For those of you who are sports fans, this is an exciting time of year with the major league baseball World Series, hockey taking the ice, and football back in full swing for colleges and pros. I enjoy the excitement of the games, the loyalty of the fans, and the amazing talent of the individual players. But when a starting player goes out with an injury, most sports teams have another top pick who is ready and able to get in the game.
Importance of versatility
Recognizing that a single subject matter expert cannot meet all the needs of our customers — the states, territories, and tribes we serve — we have become focused on developing organizational depth at many key positions. The complexity of the child support program, the interdependence of the federal-state-territorial-tribal relationship, and the critical services we deliver to families all reinforce the importance of having depth of knowledge and skills. It is essential that more than one person be able to fulfill a given role. High-functioning business teams must be fully capable of handling customer needs with multiple skilled people, thorough information sharing, and ongoing collaboration.
Transferring and expanding knowledge
OCSE recently published a list of the numerous services we offer to state and tribal child support programs. The menu of training and technical assistance services is only helpful if there are OCSE resources available to provide them. To strengthen our ability to respond to requests, we’ve been preparing new trainers for several subject areas. In the October 2019 OCSE Child Support Report newsletter (PDF), we feature several articles on domestic violence training, protocols, and partnerships. This is a growing area of interest across the child support community, and we are preparing to meet that growth with additional resources.
Also in the Oct. 2019 issue, we feature employment services for noncustodial parents, and as we roll out a new technical assistance toolkit, we will also be expanding our subject matter expertise to support its deployment. Other specialized areas we’ve focused on to expand knowledge within OCSE are federal reporting, performance, and incentives; tribal programs; data analysis; and partnership facilitation. States and tribes have an assigned regional program specialist in OCSE who remains the primary contact for day-to-day operations and the main resource for training and technical assistance services.
Unforeseen continuity gaps
A breadth of skill and talent also helps us prepare for the unexpected. We plan for natural disasters and for our structures and systems to maintain continuous operations. What about our human capital? Not every team has the resources to staff more than one person to a task. But to ensure key roles have a ready substitute when the unexpected happens, I encourage every team to develop members who can step in with the knowledge, skills, and relationship when the "go-to" person cannot.
Adopt a sports strategy
How do you deepen the bench within your team? Here are some practical planning steps to consider:
- Understand what essential functions your customers need from you. What outcomes must your team always produce without interruption?
- Identify the knowledge and skills required to perform those functions. What are the key competencies that you must develop in order to deliver the needed results?
- Map out a detailed and formalized plan. Who will assume critical tasks and complete them as their own rather than as a back-up?
Like a sports team, training your team members and then periodically practicing the plan will prepare them to confidently perform tasks they may not regularly do. This approach can also be a foundation for succession planning. As OCSE has learned, we can never know when circumstances will create a permanent loss on your team.
One of our core assets is a deep bench of talented and committed staff. As the states, territories, and tribes continue to become higher performing, OCSE must keep pace by providing the highest quality tools, technologies, strategies, and service. Improving outcomes for children and families is truly a team effort!