The Best Should Not Always be Promoted

If someone has survived on the frontlines for long enough we promote them. Sometimes that may be warranted, but there is an impact of this decision that needs a closer look if we are serious about ending homelessness.

If you are working with families or individuals with multiple areas in life with higher acuity, they will benefit from having a well-educated, experienced professional to provide the skills in supports necessary to help them succeed. If these supports are behind a desk and a new-ish or less experienced practitioner is providing the supports, the benefit of experience can be lost. Think of it this way – if you were sick with a number of illnesses co-occurring, would you want the specialist that has seen that type of issue and worked through it successfully many, many times before, or would you want the person that recently graduated and while they may have some new methods and techniques do not have as much experience?

If you are working at implementing a new program in your community – say a rapid re-housing program for singles – it can be advantageous to have people with years of experience to put service delivery into context. They may have perspective in weathering the ups and downs in new program roll-out. They may also be more versed in metrics and monitoring. Think of it this way – if you were to head out on an adventure, wouldn’t it be best to have someone that knows how to navigate even if they have never been to that specific destination before?

I suspect your community has been working on rolling out coordinated entry and common assessment of some sort. If we want practitioners with experience to solve problems and provide helpful solutions on how to ensure this works to the benefit of service users, having some of the best frontline staff around the table goes a long way. Think of a time before Google when you may have had to call the operator for information – did you want the operator that had many years of connecting people to information, or the operator new on the job?

Is there a place for new blood? Yes.

Is there a place for fresh perspectives? Yes.

Is there benefit in having some people not entrenched in a particular way of doing things to be involved? Yes.

All of those are positives.

The point is to not automatically take the most skilled people in your organization and put them all into supervisory or managerial or executive positions. For the benefit of the people we aim to serve – and for transference of knowledge and skills to lesser experience persons – we cannot underestimate the value of having highly skilled professionals with experience to lead the charge and educate others along the way. Or think of it this way – if you were building a championship sports team would you want all rookies or would you like to have some seasoned veterans who have experience being successful?

Iain De Jong

About Iain De Jong

4 Responses to “The Best Should Not Always be Promoted”

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  1. Scotti says:

    Great blog.
    Even though I am now out of soical/human services work I look forward to reading your blog weekly.
    You are awesome Iian and I very much appreciate the thoughfulness, intentionality and wisdom and experience you bring to communities, agencies and teams that are also on a quest to end homelessness and attack poverty on many fronts.

  2. I supposed you know you’re running afoul of the American conceptions of experience, compensation, advancement… and I dare say “the American dream” generally. Is there similar sentiment in Canada or around the world?

  3. David Tweedie says:

    Such a timely and important statement! If we were to experience homelessness and enter our community’s system, would we want the tested employee to champion our case, or the often less experienced staff to navigate us towards housing? Rather than “advancing” our best and brightest intake specialists into macro-level positions, how can funders and government strive to staff these positions at salaries that can attract our brightest and most resilient social workers?

  4. anon says:

    Your post is a great “in a perfect world” post. If compensation for case manager positions exceeded that for management positions, then yeah, this makes perfect sense. For now though? If an organization has a quality person in a lower pay position, they can choose to either A. Promote the person and continue to have the organization benefit in some way from their skillset or B. Lose the person to another organization who recognizes this person’s ability to do (and be paid) more.

    Social service workers have to scratch and claw for every small raise, and, unfortunately, often the only way to do better for oneself financially is to move to management.