Supporting staff digital citizens has helped Lifelink deliver services fit for purpose today and for the future.
Important: Opinions expressed by Digital Pioneer interviewees are their own and don’t represent those of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations.
Jacqui Taylor, Chief Executive at Lifelink tells us more…
Tell us about Lifelink!
Jacqui: Lifelink has operated for the past 25 years, designing and operating services to support young people and adults with stress-related, mild to moderate mental-health issues and complex needs. We do this through evidence-based interventions, including counselling and personal development groupwork and training programmes.
Our portfolio of work supports individuals who are experiencing one or more of the following: struggling to cope with every day stress; anxiety and/or depression; personal problems that are causing high stress and negatively affecting them physically, mentally and/or emotionally, such as debt, relationship difficulties, bereavement, unemployment and addictions; trauma; and, harming themselves or having thoughts of suicide. We predominantly deliver services in Glasgow, South Lanarkshire, West Dunbartonshire, Renfrewshire and soon to be Edinburgh.
Our focus as a business is twofold: firstly, to provide high quality, client-centred services for young people and adults, to support them to be healthier and happier, wherever they live, work or learn; and secondly, to provide a great place to work where staff are valued, respected and developed to reach their full potential.
How have you been using digital?
Jacqui: Digital has played an important role in our organisation for many years particularly supporting the management of our data, electronic files, website and more recently the use of social media and Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. We didn’t have the luxury of an internal digital guru to guide us and this has meant that we’ve dabbled in developing video content, podcasts and we’ve explored on-line learning and materials.
We knew the opportunities that digital could bring to our business to help shape and deliver services fit for purpose for today and for the future. However, we also knew that we would need to support staff to develop their digital skills to become active digital citizens.
Tell us about a recent digital change you’ve made.
Jacqui: Our most recent changes over the last 12 months has seen Lifelink undertake an extensive digital transformation project. This project started with an initial idea of developing video based counselling and quickly grew arms and legs as we embraced the opportunities that digital offers our business. Over the last 12 months we have:
- embraced Office 365 and the Cloud
- introduced a new cloud based Microsoft Dynamics CRM system;
- rolled out tablets to all practitioner to eliminate paperwork and provide more robust and consistent client data;
- introduced the use of text messaging to support client appointments and minimise cancellations;
- introduced an on-line Breathe HR system;
- developed audio resources for relaxation;
- introduced telephone counselling;
- supported and empowering digital champions across the organisation;
- undertook a digital skills audit for all staff and recruited an IT Trainer; and
- achieved Cyber Essentials Certification in June 2017.
At the time of writing (Sept 17), we are in the process of finalising the most appropriate secure platform to roll out video conferencing counselling over the coming weeks and months.
What motivated you?
Jacqui: There were several aspects that motivated digital change for us.
- Young people are our workforce for the future, they’ve been brought up in a digital world, they expect instant answers and innovative flexible (digital) services at a time that suits them and as a service provider we need to respond.
- We wanted to offer customer choice and reach a wider range of clients including those who suffer from mobility issues; perhaps they are elderly or housebound; or experience conditions such as agoraphobia of social anxiety to help reduce health inequalities.
- We wanted to be more effective and efficient as a business using technology to streamline processes and procedures and reduce operating costs.
- We wanted to support colleagues to become digital citizens, to embrace technology, demystify digital and the World Wide Web and increase their confidence in the use of digital technology.
How did you go about it?
Jacqui: Participating in the One Digital Programme in 2016 was a catalyst for our digital transformation. We developed ‘Digital Champion roles’ to support development and implementation of the areas mentioned above. We planned it out; we sought expert advice where necessary; addressed the hurdles as they arose; and accessed funding through Scottish Enterprise, SCVO Investing in Success programme and the Scottish Government to support our digital transformation.
Who was involved?
Jacqui: Our digital change was led by the Deputy CEO and myself within Lifelink who supported the wider staff team to progress tasks and bring our digital projects to fruition.
What’s been the impact?
- Online Breathe HR System: improved efficiencies and staff time, monitors sickness absence, annual leave, expenses, HR reporting. Breathe HR is also used as one of our communication portals for company announcements/documents etc.
- Text messaging: – positive impact on the reduction in Did Not Attend (DNA) rates from 21% to 11%.
- Microsoft Dynamics CRM and tablets: improved efficiencies, real time reporting, customer service team staff time will be freed up to do other tasks and develop their skills and experience.
- Telephone Counselling: demand for telephone counselling increasing, benefits yet to be realised due to a change in service delivery and reporting.
- Digital Skills Audit: IT trainer started September 2017, benefits yet to be realised.
- Video Conferencing Counselling: in final stages of development, benefits yet to be realised.
- Achieved Cyber Essentials Certification in June 2017, benefits yet to be realised but there is comfort (and a better night’s sleep) in the security of our systems and processes.
Jacqui: These were mainly around a lack of understanding, lack of confidence and ‘fear’ of digital from staff. There were and probably still are some concerns from our counselling staff on the use of digital platforms to deliver what has traditionally been a ‘face to face’ counselling service for decades. While face to face may be the gold standard, there are other ways to engage with individuals who may prefer the anonymity of telephone counselling, or the convenience of video conferencing counselling for a whole host of reasons.
Engaging and supporting digital champions was key to supporting staff overcome barriers and get buy in, therapeutic staff are more likely to listen to a peer in a similar field, than someone with a more business head and background.
Jacqui: Create experiences that are aligned to your desired culture and values; involve and empower staff playing to their strengths and enthusiasm (never underestimate the power of enthusiasm). Identify quick wins – this keeps up the momentum; understand and manage the risks; share successes and plan plan plan.
Enjoy the experience, it may be scary at time, a little tough to manage the change but it is incredibly exciting and you can achieve great things – go for it!
What’s on your digital horizon?
Jacqui: We have three focus areas:
- To finalise our plans to deliver video conferencing counselling
- Over the next 12 months, upskill 60 individuals on the use of IT (Office 365, SharePoint, Windows 7/
Office 2010 video conferencing, demystifying the web, cyber resilience etc.)
- Undertake focussed client research to explore the range of digital services that would meet the needs
of our clients in the future.
Thanks to Jacqui from Lifelink for sharing how they’re using digital in the voluntary sector. We hope that the digital tools mentioned and their approach have inspired your voluntary sector organisation. Don’t forget to share it with your networks to keep the inspiration flowing and tell us what you think @digiscot using #digiscotpioneers.
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