In the field of social work, we all want to succeed in our work with children and families. But, what is considered “success” for DCS and how is it measured? The definition of “success” is found in the DCS mission statement, “Our mission is to empower families and support community safety and partnerships to help ensure safety, permanency and well being for children.” Safety, permanency, and well being…those are the measures of our success. If we can assist families in achieving those outcomes we have succeeded.
A new initiative is being launched that will assist regional leadership (RA/DRA/TCs) in achieving those outcomes to ensure success. This initiative is a new performance management process.
So, what is performance management? Performance management is an ongoing process of communication between a supervisor and an employee that occurs throughout the year in support of accomplishing the strategic goals of an organization. This process entails setting and aligning goals; coaching and developing employees; providing informal feedback; formally evaluating performance; and linking performance to recognition. When effectively carried out, performance management helps employees understand the nature and quality of their performance and identify what they need to do to improve as well as inspire them to do so. Most importantly, effective performance management helps employees know that their contributions are recognized and acknowledged, which assists in motivating them towards success. A robust and effective performance management process will provide a foundation for continuous improvement and achievement of state, regional, and team performance goals, which will translate into success for DCS.
So, what is the purpose of performance management? The purpose is to improve the quality of supervision, provide more goal-focused professional development, and enhance accountability. In so doing, children and family outcomes will improve since current research suggests that some of the most important factors contributing to improved child and family outcomes are quality supervision, a well-trained workforce, and a system for consistent accountability.
The tools utilized in a performance management process are an important factor in ensuring an effective process that achieves its intended purpose. The existing performance management tools, such as the Job Performance Plan (JPP), Monthly Performance Briefings (MPB), and Performance Evaluations (PE) are not currently assisting employees in reaching their maximum performance potential or helping regions in achieving their outcomes due to their lack of integration and standardization. For example, JPPs for the same service position vary from region to region and are not consistent agency-wide; competencies are not standardized to assist supervisors with directing and focusing professional development efforts, and performance goals are not integrated into the performance management process to guide regional, team and individual improvement efforts. JPPs for direct service positions are being revised to reflect a competency based model, but the goal is that all positions within DCS will have a competency-based JPP.
What we currently possess is not a performance management process but a performance tracking system – a system that looks back at what we have achieved, and records performance. What is needed is an integrated system that assists supervisors in not just tracking performance, but in recognizing and developing both performance and professional development needs so that the outcomes of permanency, safety and well being can be achieved. This is how success will be reached.
As a result, the following regions - Davidson, Upper Cumberland, South Central, Northeast, Southwest, and Tennessee Valley - are currently learning how to integrate the existing tools into a comprehensive, competency based performance management process, which is built upon a well-researched frame endorsed by the federal government and by national child welfare experts. Regional leadership is learning how to systematically use data in order to identify and support regional and organizational performance goals as well as improve child and family outcomes.
We all want to succeed. A renewed focus on employee performance, outcomes, and the measures needed to track success will assist us all in seeing children reunited with families, achieving timely permanency, and children being maintained safely in their living situations. Now that is true success!
TCCW - Learning and Staff Development