Tennessee’s Alternative Workplace Solutions Initiative
This case study explores the leadership challenges generating buy-in for new initiatives, moving to telework, strategies to manage the political environment, pacing change, leveraging technology, data and analytics, and sustaining and operationalizing successful pilot programs.
In a fast-paced world, what does it take for a state workforce to deliver a higher level of customer-centric services while also reducing cost? This case study examines how this challenge was met head-on by the State of Tennessee as it adopted a new workforce strategy. Tennessee’s program - Alternative Workplace Solutions (AWS) – introduced Work from Home, Mobile Work, and Free Address programs to over half of the state’s agencies. It began with pilot programs in three agencies: the Department of Children’s Services, the Department of Financial Institutions, and the Department of Economic and Community Development. The pilots were designed to (among other things) reduce turnover and introduce a more collaborative, citizen-centric culture and approach. Just a few years after its creation, AWS not only had 17 of 23 state departments implementing a smarter, less expensive workspace but also had spawned new programs focused on digitization and offering more citizen-centric services (i.e., one point of entry for services, rather than visits five different agencies). In addition, AWS helped the state manage the risk of having a workforce in which 50 percent of employees were eligible to retire over the next five years and reduced the 2.6 million Rentable Square Feet (RSF) in downtown Nashville by at least 700,000 RSF (27%), avoiding approximately $14 million annually in just the next few years, all while building new capabilities and agility for employees, aiding recruitment and retention, and enhancing customer service.