New Tool to Help Improve Staffing

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The nonprofit Cornerstones for Kids (C4K) has launched an online resource to offer hands-on tools to help human services agencies address some of the work force challenges that have plagued them for years.

The Workforce Planning Portal grew out of C4K’s work managing the Human Services Workforce Initiative, a partnership of national and state child welfare, juvenile justice, child care, youth development and employment organizations. According to a 2003 report by the Brookings Institution, an estimated 2.5 million workers are employed in the human services industry, and two-thirds of them serve low-income children, youth and families.

Funded solely by the Annie E. Casey Foundation (to the tune of $1.3 million in 2007), C4K has been working since its creation in 2004 to identify work force challenges that compromise the human service industry’s ability to effectively serve youth and families, including high turnover rates, low wages, and limited training and career advancement opportunities.

One recent study placed the annual employee turnover rate as high as 30 percent in the youth work field alone. The Brookings study found that 81 percent of the human services workers who were interviewed strongly or somewhat agreed that “it is easy to burn out” in the work they do; 70 percent strongly or somewhat agreed that they “always have too much work to do”; and 75 percent described their work as “frustrating.”

The idea behind the portal is to address a “correlation between the quality of the front-line workers and the effectiveness of the services they deliver,” C4K said in a prepared statement. “We always planned to do something like this,” said Ira Cutler, co-director of Cornerstones for Kids. “It wasn’t always a portal. … But the idea of getting information out to people about how to address work force issues has always been part of the initiative.”

The new portal offers tools that help agencies calculate the cost of employee turnover, create exit interviews, identify core competencies for various job descriptions and more, providing a comprehensive picture of an organization’s work force and a blueprint for how to undertake needed improvements. It is organized around a work force planning model comprising five steps: strategy assessment, data collection, data analysis, implementation and evaluation.

Completed in succession, the steps represent a self-examination that begins and ends with an organization “taking a look at where it is, and where it wants to go,” Cutler said.

Contact: Gina Russo (202) 421-3578,