In a recent Bridgespan Group article, titled “Five Ways to Navigate the Fiscal Crisis“, the authors talk about how the government has been outsourcing human services to social services agencies to provide care and programs and how budget cuts are causing serious problems. They also offer tips on how these organizations can survive their most recently slashed funding sources as well as future cuts they know will be coming their way.
Because everyone understands the situation in this country is bleak, and more than likely not going to get better any time soon, social services agencies need to do everything they can to make the most of their situations. One major way to navigate these fiscal waters is through an increase in productivity. In every department, if possible.
The suggestion, in the Bridgespan article, to focus on productivity made great sense to us. We help agencies become more productive with their processes and have seen the results. But we have also seen a push back from nonprofit leaders and workers when we bring up productivity.
Most social services professionals do not see themselves as business people or those who would focus on for-profit terms like “return on investment” or “increasing productivity”. Others don’t understand the concept of productivity and how it would affect them. But, as the article states, non-profit leaders are starting to warm up the concept. Money quote:
[T]eam leaders realized that typing in case notes was taking up hours of clinician time, so the agency now uses electronic medical records and voice recognition software to allow clinicians to streamline their documentation—reducing time spent on that task by 40 to 50 percent. The productivity mindset “is now a big part of what we do and it has transformed our organization,” Lawler notes.
We have seen similar results with our social services clients who use our software to improve how they collect, use, and report on data. We’ve seen improvements in their client payroll time and piece count collection process for those with vocational employment facilities. We’ve seen how they’ve slashed the time and manpower required of them to submit billing invoices to Medicaid and other units-of-services payers.
It’s great that so many are starting to see the benefits of productivity in their business offices and in the programs they offer to those with disabilities. When they can enter notes faster, enter payroll with fewer errors, create reports without referring to four different sources, and when they can bill for maximum services provided they are making the most of what they’ve got. They are saving time, saving money, reducing staff, maintaining compliance, surviving audits, and making fewer errors.
One of our customers recently let me know about how much more productive they’ve been:
“Front office staffing was reduced by 40%, largely due to elimination of some steps formerly required to process our client payroll. Our production supervisory staff was reduced 40% as well, and their throughput is effectively unchanged from our pre-Vertex Systems days. We’ve redirected some of those resources into client care.”
And he added that, in their vocational employment facility, they are making the businesses who hire them on a contract basis happy as well:
“A few have given up their own Bill of Material systems entirely because we now provide that to them as an added value. The effect has been huge because they highly value the fact they can pick up the phone and ask us, ‘How many XYZ assemblies can you build?’ and we can answer that question in about 10 seconds.”
Even for those social services agencies that don’t have manufacturing or services capabilities, many of our customers have been able to use software to doing something as simple as reducing the number of steps in a process all the way to replacing staff members or a whole department in order to meet their obligations.
The alternative? Agencies can continue to make due with what they have and hope things don’t get too much worse. Being productive means being able to not just continue offering the same number of programs but making those programs better. It means not only keeping the doors open but possibly expanding operations. We’ve seen the results and we think more and more non-profit leaders are recognizing the value of productivity across the board.
Check out the Bridgespan article for more tips to surviving budget cuts for government-sponsored social services organizations.
If you have questions about how to make your social services organization more effective and efficient, contact Vertex Systems today. We have 30 years experience in making agencies not only survive but thrive during any fiscal crisis.