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7 Ways To Improve Your Human Services Organization

Human services organizations constantly have to navigate change. Whether its events in the wider world, new processes in the organization, or differing treatment options for clients, it’s important to stay abreast of best practices in the field. To help health and human service organizations get ahead, we’re sharing action items based on current trends in human services. While not exhaustive, this list may get your creative juices flowing as you think of ways to update processes to fit your particular team and clients.

1. Lean further into telehealth

One of the more positive healthcare developments that came from the COVID-19 pandemic is the shift to telehealth. Telehealth offers many benefits to organizations, providers, and persons served. Some temporary regulatory measures that made telehealth adoption easier during the pandemic have now faded away. Yet it’s important to continue focusing on security, privacy, and improved telehealth processes to continue to provide great telehealth services.

Beyond enhancing security, your organization can also further educate staff and clients on telehealth best practices.

In an interview with Social Work Today, John Jay, Strategic Product Marketing Manager at Relias, said, “As organizations adapt to and become more accustomed to delivering telehealth, telehealth is going to be more prevalent in behavioral health moving forward. You’re going to see from organizations a mix of best practices when you’re engaging via technology and also best practices for face to face.”

If you need resources to help your staff get up to speed on telehealth, check out the free Relias telehealth course series.

2. Focus on meaningful appreciation

As a leader or manager, you can make a difference in your staff’s professional life by showing appreciation for their work and ideas. Research shows that offering employees recognition and appreciation has the power to transform such critical issues in the field as turnover and burnout. In fact, in a 2021 Relias-conducted survey, 52% of direct service providers, who work with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, said showing appreciation for their work and experience could make them stay on the job.

But what does showing appreciation look like? How can you make it clear to your staff members that you value them?

Trauma-informed care teaches us to show care by shifting power. Offering even your least senior staff members a real seat at the decision-making table communicates respect by demonstrating that their voice matters.

So give opportunities for honest feedback, such as via surveys. Then take that feedback into consideration. After all, your staff knows best what they need. And if their needs are being met, they are more likely to choose to stay employed and engaged with your organization.

3. Offer flexibility with support

For some employees, such as family caretakers and some people with disabilities, working from home constitutes a welcome accommodation to their needs. A remote workforce also cuts costs for organizations. But some of this cost-cutting can shift the burden to employees, when they pick up the tab for expenses like electricity or office supplies. One solution is to provide a work-from-home stipend.

Also consider some of the perks you previously offered. Some current trends in human services include:

  • Having catered lunches or free coffee at the office
  • Send gift cards to your staff members’ houses if they work remote
  • Throw mini-celebrations in the physical office space

4. Preserve health and safety

The importance of staff safety and health care, including mental health support, can’t be overstated. Although these priorities sometimes feel out of reach for cash-strapped service providers, commitment and creativity can outpace tight budgets.

Free mental health care can be exchanged between community agencies in far-flung counties. Even necessary technical changes to health insurance are more about shifting costs through flexibility than increasing them.

To foster a culture of safety, you can involve your community while still adhering strictly to COVID-19 guidelines. Consider having masks donated by community members. Ask for friendly, professional volunteers to remind clients at the door to properly don a face covering. Get creative with signs announcing COVID-19 policies. When possible, open windows to let in light and air.

5. Assert a commitment to equity and justice

Our experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic reaffirmed the importance of values like equity. Thankfully, human service organizations are often guided by ethical codes that prioritize racial, economic, and gender equity.

Through thoughtful review, evaluate if equity truly permeates your organization’s policies and culture. In soliciting feedback from staff and clients, ask whether the organization is adhering to equitable values. And if not, ask how it can get back on track.

6. Implement virtual or online learning

Social and physical distancing will still be a part of our daily lives in 2021. This means that in-person training for staff will not be an option for most organizations. Virtual, or online, training is a great alternative to ensure teams maintain compliance with the various governing bodies.

Online training isn’t just good for staff, it benefits your organization as a whole too:

  • Saves time and energy—Cuts down on administrative work with an online training platform (learning management system) that can manage your reporting, training plans, and more.
  • Takes less time away from work—Continuing education credits or training classes can be completed on the individual’s schedule, meaning your staff won’t have to spend inconvenient time away from work.
  • Provides 24/7 access—As long as you and your staff have internet, training courses can be accessed anytime, anywhere on mobile devices.

To go with the flow of shifting priorities and expectations, continuing education is vital.

7. Clearly communicate with staff

It’s impossible to know the right thing to do at every given moment, especially as we receive new information daily. The constantly changing communication, however, can make it difficult for staff to keep up with the current trends in human services.

As a leader, it’s imperative that effective communication be a priority. Clear communication is more than just telling employees what is going on; it gets transmitted by your actions too.

  • If you’re wanting staff to focus on work-life balance, refrain from sending email at night or doing work-related tasks outside of work hours.
  • If you want your managers to recognize their staff, start recognizing staff members yourself.
  • If you are implementing a new process, make sure you’re following the process yourself. Don’t allow shortcuts or special treatment just because of your position in the organization.
  • If you want your staff to follow company values, make sure that the decisions you make also align with the company values.

When you lead by example, your message comes across loud and clear.


Leadership Toolkit

Human service organizations have learned that you need to be prepared for the unexpected. You also need to support your team through uncertainty. Relias has compiled an array of resources to help you equip your leadership team with the best education for effective leadership.

Download the Toolkit →

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