Operations for the workforce plan involve successfully leveraging skills and resources to meet 

agency goals and achieve the agency’s overall mission.

Agency leadership is ultimately responsible for the outcomes of the workforce plan. In child 

welfare agencies the execution of the workforce plan and benchmarking is a shared responsibility of 

management, human resources and supervision.

In its operation, the public child welfare agency must be clear about its practice principles and 

support its workforce in their implementation. Clarity about mission and the worker’s specific role 

is fundamental. Key components of workforce operations are the day-to-day supervision of the 

workforce and the environment in which the workforce must function.




Supervisors of all staff at all levels must be trained to cope with their own job challenges, to 

sustain and retain new and experienced workers and to promote high productivity for the tasks 

performed. This is the hallmark of a successful workforce plan. Clearly, supervision and support 

for supervisors is crucial in maintaining a viable and vibrant public child welfare organization 

and retaining its staff. Organizational support of the supervisory workforce must come from the 

highest levels of the agency’s leadership. Supervisors need support and training in supervisory 

roles, managerial roles and mentoring roles from both peers and trainers if they are to sustain and 

enhance their own competencies and job satisfaction.


As guardians of the workforce plan, supervisors require manageable caseloads. The need for 

manageable caseloads for front-line workers has been established for some time, but applies equally 

to their supervisors. When assigned duties outside their managerial/administrative responsibilities 

or their mentoring/supervisory roles, the magnitude of the responsibilities needs to be taken into 

consideration so that the individual can concentrate on both administrative and supervisory duties 

required to operationalize the agency mission on a day-to-day basis.


Environment for the Workforce


Agencies must develop standards and polices that identify and minimize all safety and health risks 

in the internal and external workplace and contribute to the extent feasible to the overall 

well-being of their workforces. Staff should be included in discussions of how their space can best 

promote productivity and collaboration. This includes sensitivity to the diversity of the workforce 

and clientele (community). There are four major components to workforce environment: safety 

management, attention to the quality of internal and external workspace, including equipment and 

facilities, flexible work arrangements and interpersonal relationships.


Safety Management

Safety management should be embedded in the culture and climate of the agency. Improving safety 

heightens productivity. Workers can transfer the time and emotional energy that might be spent 

protecting personal safety to focus more on their work. A sound risk safety management system and 

staff support requires the following elements:


  • The agency must have a workforce safety plan. The elements of the workforce safety plan are contingent on the structure and location of the agency and conditions under which the workforce must accomplish its tasks. Agency workforce safety plans should include not only rules, regulations and procedures but also resources (e.g., cell phones, buzzer systems) and networks (e.g., law enforcement, community agencies). Details will vary based on the requirements of the job function.Safety in child welfare offices requires special attention to assist staff in coping with situations where someone becomes physically aggressive.

Examples : Furniture should be placed in interviewing rooms in away that allows workers to exit safely in the event their physical safety is endangered. Security for administrative staff greeting clients must be assessed and any identified safety concerns mitigated.


Safety precautions beyond the walls of the agency include securing worker safety while entering and 

exiting buildings, field visits to unsafe neighborhoods, visiting clients’ homes and traveling to 

and working in satellite locations. Actions must be taken so workers feel safe and are safe.


Example : Clear protocols and reliable communications tools (including cell phone

and PDAs) that can be activated in hazardous situations.


Special arrangements should be made for workers who have been threatened or exposed to situations 

of harm.


Example : Workers who have been harmed, had property damaged (such as tires slashed) or 

may otherwise be at risk should be escorted to their cars and agreements should be made with the local police that when alerted, extra patrols will be provided to protect the workers’ homes and families .


  • The agency must provide training to make sure all personnel are aware of safety procedures. Staff orientation, supervision and mentoring can help embed safety into the daily action of the workforce. “To truly protect staff in the field, common training topics and best practice standards for child welfare staff must consistently be reviewed, updated and used as a reminder in relation to work safety”4. Training must include techniques to de-escalate crisis situations.
  • The agency must set up a management system to know whether all staff are following protocols and take appropriate actions when they are not. All employees must adhere to safety measures and practices, use agency policies and procedures to express experiences and perceptions in timely ways, and participate in ongoing workforce development so that they remain professional under stressful circumstances. Agencies can provide training and create protocols, but managers must also assure that the protocols are followed.
  • An agency safety management system must include a method to identify and correct unsafe circumstances before incidents occur and learn from incidents that have occurred to avoid reoccurrence. Effective agencies might set up a worker support advisory board and maintain local threat assessment teams at each local site to assess the safety needs of staff, paying close attention to what staff has to say.

For more tips on workplace violence prevention, check out the Guidelines for Preventing Workplace 

Violence for Health Care and Social Service Workers, published by the United States Office of 

Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).


Quality of Workspace


The workspace itself -- including physical structures, equipment and facilities -- visually 

demonstrates the values and principles of the agency. Several considerations related to the 

workspace which the agency must address to maximize staff productivity and enhance the 

effectiveness of services are:


  • Physical space and use of agency equipment should be adapted for evolving practice modalities.

Example: Appropriate space may be needed to conduct Family Group Conferencing


  • Ergonomics should be part of the agency’s comprehensive occupational safety and health programs. Laws and industry standards designed to eliminate injuries and illness in the workplace must be reviewed and adhered to. This includes those related to private space for staff, physical design of common and individual workspaces, and furniture and equipment placement for work site health and safety (U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health). Federal and state laws, regulations and standards must be applied to workers on and off site, whether in the field, placed in other agencies or working from home or in other remote locations.

Flexible Work Arrangements


Flexible work arrangements that respect the full range of staff needs (e.g., child care, general 

health, commuting challenge, and daily living activities) can have an effect on the development and 

productivity of staff, reduce work place injury and reduce the use of sick leave.


Example: Flexible schedules that allow workers to telecommute on days when their presence in the o ffic e is not essential can improve efficiency and increase productivity in 

the following ways: 1 ) Time and energy can be focused on completing tasks rather than 

being lost in frustrating travel. 2 ) Trust between the worker and supervisor is 

conveyed and enhanced. 3 ) Workers may be able to attend to personal needs on a lunch hour rather than taking a day off (e .g . attending a child ’s school conference, keeping a medical 

appointment, letting a repair man in the house).


Interpersonal Relationships


Interpersonal relationships must be given serious attention. The way people feel about their 

workplace sets the stage for attracting and retaining talent, eliminating waste of time and 

motivating teams. It is a powerful determinant of employee productivity. A workplace environment 

where everyone is treated with dignity and respect, which is inclusive and fair and without 

conflict enables employees to focus on outcomes for children youth and families. On a day-to-day 

basis, positive and supportive encouragement should be provided for each and every employee.

Agencies must deal with the way staff is treated and the way staff perceives they are treated. This 

includes interpersonal relationships between peers as well as the conduct of management and 

supervisors with supervisees. Creating harmony in the workplace requires being sensitive to 

insensitive remarks that lead to an unpleasant atmosphere. Every situation and its potential 

solution differ. Creating a solution may depend on the temperament of the workers, the cause of the 

problem and the agency’s policies governing the conduct. Legal rights may play a role as well.

Federal and state labor employment laws require agencies to have and to abide by policies and 

procedures that control certain work place conditions.5 Within the hostile workplace criterion, the 

legal parameters that regulate harassment usually come to mind first. But the need to regulate 

workplace behavior and create an affable culture for staff to work in goes beyond the legal

parameters. Any employee has the right to protest unwelcome treatment in the workplace, regardless 

of its scope or severity.



Change & Innovation Agency
FEi Systems
PCG Human Services
Governing Magazine
Conference Edge