Written by Marielle Walter, Project Consultant, Common Impact
In October of 2018, The SAFE Alliance joined forces with a volunteer team from Charles Schwab to tackle a pressing organizational staffing challenge. The SAFE Alliance is dedicated to ending violence through prevention, advocacy and comprehensive services for individuals, families and communities that have been affected by abuse. SAFE provides a variety of services for those affected by violence, including a Forensic Nursing and Advocacy program in which SAFE staff or volunteers provide in-person support to victims in a clinic or emergency room on an on-call basis. The staffing needs around these services and response efforts were so variable and intensive, they presented significant challenges in maintaining sufficient staff availability.
The SAFE Alliance reached out to Common Impact seeking a volunteer team’s support in creating a staffing model would ensure multiple layers of 24/7 support and would limit the number of responses required of the full-time staff. SAFE had been utilizing a mix of volunteers, part-time and full-time staff to ensure 24/7 coverage, and full-time staff were at times pulled away from other essential program work, with the risk of negatively impacting the overall quality of programming. Common Impact worked with SAFE to determine its need for an interactive staffing model documenting personnel supply and service demands, one that could be customized and utilized by the organization to more efficiently and effectively staff its Forensic Nursing and Advocacy program.
At the Charles Schwab Pro Bono Challenge, SAFE met with a team consisting of six Schwab business leaders with extensive experience in the areas of process improvement, staffing, forecasting and team building. Over the course of six hours, the Schwab team worked to understand SAFE’s program model and expectations for patient support. They reviewed data provided by SAFE around trends of service utilization and discussed and documented challenges in developing an adequate staffing structure. The team then took an intensive and detailed approach to assess SAFE’s needs and constraints around staff organization, budget, hiring, training and retention, as well as dispatch logistics, client feedback, scheduling and employee engagement goals, which included an intricate whiteboard activity. They weighed considerations around the dependency on full-time employees and the need for support to PRN, as well as the importance of service quality.
The team discussed a variety of potential approaches and improvements for SAFE to consider. The outcome was a deeper understanding of the root cause of staffing challenges and of additional tools and processes to further explore and operationalize in order to relieve the pressure on full-time employees while increasing overall staff engagement. Juliana Gonzales, Senior Director of Sexual Assault Services, shared about her experience: “I honestly came in with very high hopes, but was delighted to see that even those were exceeded. It was an incredibly inspiring way to spend the day and we came away with some instantly executable insights.”
Ryan Chadwick, Managing Director at Schwab and volunteer team lead, spoke of the experience from Schwab’s perspective: “The Schwab group was overwhelmed with the passion the SAFE team had for their organization’s mission and purpose. It is inspiring to me that those in their biggest time of need have such a dedicated and passionate organization to aide them.”