Achieving high performance in the HCV program: Tip #6

Tip #6: Design a quality-control system.

In the first five tips, we talked about ways to define and communicate your agency’s goals and how you plan to get there:

Now, let’s discuss the next step: monitoring results. This is crucial to driving performance excellence throughout your organization, and it starts with designing a quality-control system.

An effective quality-control system provides the manager with the status of production, accuracy, and compliance with HUD requirements. It clarifies expectations in terms of both individual and organizational performance. It enables managers to identify leading and lagging indicators in production and accuracy, and take steps towards improvement. And it helps managers to identify underperforming staff, as well as to identify and reward improved or excellent performance.

Maintaining program integrity goes far beyond reviewing tenant files; it involves monitoring all areas of program operations. This requires designing a program integrity schedule, which is a comprehensive document that includes all the performance areas you want to monitor. It defines the acceptable performance standards for each area and includes the designated frequency of the reviews for each area. The methodology and forms to be used can also be included in your plan.

Committing staff resources to perform quality control has an associated cost.  However, the cost of errors found through an audit can be far greater than the staffing cost. Effective quality control should be performed at three levels: first, by the staff person who performed the work; second, by the immediate supervisor of that person (both prior to HAP payment); third, by the quality-control staff assigned to review the work after the payment has been made.

The selection of QC staff who perform the third level is vital to the success of your QC efforts. The person(s) you select must be knowledgeable in HUD regulations and PHA policy. They must have the ability to provide constructive feedback and the discipline to follow QC protocols consistently.

A quality-control plan helps you schedule all the tasks necessary to meet department or agency goals and objectives. Developing your QC plan should be a collaborative effort of the management team, because the need to perform quality control extends to all areas of operation, not just the day-to-day housing functions. Decisions, assumptions, and recommendations for continuous quality improvement should tie back to the strategic plan and your PHA’s mission.

Next: Achieving high performance in the HCV program: Tip #7

While serving as executive director of a Minnesota housing authority, Nan McKay started one of the nation’s first Section 8 programs. The agency was subsequently honored with a HUD award as one of 13 outstanding Section 8 programs in the country.

Founder and president of Nan McKay and Associates, she has devoted the past two years to redesigning NMA’s HCV Executive Management course, as well as rewriting the HCV Executive Management Master Book with Bill Caltabiano. The tips and systems described above are thoroughly explored in both, with many forms available on a CD.

If you find that you need help with quality control, NMA can provide your agency with customized training and consulting, technology solutions, and more. Email sales@nanmckay.com for further assistance.

Achieving high performance in the HCV program: Tip #5

Tip #5: Create practical work systems and work processes to ensure consistency.

The term “work systems” refers to the way in which an organization aligns its internal operations and workforce with its key vendors, suppliers, partners, and collaborators to provide a high-quality, cost-effective service to its clients.

Our work systems include our communication protocol, our expectations, and our tracking mechanisms between our internal work processes and our external resources necessary for us to plan and deliver services to our customers. Examples of work systems are HUD regulations, your PHA’s administrative plan, and PHA systems such as housing software and the electronic filing system, call tracking system, criminal background check system, and data tracking system such as SharePoint.

Work processes are a subset of the overall work system. They create the internal structure of how the work is accomplished and involve all the activities needed to sustain the various program functions, including how staff is utilized and which tools should be created by the PHA to accomplish the work. Work processes include written procedures for the functional areas of the program, mini-procedures for a specific task, workflows, automated reports, meetings, and checklists. Data entry and transmission of the HUD-50058 are other examples of work processes.

What should your agency keep in mind when setting up work processes?  Most importantly, they should be:

  • Easy to reference
  • Simple to understand
  • Designed in a step-by-step process
  • Tied into procedure checklists

When HUD regulations and forms and PHA policy, systems, letters, and forms are referenced within these processes, it allows staff a better understanding of how the work processes are integrated. The more clearly the overall work systems and work processes are defined, the more sustainable your organization will be.

Next: Achieving high performance in the HCV program: Tip #6

While serving as executive director of a Minnesota housing authority, Nan McKay started one of the nation’s first Section 8 programs. The agency was subsequently honored with a HUD award as one of 13 outstanding Section 8 programs in the country.

