The project manager is responsible for establishing a staffing model that supports the delivery of high quality and effective services to program participants, and assembling staff with the skills and expertise to successfully deliver services.

Healthy Start Specifics

Healthy Start programs are made up of multiple people with a wide variety of skills. Though each Healthy Start program is different, the majority of Healthy Start programs are comprised of the following staff members:

  • Project Director
  • Project Managers/Coordinators
  • Frontline staff, including community health workers, clinical and non-clinical case managers, health educators, and fatherhood coordinators
  • Evaluators
  • Community Liaison/Community Action Network (CAN) Representative

Frontline Staff

Frontline staff are the backbone of a Healthy Start program essential to program success. Frontline staff support Healthy Start’s mission to improve women’s health, promote quality services, and promote family health and wellness through outreach, participant recruitment, the provision of case management and health education services, and community action for systems change.

Frontline staff are integral to Healthy Start’s efforts to improve women’s health. Frontline staff help to enroll individuals and families in health insurance. They assist with reproductive life planning and support and facilitate women’s use of preventive health services.

By helping participants to improve their parenting skills, providing trauma-informed care, and promoting the involvement of fathers, frontline staff also help to promote family health and wellness.

Frontline staff are expected to promote quality services through service coordination and by linking Healthy Start participants with health, social, and mental health services and other partner organizations in their community.

In addition to helping individual participants, the community connections made by frontline staff also help to achieve systems change. These endeavors promote community collaborations and get participants and partners involved in the Community Action Network (CAN).

Onboarding Staff

It is important to make new staff feel welcome and that they are valued members of your team. Provide an orientation that introduces new employees to your organization, their role, and the community. You might also consider a mentoring program, wherein experienced staff are paired with new staff. This works for both parties. New staff “learn the ropes” more quickly, while being a mentor helps experienced staff stay invigorated, motivated, and dedicated to your organization. Be sure to check in regularly with new employees to ensure they feel supported in their new role.

Building Your Team

Building an effective Healthy Start team begins with hiring the right employees. The people that you bring into the organization understand the work that you do and share in the vision of the Healthy Start Program. After you bring someone onto the team, make a point to get to know them. Learn what motivates them, what their strengths are, and what their challenges may be. Use this information to help determine their responsibilities on the team.

It is essential that all members of your Healthy Start team feel valued. Encourage trust, open communication, and collaboration. Team brainstorming sessions can be a great way to find creative solutions to problems and to generate new, innovative ways to serve your community. Each member of your team has a unique perspective on the work that you do, so all team members should be encouraged to share their ideas and insights. For example, an outreach worker may have an idea for a new place to recruit participants. She should feel comfortable bringing this idea up at a staff meeting or with you as her supervisor [1]. You can help build your team dynamic by paying close attention to the ways in which team members work together, and take steps to improve communication, cooperation, trust, and respect in those relationships [2].

In any organization, conflicts will arise. However, there are things you can do to mitigate conflict and its effects. Establish team values and goals, and set ground rules. If possible, work with your team to collectively establish these values, goals, and rules. By doing so, you create touchstones to help your team to resolve disagreements. Look for chances to mediate and resolve minor disputes before they become big problems, by pointing to the team’s ultimate goals.

Lastly, be sure to leave time for fun, including celebrating achievements and success [3]. By focusing on the positive, staff will be reminded of the great outcomes that can be achieved through teamwork.

Retaining Staff

Your team is your most valuable asset. Your staff build strong relationships with community members and employee turnover can damage those relationships, and undermine continuity of services.

To improve staff retention consider these strategies [4]:

  • Hire the right people from the start. When you hire people who are a good fit for the agency, they will be less likely to leave.
  • People want to believe that their contributions make a difference. Use data to show your employees how your Healthy Start program is making a difference in your community and how their individual efforts contribute to that effect.
  • Acknowledge achievements.
  • Use contests and incentives to help keep workers motivated and feeling rewarded.
  • Ensure that staff feel comfortable expressing how they feel about working for your organization.
  • Try to maintain a favorable work-life balance.
  • Train staff members on how to deal with stressful situations. Many Healthy Start programs have trained their staff on mindfulness.
  • Compensate people according to their value to the organization.
  • Foster the professional development of your staff through trainings, educational benefits, or other opportunities.
  • Promote from within wherever possible.

When you respect your employees and make them feel valued and appreciated, they will continue to stay with you.

Other Resources

  • Job Descriptions: An overview of how to write a job description, including what should be included and what should be avoided.
  • Performance Appraisals: Provides guidelines for how to conduct a performance review, how to facilitate goal setting, tips for evaluating performance, and pitfalls to avoid.
  • Termination of Employment: Provides tips and strategies to use if it becomes necessary to terminate the employment of one of your staff.