Humans tend to be pro-social creatures, and most people are eager to do good for their fellow humans. Yet, there is a special breed of person who is so committed to doing good for other individuals and their communities that they devote their entire working careers to it. This rare person is a human services specialist.
Unfortunately, despite the enthusiasm and dedication of human services professionals, the human service industry is not as adept at doing the most possible good for the most possible people. Here are a few major flaws in the human services industry — and how human services specialists can fix them going forward.
Almost every human services organization around the world suffers from the same major issue: financial backing. Despite the essential role that human services professionals play in maintaining strong and successful communities, public and private agencies associated with human services often suffer from a vast array of financial issues, from inadequate initial funding to mismanagement of funds. The result is that human services professionals must achieve outstanding outcomes on exceedingly limited budgets.
Unfortunately, the most realistic solutions to the problem of a lack of funding in human services is largely out of the hands of human services personnel. Instead, organizations need to campaign for better funding from various sources, from government agencies to individual and corporate donors.
Lack of Innovative Technology
While businesses around the world race to adopt some of the most cutting-edge technology — artificial intelligence, quantum computing, nanorobotics, etc. — human services organizations are barely surviving with decades-old tech. Due to miniscule budgets, many human services organizations cannot equip their specialists with digital tools that would radically improve the productivity, efficiency and success of human services teams.
There are technology firms dedicated to developing digital solutions for human services. For example, Foothold is a comprehensive software tool that can walk human services specialists through every step of client interaction, from intake to billing. Human resources professionals might call attention to the availability of these tools and advocate for their adoption within their organization. Organizations should also develop policies to allow workers to utilize their personal digital devices for work, which will eliminate some of the cost associated with integrating innovative tech.
Many positions in human services are remarkably regulated, with professionals in the space required to have a high minimum level of education and state certifications before they can begin their practice. Yet, even so, many human services personnel are not prepared for the responsibilities they will assume in the field. Because the human services industry is so vast, many positions demand specialized knowledge and experience that require a doctorate in human services as well as ample experience in real-world environments.
Fortunately, this is one issue within human services that professionals have greater ability to remedy. During their studies, students in human services can engage in a variety of career development programs, such as internships, shadowing opportunities, volunteerism and conference attendance, to gain a better sense of the knowledge and skill required for succeeding in this career path. Building real-world experiences and making connections with current human services professionals before entering the field will bridge the training gaps at the beginning of a human services career.
Despite being an undeniable source of good, human services is not an easy career path. As demonstrated by the issues listed above, human services staff are expected to perform their duties with extremely limited resources and support. Professionals in human services tend to be especially empathetic and eager to help as many in need as possible, which causes them to experience stress when faced with high workloads and difficult decisions. Chronic stress eventually leads to burnout and other poor outcomes associated with mental health — which in turn can cause high turnover rates in human services.
It is all but impossible for human services workers to avoid stress, but there are many strategies they might employ to prevent stress from escalating into burnout. Human services workers need to find ways to break their stress cycles, which might mean physically and mentally separating from work during evenings and weekends. Additionally, professional mental health services, like counseling, can be essential for human services providers struggling to cope with the emotional toll of their work responsibilities.
Human services are essential to the function of modern society, but the human services industry itself is struggling to function in many critical ways. Professionals invested in human services can work to improve the industry in specific ways by dedicating their time and energy to fix issues like those listed above.