ERIC Identifier: ED414522
Publication Date: 1995-00-00
Author: Bezanson, Lynne
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Counseling and Student Services Greensboro NC., Canadian Guidance and
Counselling Foundation Ottawa (Ontario).
"Quality Career Counseling Services:" A Developmental Tool for
Organizational Accountability: ERIC Digest.
Accountability in career counseling is receiving increased attention. The
general public is becoming more informed about what to expect from career
counseling service providers and, as a consequence, more critical. Funders also
are becoming more insistent about accountability and quality assurance. These
factors are increasing the pressure on counseling agencies to have policies,
standards, and benchmarks for service which "customers" can understand so that
they can make comparisons and judgments as to what services to select. However,
very few organizations have any guidelines specific to the delivery of career
counseling and very few practical tools exist to help organizations who want to
pay attention to creating better standards in career counseling.
To fill this void, the idea emerged of creating a developmental procedure for
organizations and/or individuals to "do it themselves." The vision was to
develop a tool that would be sufficiently generic to be useful in many
jurisdictions and, at the same time, sufficiently specific so that it would
provide a structure for examining standards and quality of service for a range
of career counseling services.
POLICY WORKBOOK--AN INNOVATIVE RESOURCE
The "tool" which
evolved is entitled "Quality Career Counselling Services--A Policy Workbook."
The Workbook takes an innovative approach to policies and standards. The
procedures recommended are developmental and they concentrate on supporting
organizational and staff growth. Quality of service (a more user-friendly name
for policies and standards) is portrayed as requiring input from all levels of
an organization. It does not just come from "up there," where policy often is
seen to reside. The spirit of the workbook is to demystify policy formulation
and use policies and standards to support self-initiated processes for quality
development and change.
Quality of service in career counseling presents the experiences of the
consumers of career counseling services, as well as the experiences of the staff
when attending to their own career development needs. Organizations are
encouraged to consider that quality career counseling services are best
delivered by staff who see their own careers as personally meaningful and
important to the organization. It is in the organization's best interests to
attend to both dimensions of service (consumer and staff).
The Workbook is designed in two parts: Part One addresses policy development
and Part Two addresses staff development. Each part begins with a
self-assessment. In areas where the assessments indicate room for improvement,
staff are guided step-by-step through suggested procedures for decisions,
defining outcome statements, and clarifying plans of action. It is suggested
that the assessments and subsequent work be completed in full staff meetings or
in time set aside for appropriate working groups. Times for each discussion
range from 30-60 minutes and can be spread out over several weeks if necessary.
The guided discussions cover eight areas critical to quality of service:
mandate: Is it clear? Does it define the consumers, their needs, outcomes
achieved, and the values which guide service delivery?
offered: Is there a clear specification of services provided and not provided?
standards: A guided examination of key areas such as wait times, case loads,
service coordination, service continuity.
for ensuring well-informed clients: How are clients informed of the services and
what can they reasonably expect to receive?
competence: Are there procedures to inventory competence at all staff levels?
Are there standards for supervision?
behavior: Are standards of professional conduct in place and well known?
practices review: A guide for examining the completeness of existing practices.
statement: Assists in proving the worth of what you do, how to do it, and by
Part One focuses on policy development for the external delivery of services.
An assumption in Part One is that consumers evaluate the services they receive
on the basis of how satisfied they are, the degree to which their expectations
are met, the reliability of the services over time, and the results they
achieve. Organizations which have in place policies and standards in each of the
eight areas covered in Part One have a foundation which supports clients who
experience these conditions and who evaluate services positively.
Part Two focuses on human resource planning practices. Staff skills are the
basis for quality service; therefore, staff career development and planning at
all levels of the organization is the focus. Guidelines are provided for the
following types of critical questions:
*Do staff at all levels (support, counselor, supervisor, manager) have the
skills and resources necessary to deliver services to clients at the standards
established in Part One?
*Do staff at all levels attend to their own career development, and have a
plan of action to acquire skills for their next career step?
The activities associated with each critical question lead to a staff
development plan, which includes a procedure for organizing appropriate
Parts One and Two are connected in two important ways. First, conceptually
and philosophically, the procedures and processes promote a respect for the
career development of all players in an organization. Second, in Part One, users
develop a series of policy statements and standards of practice; then in Part
Two, they develop achievable action plans to equip staff to deliver service to
the standards defined in Part One.
The Workbook was field-tested in several jurisdictions, including education,
guidance, professional associations, boards of directors, rehabilitation, social
services, and the YMCA. Without exception, all reported that the Workbook
assisted them in identifying areas in need of attention, and recognizing areas
that already were solid.
The Workbook furnishes a practical approach for
support organizations who want to provide the best possible career counseling
services. Recognizing that most organizations have resource constraints, the
Workbook provides a framework for understanding and prioritizing critical
factors in service quality. For instance, it suggests a shift from "service
provision" to "meeting client expectations." It also strongly advocates a
concentration on client and service outcomes. Providing career counseling
agencies with the tools to define and develop their own quality standards,
represents a new approach to improving service quality and to meeting increasing
Riddle, D. I., & Bezanson, M. L. (1994),
Quality Career Counselling Services: A Policy Workbook. Ottawa, ON: Canadian
Guidance and Counselling Foundation.