Let me know I would love to hear the results.