I had a summer work plan; review of processes, polices, procedures; campaign planning and preparing for our busiest month in September but staff shortages put those plans on hold. The priority for the service has always been dealing with enquiries and so my priorities for the summer had to change. With limited staffing I needed to now add myself into the rota for our helpdesk.
I haven’t been on the frontline for over 9 years, truth be told I wasn’t sure what help I’d actually be. Services change. Laws change. Systems change. Enquiries from families change. I didn’t have the same knowledge base as the frontline workers, but I did know the tools we used as a team to fulfil enquiries.
I’ve been on the helpdesk one day a week for the last 6 weeks and I surprised myself really. We never know what type of enquiry we’re going to get, as each family is different and so each enquiry is different. The majority of enquires I was able to answer straight off. Turns out I did have some knowledge there, it was just well hidden. Those that I couldn’t answer, I knew where to go, and how to handle them.
On reflection, having no choice but to return to the frontline has actually had massive benefits as the service manager:-
- I have more of an understanding of the types of enquiries we are dealing with and the complex issues facing families
- I can see where there are gaps in the service and can make plans for filling those gaps
- I understand more about the view points of the frontline workers
- It has enabled me to assess future training needs and support needed for the team
- I can look at new systems and infrastructures to make it easier for the frontline workers to do their job.
- I can identify new services and agencies which I need to make links with
- It helped me see where procedures and processes aren’t working and where reviews of the service are needed.
- It helped me reconnect to families and it acted as a reminder that I need to always keep them in my focus.
It wasn’t the summer I had planned but I’ve now planned to return to the frontline on a regular basis and work shadow the team, the benefits are too valuable to miss.
22nd September 2012