Founder and president of Nan McKay and Associates, she has devoted the past two years to redesigning NMA’s HCV Executive Management course, as well as rewriting the HCV Executive Management Master Book with Bill Caltabiano. The tips and systems described above are thoroughly explored in both, with many forms available on a CD.

Achieving high performance in the HCV program: Tip #4

Tip #4: Create a caseload and accuracy plan with specific performance standards.

Your caseload and accuracy plan should provide a permanent distribution of caseloads so that staff are assigned a caseload and so that the distribution results in equal caseloads for each level of staff. The following plan also provides for a graduated caseload and accuracy plan for new employees to ramp up to a full caseload. The overall objective is to have matching, accurate data between PIC and your housing software, with no backlog in either PIC or the housing software.

Staff identified below are in Housing Specialist positions managing a caseload which they’re assigned after initial lease-up through termination. They prepare the initial paperwork and data entry for moves, inspections, and rent reasonableness, but the activities for those functions are handled by other staff. Their primary responsibility is reexaminations and interim adjustments. They will also handle terminations.

The recommended annual caseload for experienced staff for reexaminations is 450. Since they don’t have to handle moves, they’re expected to handle up to 45 cases per month. The number of reexaminations per month may vary due to the geographical split of the caseload. Reexaminations should be assigned only to the reexamination staff, regardless of whether there’s a reexamination in conjunction with a move.

This plan outlines at what point a newly hired staff person is expected to take on the full caseload.

Level 1: Initial Training Plan with Small Caseload

The first full month after hire date, the employee will be working on sample cases. During this period, they will receive additional classroom training and be paired with a more experienced staff person to assist them in completing their sample cases. Their “mentoring partner” (the more experienced staff person with whom they’re paired) is allowed to assign them various duties to assist in processing their own caseload as a learning experience. These duties can include everything from observing an interview to copying paperwork. The training coordinator and the supervisor will also begin providing on-the-job training.

The new employee is assigned sample cases from a library of 30 cases. Test databases are set up for new employees to use. Each case will have housing software data entry, calculation, and forms to complete, so that the entire function is performed on each case. Answers to the case will be included. New employees work on these cases on their own, and may request assistance from the mentoring partner if they’re having trouble completing the case and getting the correct answer. The employee must complete the 30 test cases at this level. Because they’re for learning purposes, all cases must be completed with 100% accuracy.

Level 2: Caseload of 15

The employee will be at level 2, with a caseload of 15, for one month. During this time, the accuracy of the employee’s cases will be monitored by the supervisor, and the employee will be provided with feedback and instructions on corrections where needed. An accuracy rate of 65% is required for cases completed this month. All cases will be quality-controlled prior to HAP payment.

The mentoring partner will still be available for assistance on cases, as will the training coordinator and the computer trainer (when they’re not engaged in training activities). The employee will be encouraged to complete their own active cases and assist others with their cases, participate in training, or otherwise be effectively utilized with the supervisor’s direction.

Level 3: Caseload of 30

The employee will be at level 3, with a caseload of 30, for one month. The same mentoring staff will be available to assist, but the assistance required should be minimal. An accuracy rate of 80% is required for cases completed this month. At least 50% of cases will be quality-controlled prior to HAP payment. The employee will be encouraged to complete their own cases and assist others with their cases, participate in training, or otherwise be effectively utilized with the supervisor’s direction.

Level 4: Caseload of 45

After the completion of the three-month caseload schedule described above, the employee will be assigned a full caseload of 45 per month. A level of 95% accuracy at the submission of the case will be expected. An accuracy rate of 95% is required for cases completed this month. At least 50% of cases will be quality-controlled prior to HAP payment for the first month at this level. After the first month, the employee must retain at least an average of 95% accuracy.

Accelerated Caseloads

If, in the supervisor’s and employee’s determination, the employee can handle an increased caseload during any period above, additional cases may be assigned to the employee. The employee may also act as a mentor to other new staff.

