It is no secret that our country is struggling with workforce shortage issues. That problem may well be worse in human services than it is in any other industry. While the industry has always had higher than average turnover rates, the problem has become increasingly concerning, as the vacancy rates have escalated and sustained. Some jurisdictions are reporting turnover rates as high as 60% with vacancies nearly as high. These shortages have serious implications for child welfare organizations, introducing significant risk for children and families who are being served by these agencies.
There are many underlying reasons behind the crisis-level workforce shortages and vacancies that agencies are experiencing. Child welfare work is one of the most stressful jobs a person can have. Most people get intosocial work because they have a passion for serving children and families. What they often find is that the work is not what they thought it would be. More specifically…
· They find don’t have enough time in the day to both meet their regulatory obligations of the work and provide quality service to families.
· The regulatory obligations require them to spend more time doing paperwork than helping families – 64% cite administrative burden as a cause of burnout.
· The job can be dangerous at times, especially in when visiting some families who don’t welcome their presence.
Solving the workforce issue must be done from a variety of focus areas with leadership and commitment to introduce sustainable change for an industry that has long been suffering.
The National Child Welfare Workforce Institute (NCWWI) recently published the WorkforceDevelopment Framework. The framework looks at workforce health holistically and proposes a variety of work streams (components) and processes to help agencies improve the health of their workforce.
Technology plays a critical role in the workforce development process, to ultimately impact the components supporting the day today work of child welfare professional. Leveraging modern technology to provide practice support and improve worker experience goes beyond automating current business practices to truly transforming the way work is done. These solutions better support casework, by reducing administrative burden and equipping workers to better serve families. For example, through the application of natural language processing (NLP), the way information is accessed is changing-- managed and NLP is used to improve understanding, insights and decision-making in ways that ways that were not previously available to child welfare agencies.
The use of NLP is an emerging area of interest in human services, generally. One of the most logical applications of this technology for child welfare is with case notes. The volume of case notes can be overwhelming, sometimes going back many years. The ability of a worker to review and synthesize this data to most effectively support a family is inhibited by time and the limitations of the human brain to effectively distill this amount data accurately. NLP can do the heavy lifting, providing information to inform the human aspects of casework.
Augintel collaborate swith our clients in numerous phases to incorporate the best application of the software relative to the goals of the organization. Should an organization be considering the use of the NCWWI Workforce Development frameworks, we’ve overlayed the Framework with specific examples of how Augintel supports the components of a healthy workforce:
· Recruitment & Selection: Gen Z andMillennial workers are driven by passion and purpose to do important work.There is also, however, an expectation that they will have the tools needed to support their work. They proactively adapt to new technology and appreciate efficiencies.
· Education/ProfessionalDevelopment: Incorporating NLP into workforce training, in conjunction with university partnerships and as part of ongoing professional development for more seasoned workers, provides specific guidance on how to maximize the value of technology and improve confidence of workers in the field.
· Supervision: Augintel equips supervisors with the information they need to support their teams, identify and coach to best practices, and comply with regulatory requirements.
· Leadership: NLP solutions are easily incorporated into legacy systems and stood up quickly. The Return on Investmentfor NLP solutions to increase the value of legacy systems is vastly faster andmore significant than the time and cost associated with rip-and-replacement of largescale system. Leaders can bring immediate relief to their workers and (at the same time) feel good about their fiduciary obligations.
· Workload: By far, the biggest impact area of NLP is the operational efficiencies that are achieved. Reducing the administrative burden on staff, allowing them more time to do what they do best, serve families.
· Work Conditions & Benefits: Workers want to feel empowered and supported. The use of NLP solutions like Augintel does just that. Equipping workers with the right technology to do their jobs quickly and effectively reduces stress and improves worker satisfaction which reduces turnover.
· Practice Supports: Federal and state funding partners fully expect that new technology investments must support practice. Aligning the use of technology like NLP with best programmatic practice, accelerates the impact.
· Organizational Culture & Climate: Happy staff, happy families. The combination of technology-equipped workers and supervisors who now have the ability to better support staff, creates an environment of collaboration and partnership. Improved resiliency, in turn, improves retention.
There are many use cases for NLP that have a specific and positive impact on workforce. While technology cannot solve all aspects of the workforce crisis, there are solutions that can be implemented and affect change quickly. This immediate relief can provide the space needed to give attention to other areas of resiliency, improving the lives of case workers who do the important work of serving families every day.