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SSWWeek Day Five: Making Sure the Workforce Has the Support it Needs

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By Dr. James McCaffery, PhD, Senior Advisor, Training Resources Group and CapacityPlus

To paraphrase Albert Einstein, who once said ‘out of clutter, find simplicity,’ I would adapt it to say ‘out of diversity, find strength.’  And the social service workforce is wonderfully diverse. 

Consider the broad range of job titles that exist – social worker, social work assistant, community based care giver, social welfare extension worker, community based psychosocial worker, child and youth care worker, and so on.  In addition, there are other roles from related sectors that deliver some aspect of social service work within their areas or responsibility, including people like teachers, probation officers and community health workers.  To add to this complex social service workforce picture, there is a broad range of government and non-government organizations that hire and support workers, and these exist in some form at both the national and local level, and include formal as well as non-formal (and traditional) community groups and mechanisms. 

I use the term ‘wonderfully diverse’ in the first sentence just to acknowledge that there is definitely space for many to contribute in this area, and there is a certain strength in this organizational and workforce diversity that should be celebrated.

Given this picture, however, there is a key challenge – what kinds of actions can this broad range of organizations take to make sure they are supporting the various components of the workforce that they are responsible for?  What options do they have to motivate a plethora of widely different kinds of workers?

Drawing from the Support component of the Social Service Workforce Strengthening Framework, there are two important areas that leaders at every level – and in any type of organization -- can use to choose appropriate interventions or strategies that fit their context and needs. 

1)                  Develop or strengthen systems to improve and sustain social service workforce performance.  Probably most important, organizations can improve the kind of supportive supervision that they use with front line workers, and to seek out any special mechanisms that may be needed for community based caregivers.   Another key area that would support workforce performance is to develop or agree on standard operating procedures for more coordinated and comprehensive services between national, district and community based organizations providing support for children and families (e.g. better tracking and documentation of services, making certain the referral system is actually working, and identifying how well the different players are working together to provide ongoing support for children and families).

2)                  Develop or adapt tools, resources, and initiatives to improve job satisfaction and retention.  It is important to start in this area by soliciting and implementing ideas from social service workers for improving workplace conditions aimed at enabling them to carry out their responsibilities more effectively.  Just the act of asking for input will be motivating to workers (assuming of course that something is done as a result).  It is also important to consult with social service workers and community based care givers to identify ways to acknowledge achievements or incentives and (merit-based) promotions to provide for individuals who stay with organizations for longer periods of time. Finally, it is useful to engage in on-going monitoring to measure progress in the areas of job satisfaction and retention interventions and to make appropriate changes based on evidence.

I should also add that there is an Alliance Interest Group working now on exploring and consolidating perspectives and key considerations concerning the role of para professionals in the social service workforce.  As part of their work, they are developing a series of guiding principles for developing and supporting the workforce, which will also be a valuable resource once it is complete.

As we consider these kinds of leadership actions to support the social service workforce, we are also fortunate to have profiles of leaders who are doing just that. 

I encourage you to read these profiles as they are excellent examples of a very important social service cadre, that is, leaders and managers who are responsible for creating an enabling workforce environment.  Also take a look at a story about the way that community volunteers are supported through intensive training provided by the USAID-supported Yekokeb Berhan Program for Highly Vulnerable Children in Ethiopia.

For those leaders interested in taking action to support their workforce, the Alliance website has many useful resources on supporting the workforce that can be adapted and applied to fit different contexts.  For example, there are different tools or training courses that can be used to develop or train supervisors.  There are studies about how best to compensate primary and secondary community based caregivers.  There are country profiles that described workforce strengthening progress in Tanzania, South Africa, Malawi and Namibia.  There are resources aimed at improving staff retention, one that describes how important the supervisor’s role is in retention and identifies supervisory competencies that increase retention and another – borrowed from the health sector – which provides tools to solicit input from workers about packages of incentives to best facilitate retention

The Alliance has also hosted a number of webinars related to supporting the workforce, including:

I encourage you to go on the website and look around, and I think you will find it a rich resource.  And our hope is that you will share your documents or insights about your own initiatives in this area so that others might profit as result of your work.  You email documents to us with a short description and we will help you to disseminate them.

And to return for a moment to our Einstein quote – we may not easily be able to find simplicity, but we can make every effort at the workforce level to make the diversity a strength by supporting all kinds of workers better.





Feroza Domun's picture

This is a very insightful site. I will continue to follow and spread the word to fellow cycw's. Thank you.

Thokozile Motaung's picture

Thank u to send this email to me is better that u acknowledge us.

