HR/CIO link is key to telework success, says DISA official

The Defense Information Systems Agency faces a wave of employee resignations when it relocates its headquarters from Virginia to Maryland, so it called the telework SWAT Team for help.

DISA's SWAT Team comprises managers from the agency's information technology and human resources departments and was designed to implement a telework program fast because managers considered it vital to the agency's future. Including HR and IT workers was crucial to the initiative's success, said Jack Penkoske, DISA's director of manpower, personnel and security. He spoke Aug. 15 at the Continuity of Operations and Telework Training Conference sponsored by the Homeland Defense Journal

'The key to [the success] was that it was co-chaired by a senior HR specialist and somebody from the [chief information officer's office], because what we found is that HR people come up with the great ideas of what you need to do, and then the tech people say, 'Can't do that, can't do that, can't do that,' ' he said. 'So you have to partner upfront, come up with a solution, and we were able to put them in place very quickly.'

The number of employees teleworking at DISA has grown 10-fold in the past 12 to 18 to months, Penkoske said at the conference. Employee satisfaction has also increased in the past three years, according to survey results that identified the agency's telework program as a big part of that, he said.

Numerous speakers from the public and private sectors at the conference touted telework as an important component in disaster contingency plans.

'You can't wait until the emergency happens,' Penkoske said about integrating a telework plan into a continuity of operations plan. 'It will be too late, it will be too chaotic, and you are not going to be able to do it.'

Louisiana-based DISA employees were able to continue working through the agency's telework program after Hurricane Katrina hit the region two years ago.

More than 4,000 DISA employees in the Washington region will be affected in 2011 when headquarters is moved 26 traffic-congested miles to Fort Meade, Md., as ordered by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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