Our Evolutionary Path to Excellence

Posted on by Reina

The CPS core value of focus for this month’s Compass Chronicle is Excellence. The Oxford dictionary defines Excellence as “the quality of being outstanding or extremely good.” At Career Path Services, we aspire for Excellence as an attribute of our agency’s identity, as demonstrated through our impact on the communities we serve. While the earnestness of these aspirations and our striving toward Excellence is very real, there is sometimes fogginess about the HOW or the evolutionary path toward Excellence.

Our core values and company culture embodied throughout our team are undoubtedly a key piece of the puzzle. We often talk about “getting to performance,” which means contract performance, budget utilization, or meeting common performance measures. We work on Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI), which, while possessing a broader meaning, in our work most often relates to compliance with policy and documentation standards. Human-Centered Design (HCD) aims to improve customer experiences by putting the customer needs and feedback at the center of our design.

Taken together, these concepts are the core elements needed to help chart our evolutionary pathway toward Excellence. We understand Excellence in the context of Career Path Services as a journey of continuous quality improvement and human-centered design (in all aspects of our work) or an evolution toward greatness – which means exceeding performance measures, assuring great customer outcomes, and making a profound positive impact through deep partnerships with the communities we serve.

“We already have all the key ingredients to get there – our guiding aspiration and culture serve as our compass. Our capable, passionate, driven team is the engine that propels us forward. CQI (as a broad concept) together with HCD are tools that can help navigate and course correct as we pass down the sometimes difficult and narrow pathways. If these elements are true, the fuel for our journey into the unknown, and the secret sauce for our success on this journey, my friends, is – wait for it…………. DATA!

To move toward Excellence means we must BE DATA-DRIVEN. We must measure and track everything. Without meaningful and quality data, we’re flying blind, acting on intuition or instinct, which we know can be limiting. We’re at a critical inflection point in workforce development. To remain relevant, we must pivot. To achieve Excellence, we must evolve with the changing realities of communities and the ecosystems of our primary customers – employers and jobseekers.

Our theory of how we will get “there” is through improved and more relevant data. So here are the three ways I hope data solutions can help us strive toward Excellence in the coming years:

  • Target the right customers – We aspire to go deeper in communities. The first step is to make sure that we utilize the resources entrusted to make the most meaningful and positive impact possible in the communities we serve. To do this, we need to be sure we are reaching those most in need of support. Without good data and connectivity within diverse communities, we can’t be confident that we are serving the greatest community needs or the right customers.

“While we continue serving those who come to the system independently, we must also acknowledge that many don’t or can’t come to us. Therefore, we must evaluate community demographics and poverty data to inform who most needs a hand up within each community. And if those folks aren’t accessing our services at expected levels, we need to adjust our program models to reach them, to “extend the front door” of our system to reach those who most need our services.

  • Adjust to optimize customer experience and positive outcomes – Systems and efforts to survey all customers are being developed but don’t always work and don’t yield sufficient responses to influence system change or to meaningfully refine our approach to serving customers.

We must systematically gather customer feedback and make iterative changes to our program models based on their inputs. This means surveying ALL customers in at least a light touch way, going deeper with interviews of a sampling of customers, and offering them appropriate compensation in exchange for their time.

In addition to gathering insights about the experience, we need to establish a standard of follow-up after 1, 3, 6, and 12 months of service to understand the outcomes from our services and ideally to correlate good or bad customer outcomes to particular services or practices of our system/teams.

Collectively we work to break the spirit of poverty through the dignity of work. Work, YES! but what else? Through our follow-up engagement with customers, what if we were to ask about other unmet needs. We could then truly go deeper in service to communities by adjusting policies (whenever possible) or seeking new resources to support the unmet needs revealed to us.

  • Better technology tools for data and customer engagement/management – The COVID pandemic has created a crisis for our communities. In many ways, our team has gained new capabilities out of the crisis and deepened our resilience. Through adopting a multiverse of new technology tools that enables more flexible means to connect with our customers, but also better ways to manage our data, track progress, evaluate performance, and visualize outcomes and performance to fund sources and stakeholders. Apricot360, Zoom, TEAMS, JotForm, DocuSign, Msft Power BI, AirTable, Trello, and Zapier, are just a few tools that help propel us forward by more effectively gathering, organizing, analyzing, and making sense of our robust data.

While it hasn’t always been obvious or felt this way, we’ve leaped forward in terms of this capability and our resilience during the pandemic. I do not doubt that through all these growing pains, the fits and starts, the steps forward, backward, and sometimes sideways, we are a better team and organization because of these last two highly challenging years.

The evolutionary path toward Excellence stretches to the horizon in front of us. But, with all that we’ve gained through these experiences, with all the energy, passion, and courage of this team, AND with better data, I believe Excellence is well within our reach.

Written by: Andy Dwonch

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