The helpers are tired. Add the pandemic and the “Great Resignation” on top of already challenging, high-stress work and it’s no surprise that the human services workforce is in crisis.
We’ve recently written about the causes of social worker burnout, ways technology can help lessen the burden, and strategies for making workers feel more supported. Today we thought it would also be helpful to round up expert resources that dive into turnover statistics, as well as strategies for managing burnout, measuring turnover, and improving retention. Keep reading for an overview of how each resource can help you.
Great Resignation and Human Services: Combating Workforce Shortages in Public and Nonprofit Agencies [Social Current and the American Public Human Services Association (APHSA)]
- What it is: A webinar featuring public and nonprofit human services leaders discussing collective workforce challenges and promising approaches and strategies for building organizational capacity and supporting the well-being of people and communities.
You have to be creative and you have to think out of the box. We're trying to change how we market the work.
- Why it's worth reading: These panelists offer a ton of insight into how they’ve navigated the past couple of years of staffing shortages, recruitment issues, and the systemic limitations of running government and government-contracted agencies. Some examples of what’s worked include focusing on professional development, prioritizing staff mental health, and improving remote supervision/management—all things that other agencies could easily replicate..
- Notable excerpt: "You just have to be creative, and you have to think out of the box. A lot of folks coming in don’t see this as a career. They see it as a temporary position before they go somewhere else. We try to highlight the opportunity to go back to school or move up in the agency as one of our selling points. We’re trying to change how we market the work.”
Workforce Trauma, Shortages and Retention are Interprofessional Challenges: Resolution Tactics [PACES Connection]
- What it is: A call to action for collective accountability across the professional landscape to acknowledge and reconcile issues related to pervasive burnout, retention issues, and staff shortages across all disciplines of the health and behavioral health workforce.
Too many personnel are excluded from industry/employer recognition for their contributions to the pandemic.
- Why it’s worth reading: Social workers are being referred to as the “unsung heroes” of the pandemic. They keep working at the same pace, but under even more challenging circumstances and with little recognition. This article highlights the importance of advocating for ALL members of the workforce who continue to shoulder the burden to help those they serve. It also includes a list of simple yet impactful strategies for helping workers feel more supported.
- Notable excerpt: “Too many personnel are excluded from industry/employer recognition for their contributions to the pandemic, whether awards or merit raises. Even media focus on these individuals is limited. A recent article discussing hazard pay focused on nurses and doctors alone; why are others not deserving?”
Worker Turnover is a Persistent Child Welfare Challenge – So is Measuring It [Quality Improvement Center for Workforce Development (QIC-WD)]
- What it is: QIC-WD worked with agency leaders to dive into their data and gather additional information from staff to better understand some of the root causes of turnover. This deep dive presents observations from their work and recommendations to help agencies better measure and address their own challenges.
Information on turnover, worker performance, and reasons for leaving can help jurisdictions make informed decisions about hiring, training, and supporting the workforce.
- Why it’s worth reading: Current and complete data on child welfare turnover could help hundreds of agencies across the country improve their retention efforts. This QIC-WD research report offers insights to help agencies start addressing issues at a time they need it most.
- Notable excerpt: “Turnover is not going away in a high stress work environment like child welfare, but child welfare agencies can work to understand their data and more accurately measure and address turnover. Additional information on voluntary (vs. involuntary) turnover, functional (vs. dysfunctional) turnover, worker performance, and reasons for leaving can help jurisdictions make informed decisions about hiring, training, and supporting the workforce.”
How Case Severity and Workplace Resources Impact Worker Retention [National Child Welfare Workforce Institute (NCWWI)]
- What it is: NCWWI published a one-page summary of Child and Youth Services Review’s study that aims to identify characteristics and job conditions of workers who plan to stay in the field. (They also have an entire library of resources focused on burnout, turnover, and retention.)
Satisfied workers had supportive supervision, coworker support, and necessary work tools to perform their jobs.
- Why it’s worth watching: This research is helpful to validate the right resources that should be prioritized to keep workers connected and fulfilled.
- Notable excerpt: “Satisfied workers had the three critical job resources identified in the study: supportive supervision, coworker support, and necessary work tools to perform their jobs.”
- What it is: Our eBook explores four key issues facing human services today that will continue to impact the industry tomorrow, with caseworker burnout being the first and foremost. We also discuss how modern technology can empower agencies to support overburdened workers.
Tools 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.
- Why it’s worth reading: We offer strategies that human services agency of any size can apply today to help workers feel more supported and connected, especially during times of high turnover and uncertainty.
- Notable excerpt: “Removing unnecessary work and administrative obstacles that stand in the way of doing mission-critical work 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.”
Building a 21st Century Children Services Workforce [The Ohio State University College of Social Work and Public Children Services Association of Ohio (PCSAO)]
- What it is: The OSU College of Social Work and PCSAO conducted research including a staff survey of 20 representative county agencies, focus groups, a literature review, and an analysis of successful workforce strategies in similar systems. The goal of the report and recommendations are to help agencies throughout the state improve workforce recruitment and retention.
Significant opportunities for workforce retention include improving available supervision, strengthening external collaborations, and targeting psychological safety.
- Why it’s worth reading: This report is very comprehensive, detailing the current state and challenges of Ohio’s CPS workforce, an analysis of historic turnover data and trends, and strategies that could be implemented at the local, state, and systemic level to impact the workforce in a meaningful way—in Ohio and beyond.
- Notable excerpt: “Workers feel they can carry out their job competently; however, workers overall reported a lack of clarity about what is expected of them. Significant opportunities for workforce retention include improving available supervision, strengthening external collaborations, and targeting psychological safety. Significant threats to workforce retention included worker disempowerment and a lack of voice as well as limited social and family services available to clients in the community.”