Operations for the workforce plan involve successfully leveraging skills and resources to meet
agency goals and achieve the agency’s overall mission.
Agency leadership is ultimately responsible for the outcomes of the workforce plan. In child
welfare agencies the execution of the workforce plan and benchmarking is a shared responsibility of
management, human resources and supervision.
In its operation, the public child welfare agency must be clear about its practice principles and
support its workforce in their implementation. Clarity about mission and the worker’s specific role
is fundamental. Key components of workforce operations are the day-to-day supervision of the
workforce and the environment in which the workforce must function.
Supervisors of all staff at all levels must be trained to cope with their own job challenges, to
sustain and retain new and experienced workers and to promote high productivity for the tasks
performed. This is the hallmark of a successful workforce plan. Clearly, supervision and support
for supervisors is crucial in maintaining a viable and vibrant public child welfare organization
and retaining its staff. Organizational support of the supervisory workforce must come from the
highest levels of the agency’s leadership. Supervisors need support and training in supervisory
roles, managerial roles and mentoring roles from both peers and trainers if they are to sustain and
enhance their own competencies and job satisfaction.
As guardians of the workforce plan, supervisors require manageable caseloads. The need for
manageable caseloads for front-line workers has been established for some time, but applies equally
to their supervisors. When assigned duties outside their managerial/administrative responsibilities
or their mentoring/supervisory roles, the magnitude of the responsibilities needs to be taken into
consideration so that the individual can concentrate on both administrative and supervisory duties
required to operationalize the agency mission on a day-to-day basis.
Environment for the Workforce
Agencies must develop standards and polices that identify and minimize all safety and health risks
in the internal and external workplace and contribute to the extent feasible to the overall
well-being of their workforces. Staff should be included in discussions of how their space can best
promote productivity and collaboration. This includes sensitivity to the diversity of the workforce
and clientele (community). There are four major components to workforce environment: safety
management, attention to the quality of internal and external workspace, including equipment and
facilities, flexible work arrangements and interpersonal relationships.
Safety management should be embedded in the culture and climate of the agency. Improving safety
heightens productivity. Workers can transfer the time and emotional energy that might be spent
protecting personal safety to focus more on their work. A sound risk safety management system and
staff support requires the following elements:
Examples : Furniture should be placed in interviewing rooms in away that allows workers to exit safely in the event their physical safety is endangered. Security for administrative staff greeting clients must be assessed and any identified safety concerns mitigated.
Safety precautions beyond the walls of the agency include securing worker safety while entering and
exiting buildings, field visits to unsafe neighborhoods, visiting clients’ homes and traveling to
and working in satellite locations. Actions must be taken so workers feel safe and are safe.
Example : Clear protocols and reliable communications tools (including cell phone
and PDAs) that can be activated in hazardous situations.
Special arrangements should be made for workers who have been threatened or exposed to situations
Example : Workers who have been harmed, had property damaged (such as tires slashed) or
may otherwise be at risk should be escorted to their cars and agreements should be made with the local police that when alerted, extra patrols will be provided to protect the workers’ homes and families .
For more tips on workplace violence prevention, check out the Guidelines for Preventing Workplace
Violence for Health Care and Social Service Workers, published by the United States Office of
Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Quality of Workspace
The workspace itself -- including physical structures, equipment and facilities -- visually
demonstrates the values and principles of the agency. Several considerations related to the
workspace which the agency must address to maximize staff productivity and enhance the
effectiveness of services are:
Example: Appropriate space may be needed to conduct Family Group Conferencing
Flexible Work Arrangements
Flexible work arrangements that respect the full range of staff needs (e.g., child care, general
health, commuting challenge, and daily living activities) can have an effect on the development and
productivity of staff, reduce work place injury and reduce the use of sick leave.
Example: Flexible schedules that allow workers to telecommute on days when their presence in the o ffic e is not essential can improve efficiency and increase productivity in
the following ways: 1 ) Time and energy can be focused on completing tasks rather than
being lost in frustrating travel. 2 ) Trust between the worker and supervisor is
conveyed and enhanced. 3 ) Workers may be able to attend to personal needs on a lunch hour rather than taking a day off (e .g . attending a child ’s school conference, keeping a medical
appointment, letting a repair man in the house).
Interpersonal relationships must be given serious attention. The way people feel about their
workplace sets the stage for attracting and retaining talent, eliminating waste of time and
motivating teams. It is a powerful determinant of employee productivity. A workplace environment
where everyone is treated with dignity and respect, which is inclusive and fair and without
conflict enables employees to focus on outcomes for children youth and families. On a day-to-day
basis, positive and supportive encouragement should be provided for each and every employee.
Agencies must deal with the way staff is treated and the way staff perceives they are treated. This
includes interpersonal relationships between peers as well as the conduct of management and
supervisors with supervisees. Creating harmony in the workplace requires being sensitive to
insensitive remarks that lead to an unpleasant atmosphere. Every situation and its potential
solution differ. Creating a solution may depend on the temperament of the workers, the cause of the
problem and the agency’s policies governing the conduct. Legal rights may play a role as well.
Federal and state labor employment laws require agencies to have and to abide by policies and
procedures that control certain work place conditions.5 Within the hostile workplace criterion, the
legal parameters that regulate harassment usually come to mind first. But the need to regulate
workplace behavior and create an affable culture for staff to work in goes beyond the legal
parameters. Any employee has the right to protest unwelcome treatment in the workplace, regardless
of its scope or severity.