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Posted Tuesday, March 10, 2015 by Chuck Barber

Influencing Change in Your Human Services Agency

In human services, change is inevitable. 

Agencies constantly have to react to change such as new practice models, updates in the federal guidelines, and overarching legislation like the Affordable Care Act. At the same time, human services agencies also seek out change to improve business processes.

Having the tools to effectively manage change can mean the difference between success and failure. At Northwoods, our goal is to assist in the transformation of service delivery and business processes in human services through the use of technology, enabling caseworkers and social workers to be as efficient as possible. 

To show how we work with our customers to accomplish these goals, let’s walk through an example of how an agency can positively manage change: implementing the use of a mobile electronic document management system (DMS) on tablets in the field for mobile social workers to capture documentation, review historical information, and make more informed decisions.

Problem and Results

What is the problem at hand and what results does the agency seek once the problem is overcome?

An agency must first identify a problem and then understand why the problem exists. Understanding the problem allows for results to be identified and tracked throughout a project. 

For example, an agency identifies that case decisions are harder to make due to a lack of descriptive case notes captured throughout visits during an investigation. By capturing more descriptive, robust case notes, the agency will be able to make more informed decisions when reviewing a case regarding next steps with the family. Our goal would be to work with the agency to identify ways to streamline visits so social workers can engage more easily with a family to gather the information needed. Examples include using a mobile device to take notes in real time or providing the opportunity to record client interviews and capture photos to paint a full picture of the situation for better decision-making.

Measurement

Does a worker feel comfortable introducing technology into day-to-day field responsibilities? Is there an understanding of the new skills required to avoid burdening interaction with clients? Do workers believe in the use of technology and how it can assist in building a relationship with clients?

These are all critical questions that should be asked internally within an agency and factors to take into consideration as new tools are introduced. By having a way to measure that success, you will be able to address questions as they arise, promote change, and encourage feedback; all factors that will impact the overall success of a project. Through the use of tools and guides that have been created in tandem with agencies that use mobile technology for social workers, agencies can use assessment and skills inventory items to track and gauge the level of understanding that workers have about integrating the mobile solutions used by the agency into their daily processes.

Human services agencies are constantly changing to help meet the needs of a growing population. Having the right tools paired with an implementation strategy creates the ideal opportunity to reinvent an agency’s service delivery model. With these tools, your caseworkers and social workers will be able to more efficiently help the children, families, and adults within your community.

To learn more about Northwoods’ approach to change management, download our Webinar, How Coaching Boosts Success in Protective Services Technology Training, or download our business brief, Cookie Cutter Training Won’t Cut it for Protective Services.

Charles Barber Charles Barber is the Practice Management Consultant for Northwoods, where he works to ensure successful technology projects for state and county human services agencies. Charles' human services proficiency comes from his front line public assistance experience and through implementing, training, and supporting numerous Northwoods technology projects.
 

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