Management of Norfolk County 8 Regional Staff

Client Norfolk County 8

Practice Area Program/Project Management

The Story of Norfolk County 8

The Norfolk County 8 (NC-8) Local Public Health Coalition is a joint effort among the Health Departments in Canton, Dedham, Milton, Needham, Norwood, Walpole, Wellesley, and Westwood, Massachusetts. For more than a decade, these communities have united to focus on public health planning and emergency preparedness. More recently, the group has united as a Shared Services Arrangement, funded by the Massachusetts Office of Local and Regional Health Public Health Excellence program, aligning with efforts to enhance the effectiveness, efficiency, and equity of local and regional public health through shared services.

Gathering monthly, the NC-8 Coalition collaborates on regional programming, information sharing, resource pooling, policy development, and managing shared services. Their work extends beyond emergency preparedness to encompass diverse public health initiatives such as substance abuse prevention, mental health, and maintaining retail food standards, aiming to improve the well-being of residents. Since its inception as a PHE group, NC-8 has hired five regional staff, including epidemiologists, contact tracers, and a community resource specialist, to contribute to the enhancement of coalition-wide public health services and programming.

The Challenge of Managing Shared Staff

Like many regional coalitions, NC-8 recognized the challenge in managing shared staff, as well as a need for delineation of responsibilities from municipal staff and reporting structures within the collaborative. BME, serving as the Shared Services Coordinator, supported NC-8 in taking proactive steps to address the oversight gaps by conducting individual debrief meetings with each community within the coalition.

NC-8, with BME’s partnership, sought to work through inherent challenges in the management of regional staff. Such employees are officially employed by the fiscal lead, yet the coalition advisory board, composed of health directors and other staff from all participating communities, collectively acted as their supervisors. This configuration can lead to a lack of clarity regarding roles, expectations, and reporting lines, resulting in inefficiencies and communication gaps.

During discussions with representatives from each community, recurring themes emerged, highlighting the lack of transparency regarding the capabilities and activities of regional staff. While some communities had productive relationships with regional staff and used their services often, others weren’t fully clear about what services they could provide or how to ask for them. Additionally, BME heard from the regional staff members that their goals were unclear and that there were no feedback mechanisms after tasks or projects were complete. This led to the staff feeling disconnected from the overall mission of the coalition, making their work in seven different communities all the more challenging.

While the challenge of managing shared staff initially posed complexities due to unclear roles and communication gaps, it presented an opportunity for NC-8 to implement standardized procedures, task management systems, and improved communication strategies. Addressing these issues proactively would not only streamline operations but also maximize the potential of shared resources within the collaborative, ultimately leading to more effective public health initiatives across the participating communities.

How BME Strategies Responded

BME Strategies stepped into the challenge of managing shared staff within the Norfolk County-8 (NC-8) Local Public Health Coalition with the creation of the Regional Staff Coordinator (RSC) role. With experience in both local public health and coalition management, the RSC can navigate the complexities of municipal employee management while also considering the intricacy of serving several different municipalities. They initiated a systems-based approach, starting with regular individual check-ins and group meetings with regional staff to understand their needs and challenges.

To enhance efficiency and track progress, BME created a centralized platform for tracking staff activities and milestones, fostering better organization and accountability within the collaborative. To streamline access to regional staff services, BME has designed request forms on the platform, simplifying the process for member communities to engage and utilize the shared staff’s expertise. These forms serve as a mechanism to efficiently allocate and manage resources, ensuring a smoother workflow for all involved parties.

Recognizing the opportunity to standardize the hiring process for regional staff, BME supported NC-8 in implementing a comprehensive three-tier process. This process involves meticulous resume reviews, followed by phone screenings, and culminating in panel interviews conducted by three advisory board members, ensuring an efficient, thorough and fair selection process for new recruits.

By introducing standardized operating procedures, task management systems, and improved communication channels, NC-8 has benefited from a cohesive staff management structure. This approach delineates clear roles, responsibilities, and reporting lines, fosters a more transparent and organized work environment that will ultimately benefit the shared staff, and amplify the efficacy of public health initiatives across the collaborating communities.

The Results

With targeted process improvement facilitated by BME, NC-8 has experienced tangible improvements in managing shared staff and fostering better organization, communication, and productivity within the collaborative.

Deliverables:

  • Monthly activity reports were instituted and shared across the collaborative. These reports serve as a means of transparent communication, highlighting progress, accomplishments, and ongoing activities within NC-8. BME has used this process to build a relationship with existing staff and laid out a clear framework for forthcoming hires, ensuring a smoother onboarding process and more streamlined management.
  • BME Strategies spearheaded the implementation of comprehensive project management software. This system serves as a centralized platform enabling efficient tracking, management, and oversight of regional staff activities within NC-8. It allows for real-time updates, task allocation, progress tracking, and enhanced collaboration among member communities.
  • BME implemented a user-friendly request form system. This initiative streamlines the process for NC-8 member communities to access and leverage the expertise and services of regional staff. The request form facilitates a structured and efficient method for community-specific inquiries, ensuring clarity, responsiveness, and optimal resource allocation from the shared staff.
  • BME established a comprehensive three-tier hiring process and refined job descriptions with increased specificity providing clear guidelines and expectations, and aligning staff efforts with the collaborative’s objectives.

Overall Impact Statement

BME’s implementation of structured management systems and streamlined processes continues to enhance collaboration, transparency, and efficiency among NC-8 member communities and their staff, fostering a more unified approach toward public health initiatives.