We may never be able to predict where the industry is heading in the next five to 10 years, but we do know there are some key issues facing human services today that will continue to impact the industry tomorrow. Modern technology is a linchpin in how successfully agencies can address them.
Our eBook, “Modernizing Human Services: Technology’s Integral Role in Addressing Key Issues,” dives into a few of these critical issues (think caseworker burnout and client disengagement) and explores the role that technology plays in overcoming each one. Keep reading for a short summary of how IT and program leaders can be the hero to human services caseworkers who need immediate support to help clients today, while positioning agencies for continued success in the long term.
Modernizing Human Services:
Technology's Integral Role in Addressing Key Issues [eBook]
Key Issue: Ineffective Technology Tools Aren’t Meeting Caseworkers Expectations
There was a time when it could take weeks or even months to get someone acclimated to new technology … and that was before they could start learning and applying it in the context of their daily work. Things are much different now. Technology is essentially meaningless until you understand how humans use it and benefit from it.
Today, more members of the workforce are “digital natives” who were brought up during the digital age. Technology is second nature to many of these caseworkers, which means the tools provided to them should be designed, installed, and supported in the way they expect. Software should be so simple, intuitive, and meaningful that workers don’t have to give up their already limited time to learn how to use it—or be convinced why they should.
Consider this also: as long as remote and hybrid work models are here to stay, caseworkers’ laptops, tablets, and phones are no longer just their tether to the office. They are their office. Any tool meant to be used on a mobile device must be optimized to work anywhere caseworkers do, regardless of their location or connectivity (think rural areas or old buildings where Wi-Fi and cell service are not reliable).
Failure to take these evolving expectations into consideration will exacerbate the other key issues too. For example, lack of modern technology will compound your agency’s turnover problems because digital natives expect technology, automation, and collaboration to be part of their job. You’ll struggle to attract and retain new caseworkers if you’re not offering the tools they expect. You’ll further exacerbate issues with client engagement as well without meaningful technology to support virtual interactions.
Knowing that short-staffed IT departments will ultimately feel the brunt of all these problems makes it even more critical to implement intuitive, easy-to-maintain solutions. You can increase user adoption and ensure success, while decreasing the burden on IT staff and giving them more time to focus on other priorities.
Best Practices: Evaluating Human Services Technology in the Modern Era
Want to help caseworkers make a meaningful impact on clients? Here are some ways to be the hero by providing technology that meets their expectations:
Demand purpose-built technology.
Social services leaders have long cried out for technology that's truly built from their perspective and around the needs of those they serve, not something that already exists and is shoe-horned in. Yet, this type of technology is still largely lacking.
The right tools will align with your agency’s long-term strategic roadmap, provide value without creating additional work, enhance your existing systems and give you footing for better community-driven outcomes.
Make time for mission-critical work.
Many caseworkers are driven by a desire to make a difference and take care of those who need it most. Leveraging technology to remove unnecessary work and administrative obstacles will go a long way in minimizing burnout.
Tools that are purpose-built for human services can help caseworkers stay connected, share information, and access case information they need to do the job they signed up to do—assisting clients in being healthy, safe, and successful.
Meet the client where they are.
Agencies today must be able to serve a broad spectrum of customers with varying levels of comfort or ability to use technology.
Some will want to use a client portal to interact with their case file electronically, while others lack access to internet or devices required to engage the agency in an increasingly virtual world. Some will want to complete applications autonomously, while others prefer or need to have a caseworker’s help (for example, someone with a language barrier).
Clients need multiple entry points, often referred to as “no wrong door,” to access services and resources.
Knock down data and information silos.
Workers shouldn’t be required to sort through different systems, applications, or channels to find what they need; instead, the information that’s most timely and relevant should be curated and presented to them in a way that’s digestible and useful.
This goes a long way in making clients feel more engaged, as it keeps them from having to tell the same story or provide the same verification documents multiple times. Your caseworkers can also serve clients more effectively when they have the right information at the right time to answer questions or make decisions.
Seek out software that supports itself.
Today’s caseworkers expect to be able to learn how software works within the product itself. This is where features like in-app help or walk-through videos come in handy so that workers can get answers as quickly as possible in the way they want. (Again, this helps takes the burden off IT staff too!)
Support bots, live chat, or screen share capabilities should also be built in for when someone needs additional help. The key here is being able to connect with an actual software expert who can work with the caseworker to solve their problem instead of getting stuck in an endless loop of non-relevant help from an automated bot.
Most mainstream technology has advanced security and privacy measures built in. Caseworkers will expect the same from the tools you provide them.
Partner with trusted software providers that will be responsible stewards of your system and data. After all, no one wants to be responsible for a security breach or data leak that threatens your clients’ privacy or delays your agency’s ability to deliver services to the people who rely on you (not to mention one that could cost your agency hundreds of thousands of dollars).
Look for a partner that provides value.
How extensive is the company’s background in human services? Do they truly understand and appreciate your agency’s unique needs?
Can they help solve your current problems, plus anticipate future ones? Do they offer resources and support to help your caseworkers use the technology to its full potential?
These characteristics demonstrate that a technology provider will be active, engaged, and laser-focused on exceeding your expectations, even as they continue to evolve.
This blog post is an excerpt from our resource, “Modernizing Human Services: Technology’s Integral Role in Addressing Key Issues.” Download the full eBook for more strategies and best practices to overcome the key issues—caseworker burnout, client disengagement, systemic disparities, and ineffective technology—in a way that meets short-term needs while setting yourself up for long-term success.