Certification

The employee will complete either a Housing Specialist class encompassing eligibility, rent calculations, and occupancy, or the employee may be assigned to complete online classes on these subjects. The employee must then achieve a passing score of 80% on the Housing Specialist test, either in the classroom or online, to continue employment. One test retake will be allowed within 45 days of the Housing Specialist test. This certification must be achieved by the end of level 2.

Case Assignment

Caseload assignment will be done by the (specify a position here). Only supervisors will be allowed to change a caseload assignment and must justify any changes each month.

Regular cases will be distributed by zip codes by team. Within the team, the supervisor assigns cases with the objective of complying with caseload levels identified above, and with the goal in mind of achieving a nearly equal staff caseload within each level.

Backlog cases older than three months will generally be assigned to level 4 staff as needed, and will be nearly equally distributed to this group of staff. Backlog cases due within the prior three months will be assigned to level 3 staff and above as needed.

Cases in housing software but not PIC will be assigned to PIC staff or to the supervisor to resolve. A supervisor will be assigned the responsibility of ensuring that these cases are completed in a timely manner. The most likely reason for cases to be in this category is that “hold” codes have not been resolved. If the family is no longer on the program, there must be an End of Participation (EOP) entered in PIC. If the family has decided not to move and has stayed in the same unit, or if the family has moved to another unit, the “hold” code will be removed and any required updating to the record will be completed.

Correction of Quality-Controlled Cases

The employee is responsible for correcting all mistakes in his/her quality-controlled files within three business days after the notification of the errors.

Next: Achieving high performance in the HCV program: Tip #5

While serving as executive director of a Minnesota housing authority, Nan McKay started one of the nation’s first Section 8 programs. The agency was subsequently honored with a HUD award as one of 13 outstanding Section 8 programs in the country.

Founder and president of Nan McKay and Associates, she has devoted the past two years to redesigning NMA’s HCV Executive Management course, as well as rewriting the HCV Executive Management Master Book with Bill Caltabiano. The tips and systems described above are thoroughly explored in both, with many forms available on a CD.

Did you know that NMA is the only IACET-approved training and certification company serving the affordable housing industry? Read more on our website.

Achieving high performance in the HCV program: Tip #3

Tip #3: Create and assign realistic and equitable caseloads.

In Tip #2, we discussed how to choose a caseload model that will work well for your agency. The next step is to establish a realistic caseload for the model you’ve selected. The more activities in the caseload, the fewer cases are assigned.

For example, a housing specialist who handles the activities from initial briefing through termination (an example of a generalist model) will be able to handle fewer cases than a housing specialist who handles only annual and interim reexaminations (an example of a specialist model).

The amount and type of clerical support can also influence the size of the caseload. Many PHAs, as they attempt to reduce costs, choose to assign more duties that are clerical in nature to their clerical staff, allowing more experienced and capable staff to focus on the more difficult functional responsibilities.

It’s important to note that new staff should be given a graduated caseload until they’re capable of handling a full caseload. During the period of new employee ramp-up, both production and accuracy standards should be established on a graduated scale until full production and accuracy performance level standards can be achieved.

From month to month, there will always be variations in the distribution of caseloads between staff due to turnover and other factors. Some PHAs set a maximum number of cases to be handled and, if the caseload for a particular month exceeds that maximum, the cases are either redistributed or temporary assistance is provided to the caseworker.

Most staff do not prefer to have their cases assigned to another worker. Some PHAs use the buddy system effectively, or assign a “floater.” In a heavy month, the buddy (or a “floater” position that can assist any caseworker) will assist with some of the duties.

For example, in a reexamination, after the regularly assigned caseworker has completed the reexamination interview and gathered the information and documents required, the reexamination is processed by another caseworker. The original caseworker then quality-controls the work done by the other caseworker. With a buddy system, these tasks can flow easily back and forth. The advantage is that the family’s relationship with their caseworker is not affected.

The supervisor should ensure that caseloads for experienced staff performing the same functions are as even as possible. For instance, the supervisor can lay out the assigned reexaminations for the year to determine whether the monthly caseloads will be about the same, and can then make adjustments as necessary.

Creating a caseload and accuracy plan with specific performance standards will provide clear expectations for staff and enable the manager to measure performance. We’ll talk about that tomorrow.

