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Useful Resources for Conducting Social Service Workforce Gap Analyses

Jim McCaffery's picture

In a sector with constrained resources, it is imperative to make sound, evidence-based decisions about social service workforce strengthening interventions.   In order to do this, good workforce data are needed to help inform those decisions and address questions like the following:  in a particular country, who are considered to be part of the social service workforce, what are they called, where are they, how many are there, how are they educated, trained and supported, what services are they providing, and what gaps are there with respect to any of these questions?  While the state of data availability can be best be described as ‘emerging’, it is encouraging to note that there has been progress in this area with an increasing number of workforce gap analyses being undertaken over the past three to five years.

While much work in this area remains to be done, the gap analyses already completed have produced at least two useful outcomes.  First, it has allowed the beginnings of meta-analyses by examining results in several countries.   A good example of this is a chapter that has been produced for an upcoming World Bank publication on the social service workforce as an under recognized cadre of the health workforce, with a special focus on sub-Saharan Africa.   This paper includes sections on workforce definitions and functions, stock and distribution, planning and strategy, education and training and career advancement, the state of professional associations and some recommendations about future workforce strengthening intervention areas.  While this focuses on sub-Saharan Africa and is based on a limited number of country-level gap analyses, it still provides useful beginning workforce descriptions and trends.

The second outcome of these country-level workforce gap analyses is that there is now available an increasing number of protocols that can be used or adapted or streamlined by practitioners in other countries who are interested in undertaking a similar gap analysis.  The following are a few examples:

  • Assessing the Human Resource Capacity for Implementation of the National Plan of Action for Orphans and Vulnerable Children  This is a process description and a tool library that gives “…coordinators, stakeholders, and implementers a process, methodology, and tools…” to carry out a participatory social service HR gap analysis.  It is drawn from work done in Namibia and Malawi originally, and has a range of questionnaires, interview guides, meeting agenda descriptions and other tools. One of the strengths of this resource is that it describes well how to make the gap assessment more participatory in nature, which will make the results more accurate, the recommendations more realistic and increase the likelihood of ownership of the report and outcomes.
  • An Assessment of the Public Sector Social Service Workforce in Ethiopia  This is the final report of the Ethiopia SSW gap analysis completed in June of 2013.  In addition to some overall descriptions of orienting data collectors, sampling, data processing, and ethical considerations, it contains an extensive set of questionnaires, guidance for interviews, FGD protocols, and other tools.
  • Human Resource Assessment and Gap Analysis of the Zambian Social Welfare Workforce This document – finalized in November of 2013 – is a complete SSW gap analysis protocol.  While the background, context, goal and objectives and literature review are very Zambia specific, I am including it because it provides a good context for the a) overall HR assessment design and analysis, b) steps to be used in the gap analysis and c) the tools and data collection methods.  In terms of tool examples, there is an overall information sheet to be used when engaged in data collection, protocols for individual interviews, group interviews, a web based survey to collect quantitative data, and sample consent sheets.
  • Protocol Framework for Social Service Workforce Gap Analysis  This is a different type of document that is intended to provide a guide for an overall social service workforce gap analysis.  As such, it contains key questions broken into four key areas:  Identifying, planning, developing and supporting the workforce.  This aligns generally with the Framework for Strengthening the Social Service Workforce and would help practitioners by providing the kinds of questions they should be asking if they choose to look more in depth in particular areas.  This document should be viewed as a quasi-library and one can pick and choose questions based on what seems most important or compelling given the country or local context.  Then, once the overall guiding questions are chosen, it is likely that there will be tools from some of the other resources included in this blog that practitioners could use or adapt to provide data to address the questions.


I hope these examples are useful, and that leaders and practitioners can find material from one or more of the resources that could be adapted appropriately.   

For more information and resources on social service workforce gap analyses and mapping, please visit the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance resource library here.

I would also like to invite you to contribute additional examples of protocols or even a single tool that you might have used or seen applied. You can do so by completing this simple form here once you are signed in as an Alliance member.

This work of mapping the SSW and determining key gaps is critically important, and
making these tools widely available should make it easier for people to undertake an analysis as they do not have to start from scratch. 


by Jim McCaffery, Senior Advisor, CapacityPlus and Training Resources Group

Jim McCaffery
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