The global shift in work patterns and business necessities has increased risk and exposure for many companies. We only have to reflect on the recent events in Paris and Brussels to see that terrorism is on the rise and occurring in locations once deemed safe.
The Health and Social Welfare Sector is not immune to such challenges. In fact, Health and Welfare professionals work within environments that are often isolated from colleagues and involve negotiating high-risk volatile situations and remote travel. Act for Kids, a not-for-profit organisation, long ago recognised the significant risks associated with its mobile workforce. The case study as written below, is an outstanding demonstration of actions the organisation’s North Queensland region has executed to ensure the safety of their staff.
Act for Kids is a children’s charity based in Australia. Their purpose is the prevention and treatment of child abuse and neglect. The North Queensland region of the organisation conducts much of its work through teams of practitioners who provide emotional support and counselling services to families in their homes. Due to the nature of the outreach work, practitioners can be exposed to a number of safety risks associated with working in isolation from colleagues, entering homes with unknown occupants and driving significant distances.
The key challenge in minimising the many risks for their workforce was the ability for the organisation to maintain effective communication between workers and middle management as they moved from one client to the next. A ‘check-in’ process was initially instigated with practitioners being responsible for emailing or phoning their supervisor at the conclusion of each home visit or long distance travel. This check in process also required practitioners to keep their outlook calendars up to date at all times, mapping out visits with clients for each practitioner. Initially this was easy to monitor and sustain, however as the organisation expanded, keeping effective and responsive communication proved to be a major problem.
For this reason, Act for Kids opted to trial JESI as a possible solution to effectively manage not only their workforce movements, but to ensure the automated responsive communication process in the system did not impact or become a distraction while working with their clients.
During 2015, Act for Kids’ North Queensland workforce expanded over 250% within three months and in the context of managing people’s safety the numbers of visits and long distance travels increased significantly. The reliance on emails, phone calls and calendars soon became an extreme administrative burden and was proving to be unreliable.
Act for Kids conducted research on other products that were designed to support health and safety management activities, however none could offer them the simplicity and affordability provided by JESI as an effective journey management solution. Being a not-for-profit organisation, financial constraints are always a consideration and the organisation did consider introducing a paper based approach, however this was quickly abandoned and assessed as a greater risk.
“We were trying to manage our staff using our email system. As our team grew this became unmanageable and unsafe. Although no specific event occurred, there was a growing worry that our system was adding stress for our people rather than supporting them and that we wouldn’t know if an incident occurred out in the field. Our only other option was to commence a white board or paper based system – which we thought would continue the inefficiency rather than improve the situation.”
Renée McAllister, Act for Kids
The initial JESI trial was conducted across two different teams of workers that included front line practitioners, supervisors, managers and administrators. In this way, they were able to evaluate the entire JESI process and collect feedback from those who were most impacted on managing people movement with efficiency. The organisation’s Administration Officer and Regional Director were primary JESI champions and were instrumental in ensuring that the JESI purpose and process was clearly understood by all trial participants.
During the trial, staff reported that they felt a lot safer due to the automated instant communication and the simplistic functionality meant that it did not impact or add additional work to their day. In addition the organisation now had a tool that provided higher levels of visibility of where people were. The traveller activity report was and continues to be, on display via a TV monitor discreetly located in the staff kitchen. By making this available during the trial, co-workers were able to actively participate in viewing people movement and the outcome proved to be positive. Not only did practitioners now feel safer moving around in isolation from their colleagues, the transparency and speed of knowing where people were was greatly enhanced.
The benefits of JESI were not attainable without facing a few challenges. Firstly, since the software did require mobile phone access and not all staff members carried their own personal devices, the organisation decided to take the opportunity to upgrade and provide smartphones for workers. This was necessary to ensure that the results of JESI were uniform throughout the entire region.
Secondly, the organisation had to revise its policy of requiring people to check in via a phone call, as text messages were thought to be unsafe. This was not possible unless it had the support and involvement of senior management. They had to be convinced about the benefits of using the software and adjusting their check-in policy around it.
“The whole team was experiencing significant change during this time, including the rapid growth of the team, and some were anxious about using the new technology and changing the way we did things in the region. It was seen as more change upon more change by some team members, however perspectives quickly improved”
Renée McAllister, Act for Kids
The results of the trials not only determined that JESI was a secure and trustworthy solution to keep people safe; it also significantly improved the productivity of the entire organisation. Front line practitioners had to worry less about writing countless emails to follow a cumbersome administrative process and senior management now had a tool that gave them live access to the status of where people were. Secondly, teams had greater knowledge of the whereabouts of co-workers, which greatly enhanced the health and safety monitoring mechanism.
“All team members rated JESI as the best initiative of the year”
Renée McAllister, Act for Kids
JESI is an effective journey management software solution that has strengthened Act for Kids’ communication approach for remote and isolated worker activities and in addition, minimised the risks associated with these working environments. Using JESI has allowed Act for Kids to ensure the welfare of their workers in North Queensland in a much more transparent and efficient manner.
From June 2015 to the end of March 2016, Act for Kids North Queensland staff completed 1847 Journeys, which equates to over 4000 hours in travel time.
Act for Kids is now in the process of implementing JESI on a national scale. A great outcome and a fantastic story of how innovation has solved a significant problem for an organisation with a mobile workforce which truly values staff safety.
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