Next: Achieving high performance in the HCV program: Tip #4

While serving as executive director of a Minnesota housing authority, Nan McKay started one of the nation’s first Section 8 programs. The agency was subsequently honored with a HUD award as one of 13 outstanding Section 8 programs in the country.

Founder and president of Nan McKay and Associates, she has devoted the past two years to redesigning NMA’s HCV Executive Management course, as well as rewriting the HCV Executive Management Master Book with Bill Caltabiano. The tips and systems described above are thoroughly explored in both, with many forms available on a CD.

HUD announces the official launch of RAD

HUD’s Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) has officially launched.  According to the press release:

In the near term, RAD is expected to preserve and enhance more than 13,000 units of affordable housing and generate more than $650 million in private capital to address the estimated $26 billion backlog in capital needs faced by public housing authorities in the United States. This additional capital will also stimulate employment in the construction trades across the country.

“This innovative and cost-effective approach greatly enhances our ability to confront the decline of our public housing and older assisted housing stock,” said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. “With the initial implementation of RAD, the Obama administration has begun to demonstrate that public-private partnership can help preserve our nation’s affordable housing and create jobs in the process.”

HUD awarded 112 initial commitments to 68 public housing authorities (PHAs), allowing these local housing agencies to seek private financing to rehabilitate units that are otherwise at risk of being lost from the affordable housing inventory. In addition, HUD approved 11 requests from private owners of assisted housing projects to convert and extend rental assistance contracts for 1,100 units. . . . Combined, the commitments announced today are projected to preserve more than 13,000 public and other HUD-assisted housing units for the next 20 years.

Friday news roundup 1/11/13

GoSection8: Large units will see greatest increase in fair market rent value in 2013

Huffington Post: Los Angeles lawyer gives his house to homeless family for one year

Achieving high performance in the HCV program: Tip #2

Tip #2: Choose the caseload model which best fits the needs of your agency.

Before you can establish a realistic caseload for staff, your agency will need to decide which caseload model to use. There are three models: generalist, specialist, and blended. Each model has advantages and disadvantages.

The generalist model is normally used in smaller programs (usually a program size of less than 1000 units, sometimes slightly more). In this model, the HCV staff perform all the functions except financial and possibly inspections.

In a larger HCV program, the generalist model may be used, but the caseload is usually divided by functional area. For example, staff may be organized in a case manager generalist format in which they handle all the duties associated with a family from a point, either after briefing or after initial lease-up.

The advantage of the generalist model is that the families have a relationship with only one person, their caseworker, and do not need to be referred to another department when questions arise. The disadvantage is that the caseworker has a broad range of responsibility and must be well trained and knowledgeable in all areas.

In the specialist model, staff have a more limited scope of responsibilities. They may have designations such as “reexamination specialist” or “portability specialist.” This approach often takes the form of front office/back office, where one set of staff has face-to-face interactions with clients while another set of staff handles data entry and other administrative functions.

The advantage of the specialist approach is that managers have flexibility to match the employee’s behavioral style to the job duties. More outgoing staff may be assigned to conduct interviews, while those who prefer working with data can provide clerical support. The disadvantages are that poor communication and coordination between staff may result in errors, and accountability may be more difficult to assess.

Finally, the blended approach is a cross between the generalist model and the specialist model. It’s similar to the case manager approach, except that specific functions are assigned to others. Functions such as intake, moves, portability, or inspections may be handled by staff with supervisors who may or may not report to the HCV manager. The blended approach may be the easiest to manage in a larger organization, but the coordination of activities and “handoffs” between staff can be difficult.

Next: Achieving high performance in the HCV program: Tip #3

While serving as executive director of a Minnesota housing authority, Nan McKay started one of the nation’s first Section 8 programs. The agency was subsequently honored with a HUD award as one of 13 outstanding Section 8 programs in the country.

Founder and president of Nan McKay and Associates, she has devoted the past two years to redesigning NMA’s HCV Executive Management course, as well as rewriting the HCV Executive Management Master Book with Bill Caltabiano. The tips and systems described above are thoroughly explored in both, with many forms available on a CD.

