Human service agencies are integral to our society. They provide essential services, such as mental health counseling, substance abuse treatment and housing assistance. As a result, they need a well-trained workforce that is knowledgeable and capable of providing quality services to their clients. Unfortunately, due to other employment options at similar salary points, many human service agencies struggle to attract and retain adequate staff to meet the needs of their clients. To help improve workforce development, human service agencies should focus on recruiting talent through technology, offering better onboarding and ongoing engagement processes, investing in digital skills training for their staff, and proactively managing technology.
Workforce Development Needs of Human Service Agencies
There is a growing need for qualified human service workers in the United States. Among the challenges, the workforce is aging, many agencies are in rural areas with a limited pool of potential workers, and human services staff are chronically underpaid. As wages across other industries have risen, human service organizations increasingly find themselves competing for workers with industries like retail and food service. The increased turnover among qualified employees is costly for agencies, as they must constantly find and train new staff members. It can also lead to a lack of continuity in care for clients.
Further complicating the issue is the lack of a pipeline of qualified human service workers. Lower average compensation and the challenging nature of the work has led to many people dismissing human services as a viable career option. As a result, there are not enough people with the necessary skills and experience to meet the ever-growing demand.
Attracting and Hiring Talent
Technology can help human service agencies improve workforce development in many ways. For example, recruiting through social media networks is becoming increasingly popular. When human resources and staffing agencies can leverage existing contacts on platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, they can more easily identify potential candidates and reach out to them directly. Furthermore, since 88 percent of employers rate employee referrals as the best return on investment for sourcing talent, making it easy for current employees to share job openings with their connections on social media can be extremely helpful. Additionally, agencies with dedicated “Careers” pages and applicant tracking systems that support “quick apply” also make it easy for applicants and are more likely to find talent.
Automating parts of the hiring process such as scheduling interviews, assessments and background checks can result in cost savings. This automation also allows agencies to capture important metrics and look for specific improvement areas. Artificial intelligence (AI) can speed up these tasks and improve effectiveness. During the interviewing and hiring process, the employer and candidate are evaluating each other. By properly leveraging technology during these processes, agencies can make the experience better for the candidate and demonstrate a forward-thinking approach to getting work done. It is important to continue this approach through the employee lifecycle of onboarding and continuous engagement.
Onboarding and Continuous Engagement
Across all industries, the highest employee turnover happens within the first 90 days (about 3 months), and human services is no exception. A strong onboarding and training process has a significant impact on how a new hire sees their employer. For more tech-savvy new hires, an electronic onboarding process with e-signature and virtual training can improve their experience. Coupled with a formal or informal ambassador program, new hires can feel valued and empowered to be successful from day one.
Technology can also help engage and retain employees. For example, employee self-service portals can provide 24/7 access to employee benefits and payroll information. Online training and professional development programs can help employees stay up to date on new developments in their field. Another way to improve workforce development is to provide training and support for employees. This could include mentorship programs, continuing education credits, and online courses to improve digital skills.
Providing Digital Skills Training
Digital skills and technology literacy are increasingly important in the modern world, and those who possess these skills are in high demand. By providing digital skills training to your workforce, human services agencies can give them the tools they need to be successful in their roles and improve their job satisfaction. In addition, investing in employees’ development will help to increase retention rates. Giving employees the time and resources to improve their digital skills in office productivity applications and online platforms ensures your organization gets the most out of the technology you use and helps your staff think about new, innovative ways to leverage technology to be more efficient.
There are several ways to integrate digital skills training into your workforce development plan. You can offer online courses or webinars, host on-site workshops or training sessions, or even create custom learning materials specific to your organization’s needs. Many free resources can be found online, enabling you to create a low-cost curriculum for your staff in minimal time. No matter what method you choose, investing in your employees’ development will pay off.
Proactively Manage Technology
An intentional and proactive approach to technology management is another critical way to retain human services employees and improve workforce development. No one enters the human services industry because they want to spend their time doing data entry or handling manual, administrative tasks. By continually evaluating and evolving your human services agency’s use of technology, you can empower your workforce to be more effective in their jobs and contribute more to the well-being of your clients.
Strategic IT leadership and a solution-oriented approach to technology can uncover opportunities for improved productivity and innovation. This leads to improved constituent experiences, greater impact, and increased retention. Employees become invested in the technology roadmaps as they see change as a benefit to their day-to-day experience. A few key areas to proactively manage technology include:
• Creating a feedback loop for employees to offer input on technology solutions
• Automating and integrating processes
• Utilizing data and analytics to inform decision making
• Establishing an IT governance structure with clear roles and responsibilities
• Developing a cybersecurity strategy that is aligned with the organization’s mission
Speak with Hartman about Workforce Development in Human Services
Human service agencies play a vital role in society, providing valuable services to those who need it most. If you are ready to learn more about how technology can help attract and retain qualified employees, it is time to reach out to the human services IT experts at Hartman. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.