There’s no getting around it: 2020 was a dramatically difficult year for human service providers. The onset of the coronavirus pandemic and its subsequent impact on the health and wellbeing of staff and clients felt like a whirlwind of quickly pivoting priorities and doing damage control.
Almost a year later, providers are still grappling with the effects of the pandemic, but now they have more experience. Sure, the ground is rocky, but you’re a little steadier on your feet. The challenges of COVID-19 aren’t anywhere near over, but going through these challenges have made you and your staff more resilient. You’ve figured out what works (and what doesn’t), but there is still much to learn.
As we enter 2021, it’s time to reemphasize the importance of training. Focusing on learning can help your staff gain the skills necessary to continue to push through these challenging times. Here are five reasons why organizations should emphasize training in 2021.
1. Training creates a positive impact on service outcomes
According to Relias’ 2020 State of Training and Staff Development report, 68% of human service organizations reported that staff training and development showed a positive impact on service outcomes.
Many similar reports and studies point to the same conclusions. For example, a 2020 study by the Council on Quality and Leadership found that consistent, ongoing staff training of direct support professionals in disability services resulted in a significant reduction in emergency room visits, incidents of abuse and neglect, and injuries among persons supported.
Given the struggle for providers to keep programs and services open during the pandemic, in addition to all the mental and physical health implications of living through these times, the importance of positive clinical outcomes has never been more critical.
2. You can address the KSAs that were deprioritized at the beginning of the pandemic
2021 brings a good opportunity for providers to ensure staff are up-to-date on the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) that might have been neglected at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.
The onset of the pandemic left many human service organizations scrambling to teach staff new skills, such as infection control training. For some organizations, training on other valuable topics was simply deprioritized due to the need to keep services running and programs open. The Relias 2020 State of Training report found that advanced clinical skills, soft skills training, and on-the-job training were the most deprioritized topics during the pandemic.
Refocusing your training efforts to address these areas can help revitalize staff by keeping their skills fresh. As stated previously, it can also bolster your programs by creating a positive impact on client outcomes.
3. Maintain compliance with new state and federal requirements
The chaos of 2020 left some providers struggling to maintain compliance with mandatory training requirements. While 57% of human service organizations report their staff development and training programs have a positive impact on maintaining compliance with external training requirements, 34% of providers continue to track training using paper or word processing files. Only 44% of human service organizations track staff training completion through learning management system (LMS) software. 2021 may be the year many human service organizations consider investing in an LMS system that can help them easily assign required training and track training compliance.
Additionally, several states are now requiring employees to provide COVID-19 workplace safety training. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), is recommending COVID-19 workplace safety training in all organizations. It is likely that this pandemic will result in future changes to state and federal training requirements around infection control and disease prevention.
It’s imperative that human service providers are able to adequately track and maintain compliance with new state and federal training requirements. Ensuring all staff are up-to-date with required training can mitigate any financial risk you may face from quality assurance audits.
4. Quickly learn new skills to adapt to the times
In early 2020, many organizations were able to quickly adapt services and learn the necessary skills to do so. One example of this was the rapid rollout of telehealth services among many providers, who had not previously been invested in this technology.
The Relias 2020 State of Training and Staff Development report also found that many health and human service organizations prioritized training topics around pandemic response planning and employee wellness. Employee wellness topics continue to be heavily utilized as the pandemic persists, as organizations see the value of offering their staff resources around mental health, self-care, and emotional intelligence.
Providing staff with high-quality content that can be deployed through e-learning modules is a safe and valuable employee resource. Providers can remain agile by offering their staff access to a wide variety of learning topics, so they can quickly gain new skills during times of change.
5. Improve staff retention and engagement through training that encourages career growth
About 70% of human service organizations see staff development training as extremely important for their organizational wellbeing. The same holds true among staff. A 2019 Relias report found that direct support professionals value opportunities for professional development, so much so that it was ranked one of the main factors that would ensure they stay at their job in the next five years. The same is true for behavioral health providers, who indicate that a lack of career development is one of the leading reasons why they leave their jobs.
The hardships of 2020 created a quagmire of clinician stress, burnout, and secondary trauma. It is so important that organizations are showing their employees appreciation, and better yet, providing the resources to bolster their employees for the long-term. Investing in continuing education for employees’ career growth is one of the best ways to engage and retain staff in 2021.