Achieving high performance in the HCV program: Tip #1

Tip #1: Establish and communicate clear expectations and guidelines.

If you want to teach someone how to build a car, it’s best to show them a picture of a car first. If you don’t, the steering wheel may end up on the hood, and the transmission may end up in the glove compartment. In order to build a quality program, you must define and communicate what the end product will look like and exactly what needs to be done to get there.

Everything starts at the top and rolls down. If management doesn’t clearly state the desired results, staff will decide what they think should be done. In the absence of clear expectations, they’ll attempt a variety of approaches, trying to figure out what management really wants. Trial and error, even with the best of intentions, will very likely result in sporadic and usually unacceptable outcomes.

For best results, create measurable performance standards that clearly define the goals for production, accuracy, and customer service. Here are some examples:

  • Production: Complete an average of 98% of assigned reexaminations prior to the required notice of the effective date
  • Accuracy: Maintain 98% accuracy rate for quality-controlled file reviews
  • Customer Service: Achieve a 4.0 rating from clients served

Next, we’ll talk about choosing a caseload model to fit the needs of your agency.

Next: Achieving high performance in the HCV program: Tip #2

While serving as executive director of a Minnesota housing authority, Nan McKay started one of the nation’s first Section 8 programs. The agency was subsequently honored with a HUD award as one of 13 outstanding Section 8 programs in the country.

Founder and president of Nan McKay and Associates, she has devoted the past two years to redesigning NMA’s HCV Executive Management course, as well as rewriting the HCV Executive Management Master Book with Bill Caltabiano. The tips and systems described above are thoroughly explored in both, with many forms available on a CD.

Friday news roundup 1/4/13

HUD: Setting up the Hurricane Sandy rebuilding task force

The Nation: An education wishlist

Senior Housing News: HUD awards $26 million to address affordable senior housing shortage

Announcing the winners of the 2012 NMA Housing Awards

For the second time in less than five years, the St. Petersburg Housing Authority was honored with NMA’s highest recognition, the Excellence in Housing Award. SPHA received the award for its demonstration program to provide housing for young adults aging out of foster care. Below is the full list of award winners:

2012 Excellence in Housing Award
St. Petersburg Housing Authority

Our judges were greatly impressed by the St. Petersburg Housing Authority‘s demonstration program to house youth aging out of foster care. In collaboration with other local assistive agencies, SPHA helps young adults transition from dependency on the foster care system to self-sufficiency, overcoming the numerous obstacles stacked against them.

2012 Pioneer in Housing Award (Large Agency)
Philadelphia Housing Authority

At a time when energy efficiency and green building methods are of prime importance, the Philadelphia Housing Authority is leading the way in developing sustainable sites that will save money for residents and taxpayers in the long term. Distinguishing itself through the use of tax credit financing and acting as its own developer, PHA has formed partnerships with private financial institutions and received an investment grade rating (AA-) from Standard and Poor’s, as well as top ratings on bond issues from S&P.

2012 Pioneer in Housing, Honorable Mention (Large Agency)
Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles

The Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles has taken a leadership role in addressing homelessness through innovative programs to extend Section 8 vouchers to the chronically homeless, a population that can be one of the most challenging to serve. HACLA has also provided regional leadership in reducing barriers to access for the homeless and for ex-offenders.

2012 Pioneer in Housing Award (Small Agency)
Housing Authority of the City of Freeport

The impressive number and variety of resources, trainings, and programs offered to residents support the Housing Authority of the City of Freeport‘s stated philosophy of providing a hand up, rather than a handout. As the HACF notes, “The great thing is that these programs are able to be duplicated at any housing authority in any community with persons who are dedicated to improving the lives of their residents and making the housing properties a better place to live.”

2012 Pioneer in Housing, Honorable Mention (Small Agency)
Anniston Housing Authority

The Anniston Housing Authority manages an elderly community that includes 56 apartments. AHA wanted to create a community garden where residents could grow their own produce, but encountered some unusual obstacles. AHA came up with a unique solution — “gardening in a bag.” The entire project cost less than $1000 and provided residents with exercise, fresh vegetables, and a popular social activity.

You can read more about these agencies’ achievements on the NMA website.

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