Magazine article Policy & Practice

Modernizing Human Services: Now More Than Ever

Magazine article Policy & Practice

Modernizing Human Services: Now More Than Ever

Article excerpt

In the last few years, we have witnessed an emerging transformation in the way workforce and human service agencies deliver services. After decades mired in operational silos, leading workforce and human service agencies began to tear down the walls that prevented coordinated care to the clients they serve. Rather than becoming the provider of first resort, leading human service agencies expanded their role to become catalysts for community-based services, working to strengthen support for people in need before they turn to government programs. Instead of working around antiquated IT systems that constrained their ability to serve clients, leading human service agencies embraced new technology that enabled workers to serve clients more efficiently and effectively.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Today's economic crisis threatens that progress. Human and workforce service agencies are Ground Zero of the economic crisis. As daily headlines attest, they face sharp increases in applications and caseloads, as unemployment soars and food stamp cases reach an all-time high. At the same time, human service agencies face hiring freezes and staff reductions, and are struggling to deal with higher caseloads and fewer staff with rigid computer systems that do not support workers well even in good times. In some jurisdictions, demand has swamped the agency's capacity to handle it, so web sites crash, call centers report delays of several hours, and offices are bursting at the seams. Moreover, just around the corner, the federal stimulus package will require these same agencies to institute significant changes to their existing programs. Buffeted from all sides, human service leaders maybe tempted to shelve their plans for modernization, batten down the hatches, hold on tight, and hope they can weather the storm.

That would be a mistake. Rather than postponing plans to coordinate services across programs, modernize their service delivery systems and transform the way they do business, human service executives must take this opportunity to move those plans forward aggressively. The economic crisis is not a short-term blip, after which we will go back to how things were. As the economy turns around, things will get better, but it may be years before human service agencies reach the staffing levels and resources they enjoyed just a few short months ago. Modernization and transformation are not distractions from dealing with the economic crisis; they are the keys to coping with it effectively and building organizations that can flex with a rapidly changing environment.

While modernization and transformation must go forward, it may take different forms today than it has in the past. Where circumstances prevent broad modernization efforts, leaders should must look for alternatives to make progress. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.