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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.