Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF)

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The Department of Children and Families (DCF) is a state agency that partners with families and different communities to protect children from neglect and abuse. DCF is able to provide support and services with parents or family members, but also provides foster care or finds new permanent families for children when necessary. Serving the community in such an impactful way requires a large, efficient, and dedicated team.

Business Problem

On any given month DCF hires anywhere from 15-40 new social workers to join their team. Each new social worker that joins the team is required to participate in one month of training meant to prepare them for the challenging tasks that being a social worker will present to them. The training is a combination of classroom training and on-the-job training held at the DCF Training and Development Center in Southborough, MA. As to be expected, new hires at any organization often experience nerves and have many questions prior to beginning their new role. As time passed and DCF continued to hire new groups of social workers each month, the team noticed a pattern. It became clear that the same group of questions were repeatedly being asked before and even during training. Trainees expressed fear about social work licensing and were unclear on items such as dress code, where to go for training, how to prepare for training, benefits, and what to expect during their month of training. Historically these questions and concerns were answered over the phone, via email, and often during the beginning of training sessions. General questions being asked during training took up valuable time that could be devoted to other core training topics such as DCF policies, procedures and practices. Many of these generic onboarding questions were frequently asked in the middle of social worker pre-service training time.

Selection Process

To ensure that new social workers got the most out of their month of training and in order to improve efficiency within the onboarding process, DCF decided that they needed to take a proactive approach. DCF needed an innovative and engaging solution to help lessen the number of generic questions asked during training time. It was at this point in time that DCF decided to collaborate with TTA to produce a customized solution tailored to meet the specific needs of their organization. Prior to reaching out to TTA, DCF was truly undergoing an evolution in the way they provided learning to their staff. They noticed that the demographic of new social workers in the organization was primarily made up of young team members and that they were constantly plugged-in to technology. DCF saw this as an opportunity and decided they wanted to leverage the use of technology in their training. One of their big goals as a department was to transform the way they informed staff and shift their strategy in targeting training to their learners. To address the double-sided challenge of reducing the number of general questions while shifting the way they delivered training to their employees, DCF determined that they would need to take a unique approach. They wanted to come up with a solution that was fun, inviting, and informative for new social workers. DCF decided to partner with TTA to craft a solution that was both unique and customized to meet their specific needs.

TTA Solution

Upon partnering with TTA, it was determined that utilizing video in the onboarding of new social workers would be a great way to leverage technology and improve efficiency within the onboarding process. Utilizing content previously provided by DCF, they collaborated with TTA and Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) to create animated videos which would be shared with newly hired social workers. The videos were created using the Vyond tool, which is a cloud-based video creation platform which allows for a high level of customization. The goal of the videos was to answer all general questions that social workers may have before their first day of training. It was determined that the content would be split into eight different videos, approximately 3 minutes each for a total of 24 minutes of video. The videos featured scenes customized to be replicas of actual DCF offices, characters that looked and sounded like real DCF employees, and scenarios that actually took place in a typical day as a social worker.

Business Results

The utilization of videos in the onboarding process for new social workers has been highly successful. Since the initial launch of the videos, there has been an overwhelming amount of positive feedback. Reviewing the impact of the videos on the organization has revealed:

  • The amount of general questions asked during training time has reduced by 90%
  • Senior leadership within the organization stated that the videos were concise, informative, included great visuals, and were successful in targeting the younger employees
  • Prior to creating the videos, DCF had a goal of answering all previous questions they had been receiving prior to training. The videos successfully answered 100% of the general questions they had previously received
  • Both consistency and efficiency of new social worker training were drastically improved
  • Feelings of nerves were significantly reduced in the new social worker groups

The videos had an overall highly positive impact on the organization. Utilizing video for learning was a monumental transition in the way that DCF delivers information to their learners. The videos are now being utilized in more than just new social worker onboarding. Often managers will reference the videos in meetings and the videos are used throughout the organization as refreshers on key information. After utilizing these videos for nearly a year, DCF has a lot of great ideas and goals for the future. They are exploring other ways to integrate the use of video in learning in the future to enhance the work that they are doing. DCF is still sharing these videos via email with new hires each month and will continue this into the future. DCF is confident that the new social workers are entering their first day of training more assured, informed, and prepared because of the videos. The videos have received extremely positive feedback from not only the learners, but also members of the team who collaborated on the project. In a recent conversation with Jorge Velazquez, Director of Child Welfare Institute for DCF after almost a year of using the videos, he stated that, “The investment of trying something new has been worth it. The time and resources put into the project have paid off many times over.”