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NENA 2021 Conference—Opportunities for Engagement

November 01, 2021 10:27 AM | NENA Admin (Administrator)

By Donna Osburn, NENA Director
SSA/VR Coordinator, Kentucky Career Center
Office of Vocational Rehabilitation

Can you believe that it’s been over a month since the NENA 2021 Conference? I’m still pondering some of the information that I gleaned and am contemplating ways to implement new ideas. One idea that keeps surfacing is the concept of “engagement.” I wanted to share a few takeaways I had on this topic.

I was first inspired by the session, “Client Engagement & Retention: Supporting Ticketholders from Intake to Graduation.” This session was full of tips for engaging Ticketholders and generated a lot of interesting comments in the chat. As a State VR administrator, I was primarily interested in discovering what Employment Networks could offer after employment as a way of promoting Partnership Plus. As I listened to the ideas, it occurred to me that some of them might be difficult for a state VR counselor to implement due to time constraints caused by large caseloads and restrictions on purchasing for state/federal agencies. This could be a way for Employment Networks to distinguish themselves from State VR agencies. It could also be an opportunity for partnering. Staff from the Vermont VR agency presented their specialized approach with Ticketholders in “Supporting SSDI/SSI Beneficiaries Transitioning to Self-Sustaining Employment.” Their implementation involved a team approach with a VR Counselor, a Community Rehabilitation Placement Specialist, and a Certified Work Incentive Counselor. Perhaps the team approach Vermont used in their project could be a model for a state VR and an EN to begin their partnership. The few Partnership Plus hand-offs we have achieved are almost always with an agency that is working with the Ticketholder during the state VR case. They build the relationship and then can take over the Ticket assignment after the VR case is closed. It’s a much easier sell.

While I’m sure that we can agree that engagement is an important consideration for our Ticketholders, we may want to expand on that for others we encounter in our day-to-day business. As turnover continues to be an issue, it’s important to remember the value of our staff and keep them engaged. It’s also important to consider partner agencies, including employers. One helpful session was “The Death of Boring and Unproductive Meetings.” If you must have a meeting, make it count. Keep this in mind for meetings with co-workers, partner agencies, employers, etc. I particularly like the tip about setting goals. One way to get partner agencies involved could be to give them ownership in the meeting. They should be involved in planning and goal setting. This can also be a good plan for our NENA committee meetings. In addition, it occurs to me that Success Stories are not just beneficial for Ticketholders. Reminding staff of why their work matters can go a long way in job satisfaction.

In today’s world, being able to engage someone virtually is vital. The number of people working remotely has increased drastically since the pandemic, making being able to connect through technology important for us all. Fortunately, there were sessions to address that issue this year. Both “Building Trust Virtually” and “Virtual Onboarding for Remote Team Members” offer up ideas in this area.

The good news is that these sessions, along with the others that I haven’t specifically mentioned, are still available. The conference information is available to attendees for 60 days post-conference, so it’s not too late to go back and see how else you can be engaged.

The National Employment Network Association (NENA) serves Employment Networks (ENs), American Job Centers (AJCs), State Vocational Rehabilitation Agencies (SVRAs) and other Stakeholders involved in the Social Security Administration's Ticket to Work and Self-Sufficiency Program.

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