For human services workers, the job is as much a calling as it is a career. However, those who go into the field face a complex set of challenges involving finances, technology and changes in the workforce.
Those seeking a degree in human services or in human services administration will certainly face these issues in the coming years. This applies whether they work for a nonprofit organization or a government agency.
The good news is that the field continues to draw those who have compassion for others and a drive to help them lead better lives. Here’s a closer look at three of the challenges they face.
Lack of Technology
In many health and human services organizations, tight budgets over the years have led to a lack of investment in innovative technology. That’s left many in the sector behind private businesses and government agencies in the use of technology. This is an ongoing issue and still ranks among the most complex challenges human services administrators and employees will face in the coming years.
Some in the field have seen technology as an unnecessary expense rather than a solid investment. As noted by LinkedIn, putting money into technology can help human service agencies better serve their communities. They write that technology serves as a “needed catalyst for change, growth and efficiency.”
A related issue is retraining the workforce. Many social workers and other human service professionals may not feel comfortable with technology and will need a strong commitment from leadership to provide them the training they need.
This can include everything from learning best practices to collect and manage electronic healthcare records to understanding how to use cloud services to store and analyze data.
Attracting and Retaining Employees
Even for those who want to work in a career helping others, the allure of often higher wages in other fields can prove hard to resist. That’s especially true in today’s job market, where unemployment is low and private businesses are seeking employees for many positions.
Attracting qualified employees can get difficult in this environment. However, so can retaining the good employees on staff right now. Human services work, especially that involving child welfare, can lead to “compassion fatigue.” That’s just another way of saying that employees can get burned out from the emotionally charged nature of some human service jobs.
Human service administrators must develop strategies to keep employees fresh and enthusiastic about their jobs. Retaining experienced employees is as important as attracting new ones.
Financial Issues in Human Services
Funding is often a challenge for those working in human services. Those working in the charitable arm of a private corporation are typically the best off. But the vast majority of human service managers work for individual and family services agencies funded by nonprofits, federal and local governments, and religious organizations.
In government, funding can become erratic depending on the policies of the people in charge, which can change every election cycle. Political leaders also can impact nonprofits by making changes to the tax laws and how much people can deduct for charitable contributions.
Human services agencies in the United States have as big an impact on the economy as the airline industry. However, about one-third do not have the cash on hand to cover more than one month of expenses.
The Alliance for Strong Families and Communities released a report that called on human service organizations to invest more into technology and research on the creation of more efficient operating models. Achieving these changes will involve the effort of those who work in human services administration.
Human services is an important field. More than 200,000 human service organizations provide support to individuals, families and communities every day. Training for the job requires getting the best education possible, something graduate programs in human services offer.