Simangele Zungu's picture

Its a whoow moment!!! After a very long time Child and Youth Care Workers are recognised national and international as part of social service profefional!! We are proud of the develoepmental and the tenacity of our child and yourh care workers - Lungi and Sbongile -Viva   

Simangele Zungu's picture

Its a whoow moment!!! After a very long time Child and Youth Care Workers are recognised national and international as part of social service profefional!! We are proud of the develoepmental and the tenacity of our child and yourh care workers - Lungi and Sbongile -Viva   

Jafta Nkuna's picture

Hi Zeni I am Jafta Nkuna a 24 years old male, volunteering as a communitty child and youth care worker in Limpopo,Giyane,mopani district ward 22,Nakampe village i started serving Isibindi last year october,am living with my mother in a poor house hold family and there is no Income,but with the little stipend that Isibindi provide for us at the end of every three months,I completed matric in 2011 and managed to aquire Diploma but financial stoped me from reaching my dream,now am a member of NACCW working with female and am the only single male in our group of 9,we were 10 and one female i want our group to find a boy who will encourage me because alone working with women i think i cannot make it to the end of the module because up to so far we have manage to complete cluster 1 one but my developmenal areas when working with family is that parents dont support me tell me not to come but i keep on going there because i use trial and error learning,now am sick because my hand became swollen becauese of injury from sports activity i do with child at the sports ground,pleasure if my comment will be regarded

Sibongile 's picture

It is amaizing to see a collaborative global communication and converstions going on like this, I am proud to be a CYCW, to be in this amaizing and outstanding field and to be an African.This is really a good story to tell to our up coming generation to enhance them to love this profession and to encourage and to emphasize the spirit of UBUNTU.

Samukelisiwe's picture

Global social servises wll give us as child and youth care worker more strenght and people respect our proffession

mokolo regina's picture

it makes my heart to beat with joy and pleasure to see a child and youth care profession included as one of social service profession. it pick ups our strength and dignity. I wish to see all the tertiary institution oferring the courses so that new child and youth care workers can get an opportunity to develop self further in this special field of work.

Jabulile Mazibuko's picture

The hard work that is done for our profession to be recognise is truly inspiring. Having to read the two stories, it has motivated me more to work hard so that one day I could be like them. They are true role models, fighting for the better future of our young people. I am really proud to be a CYCW by proffession. 

tiny's picture

I am so proud of the knowledge I got from NACCW I am a professional child and youth worker who worked from 1996 as a volunteer and worked in another proffession in other companies but had never gave up the love of being avolunteer in what like..I also apreciate and thank the Ministry of social service to recognise this unique profession God bless u all .

Bonginkosi's picture

Thnk 4 everything naccw what u did 4 us as we are cycw 4 giving us a lot of knowledge,skills ect.Plz dnt give up to support us in this field.

Asanda Fihla 's picture

I am deeply moved and inspired by Lungi's story. It truely is an honour to be working with such great leaders who have been in the field for so long and still manage to stand tall and unshaken. I feel that now the ball is in our court who are new to this field, if we are not inspired by the leaders before us we will never be inspired. This field needs passion and people who are fulfilled through helping others. On behalf of mentors, it truely is a priviledge to be part of such a powerful workforce and I pray that the lives we touch are inspired by the beauty of our work. May we never grow weary and may we always bear in mind that no matter how tiny the ripple of hope might be, in the very end we all push to move forward and engage to achieve greatness.There's a facade of beauty and true commitment in this workforce.

Johne779's picture

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Joseph Kayinga's picture

With all these information shared, I find quite interesting and learning what works most from different coners of our Globe. For my fellow Africans, this platform is a unique where our professional lonliness and under resourcing feelings get enriched with success and the impact changes each segment. Let us keep up the work in a professional shared services for which the total success will be the sum of all the efforts done and the outcome. I have just joined the Secretariat of International Federation of Social Workers (Africa Region) as its first Secretary General. We are currently updating the IFSW Africa member Countries so that we become in constant correspondence with National leaders of Associations of Social Workers and their members. This is important for sharing news and updates on programs and professional activities.The work is progressing well with a bit of challenge for some colleagues who are not active electronically. It is hard to find them so with this platform any who knows the leadership team, their phone and e mail contacts. I will apprevciate if you drop a link to them or me via kayingaj @ have already verified and so have reliable contacts with the National Social Work Associations for Ghana, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, Rwanda and Zambia.We are not yet done with Benin, Djibouti, Liberia, Libya, Sudan, Madagascar, Mauritius, Morocco, Senegal, Sierra Leeone, South Africa,Swaziland, Lesotho and Niger. I understand that IFSW Africa Secretariat has communicated to some via e mail or by phone. It is by heir response and feedback on the welfare of their association that we rely and credit them as actively engaged. We need to move together, share as we are doing and also contribute the little resources we have for the benefit of our presence as professionals.Thanks to Angola and Ethiopia for showing up towards joining the IFSW Africa family. I understand that Burundi is also organising itself towards having national Association of Social Work. Ladies and gentlemen if you happen to know a National leader of the said Association please just alert me or connect us via my e mail above then I will do the rest tracing business.

Logan Smith's picture

Thanks for this well described article as I found it very useful for me. Support system is very useful to an organization/company, to a society/people and also for several other needs. Management support system in an organization plays very important role towards the success of that organization. Technical support team help the customers/people through online service.