Dixie Bloor Neighbourhood Centre offers a broad spectrum of social programs across several locations, which are staffed by paid employees and volunteers. The biggest challenge facing the organization is tightening up communications between programs, locations, staff and volunteers so they can provide a case-managed approach to better serve their clients.
Dixie Bloor Neighbourhood Centre is a non-profit agency founded in 1988 by concerned members of the community to enhance the quality of life of those residing in the Dixie Bloor area. Their programs (which include newcomer settlement, employment, parenting, seniors, community resolution service, to name a few) are offered free of charge and responsive to the needs identified by the community.
Dixie Bloor Neighbourhood Centre serves people with complex needs and each family comes with a unique set of issues. Their goal is to connect clients with the right service at the right time, providing a seamless flow for clients.
Great Place to Work's Trust Index survey identified a need for tighter communication across the organization. Though improving communication has always been on the radar "having this outlined and reported (on the Trust Index) so strongly made us work on this harder than ever before" says Executive Director Lynn Petrushchak. Management and the board came together and identified communication as the organization's top priority, and managers were tasked with identifying strategies that would help them do this.
In order to improve client data tracking, a technology upgrade was required. Because funding comes from multiple sources, it has been difficult to settle on a single tracking system, as each funder requires different reporting metrics. They are now well into the process of testing a single IT system that tracks clients all the way through the process, but recognize that is just one element of the communication flow, which will take some time to implement.
Equally important was engaging all staff - from management to front line, both paid and volunteer - to adopt more consistent communication methods across departments and locations.
One of the things they did was set up a committee of front line staff – those who are most in tune with what is going on at their location – and empowered them to communicate and to meet on a regular basis with their peers at other locations. Each committee member created an outline of all the services available in their location, and took responsibility for sharing this with committee members in other locations. Not only has this improved communication between locations, but the committee members have developed confidence, leadership skills and a greater sense of responsibility.
Another thing they did was create an internal referral log, so that when clients move from program to program, the staff involved take responsibility for ensuring a seamless transition and doing what is best for their clients.
Both these examples show that the renewed focus on communication was not a 'top-down' approach, but rather initiated at the grass roots level by the staff who are closest to the situation. By choosing to communicate differently on a daily basis, front line staff have improved organizational communication to the end benefit of their clients.
Although this is still a work in progress, Dixie Bloor Neighbourhood Centre has already seen an improvement both staff and client experience.
Trust Index results, especially on the communication statements, have seen a marked improvement since last year, signifying that employees feel better able to do their jobs with improved internal communication.
Client service is also on an upward trajectory. Though desired outcomes vary from program to program, improved internal communications have made it easier to track results.