Empowering Human Service Employees

Empowering employees to be the best they can be is not just the result of hiring the right leadership. It isn’t that simple. One has to factor into the equation the organization’s overall corporate culture and service delivery practices.

Empowering employees -“ especially in the human services field and jobs that provide care to people who thoroughly depend on them -“ begins with a required annual training program that provides staff with an update on policies and maintains awareness about industry related topics. This ensures that the minimum knowledge needed to continually excel in a position will be achieved by each employee. Though the information may be the same, it’s a good idea to redesign the training periodically so employees will absorb the information from a fresh perspective. Spending one day each year reminding employees about policies and how to handle certain problems or missteps is a great way to communicate important information and renew motivation.

Providing staff with a required training regimen is just the beginning of how a company can empower their employees. The next step is creating an optional training program, which is particularly helpful to build skills of employees whose job is based on providing care to individuals. This is a way to ensure that employees are educated with the most up-to-date training for the field, are knowledgeable about the people they care for (or customers), are aware of changes in policies and laws, and also aware of up-to-date trends in the industry. Providing a stipend to employees for attending a certain amount of training sessions increases the likelihood of attendance at multiple sessions during the year. When employees are educated on a regular basis they are able to use the information to provide the best possible service, to become a better representative of their company and to find greater meaning in their work.

A comprehensive how-to manual is another effective way to keep employees informed and empowered. This is specifically beneficial to employees providing physical care by laying out clearly how they should handle an array of sensitive situations. It enables employees to understand the expectations of their jobs. By training employees in these standards each individual can be held accountable in upholding them. This resource allows employees to become more independent while performing their job functions and it helps to differentiate the level of care from other similar care providers.

Another effective way to empower employees is to encourage involvement in committees which address different aspects of the organization. Committees are comprised of members representing each department in order to provide feedback and generate ideas from different perspectives throughout the organization. This also enables the employees who work in satellite offices or in the homes of the people receiving services to forge relationships with each other and with those who work in the main office. It is very important that employees feel they have a specific part to play in the company’s success, are able to share their ideas and have a say in how things operate.

Creating thorough resources for all employees will instill a sense of empowerment, make each employee want to excel at their work and know they are considered an integral part of the organization. These steps are essential to motivate people who work providing direct care services.

Through unambiguous communication of job duties, ongoing education and encouragement to be involved in different organizational committees, a company can provide employees the tools to empower themselves, find a sense of pride in their job, be well informed about the needs of the people they serve and be loyal to their employer.

Lisa Korotkin is human resources manager at JARC, a nonprofit organization based in Oakland County, MI providing residential and support services to people with developmental disabilities. JARC is a 2008 winner of Metro Detroit’s 101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For. Korotkin can be reached at [email protected].