Where Have All the Referrals Gone? Salvaging a Valuable Data Resource

Social Solutions Blog

Where Have All the Referrals Gone? Salvaging a Valuable Data Resource

One of the most challenging aspects of social services is keeping track of participant referrals. Often, it’s very nearly impossible, and that’s unfortunate.

Most participants who slip beyond your “radar” take with them the possibility of collecting valuable information about their progress (or obstacles to progress) – information that can be gathered and analyzed to enhance service quality or, at the very least, provide valuable documentation for reporting.

Losing Touch Means Losing Insights

It happens like this: You complete the intake assessment and discover needs beyond the parameters of the services your agency typically provides. So you refer the participant to another program and, for all intents and purposes, they disappear.

This is an even more common occurrence in workforce development cases. Once placed in jobs, participants have little incentive to stay in contact with the referring agency. Are they still in that job a month later, three months later? Was the training they received sufficient?

Your ability to evaluate the quality and effectiveness of training and job retention programs will be necessarily compromised if feedback stops on the day participants are hired. Likewise, if you want confirmation of the quality and effectiveness of the programs you’re referring participants to, you’ll need to know the final results of those outside programs.

An additional note: In a collaborative working model, an agency can be held accountable for the quality of its referrals. Adequately evaluating those programs requires that you have insight into the final results of referred participants.

Following up on Referrals

Traditionally, staying in touch with your referred participants requires manual follow-up.  Calling agencies, employers and program participants all take up valuable time that your job counselors can be better spending elsewhere.

However, a robust performance management system can go a long way toward filling those information gaps. Look for these features in your performance management system to make referral information easier to track:

  • Shared Records System: If both referring and referred organization use a compatible performance management system, information is stored on the same unduplicated records, ready to be integrated into reporting.
  • Data-Entry Portals: If only one organization uses a performance management software system, data-entry portals will make it much easier to gather data from the referred organization or employers.
  • Client-Friendly Outreach: Often, collecting referral data is a matter of making it easier for the participant to respond. Look for a performance management system that allows you to automatically reach out via text, email or even automated voice mail. (As an added benefit, this type of outreach can be much easier on the job counselor).

A steady flow of information about participants you have referred to other agencies is a necessary data function in order to assure – and justify – the referrals your agency makes. A true performance management system offers the only efficient and non-labor intensive means of collecting that information and keeping track of referrals beyond the scope of your services.

Social Solutions provides ETO performance management software systems that streamline WIA reporting and allow social services organizations the unprecedented ability to track the progress of participants who have been referred to other service providers. 

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