Telework at ASWB keeps engines humming

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In mid-March, ASWB’s executive leadership team of then CEO Mary Jo Monahan and incoming CEO Dwight Hymans decided to close the offices in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This action predated Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s stay-at-home orders issued on March 30 and was initiated out of concern for staff health and safety. Over the last three months, staff have been collaborating virtually through Zoom and Microsoft Teams, completing projects, and keeping members, exam candidates, and social workers informed.

ASWB CEO Dwight Hymans has kept the ASWB Board of Directors up to date on staff activity during the pandemic, noting: “It certainly has been a time of uncertainty and disturbance. But the resilience of ASWB staff and their dedication to the organization have been key to meeting the challenges and making the adjustments. I am very proud of how we have weathered the pandemic storm up to now.” The Board of Directors has been supportive throughout in expressing their appreciation for the dedication of staff. (See President’s Message.)

It certainly has been a time of uncertainty and disturbance. But the resilience of ASWB staff and their dedication to the organization have been key to meeting the challenges and making the adjustments. – CEO Dwight Hymans

Information Technology

IT Director Dan Sheehan got to work immediately to  ensure that everyone who was able to work remotely had the equipment, software, and support they needed. As the IT department continues doing its regularly scheduled programming work, Sheehan and Robert Adach, project manager, also continue to respond to staff telework support requests. When the weeklong IT migration took place to move servers to the new headquarters, Adach and Sheehan were hands-on ensuring the migration went smoothly. (See related story.)

Communications and Marketing

The Communications and Marketing team developed a COVID-19 webpage to keep website visitors apprised of the latest information affecting exam candidates, social workers, and regulators. At the beginning of the pandemic, the team posted daily to keep up with the urgency and rapidly changing circumstances. The team developed a weekly brief, association update, that is sent to members on Thursdays with relevant news from ASWB departments. Other support includes responding to the general email account, which has been a resource for social workers and students asking for guidance and reassurance during the pandemic. Director Jayne Wood has been managing ASWB’s contribution to the three pillars communication Social Work Responds, and the Marcom team has been distributing the publication to membership.

Examination Administration

The Examination Administration department has been on the front lines responding to exam candidates challenged by test center closures due to government mandates. Online registration continues, but phone support has been temporarily suspended. Within two weeks of beginning remote work, the team had developed a triage system for handling the enormous volume of email coming in. With support from the Exam Development team, the Exam Administration department is keeping up with 200 to 300 daily emails. The Marcom team developed an online form for exam candidates to use when submitting questions. Because the form asks for the candidate’s ID number, the department is able to respond more efficiently. Director Tanya Carpenter has been working closely with member boards that have asked for assistance with extending exam approvals for candidates affected by test center closures. Robert Adach was essential in implementing the mass extensions for boards that authorized ASWB to extend approvals through the end of 2020, Carpenter notes. She is also working closely with test administrator Pearson VUE to ensure that information is flowing both ways.

Volunteer Engagement and Outreach

As government-issued stay-at-home orders spread and the border between the United States and Canada closed, ASWB’s in-person meetings had to be canceled or postponed.  The skills of the Volunteer Engagement and Outreach department were enlisted for tasks including managing travel arrangements related to canceled meetings and coordinating and providing support for the virtual meetings and trainings that are replacing many in-person sessions. On the engagement side, the department continues to receive member recommendations for consideration by the Nominating Committee for the 2020 election slate and continues to focus on leadership development. Senior Manager Melissa Ryder facilitated the virtual June 18 Governance as Leadership session hosted by the Nominating Committee with 27 in attendance, including five staff members. Annual award submissions for the Sunny Andrews and Glenda McDonald awards are also open, and nominations will be accepted until July 31.

Examination Development

Examination Development faced new challenges related to exam security when the in-person Exam Committee meetings had to be canceled. Review and selection of questions for the test forms and review and approval of exam questions for pretesting require a highly secure environment. The co-chairs for the Bachelors, Masters, and Clinical exam committees also expressed the importance of the personal connection. Director Lavina Harless worked with Sheehan to figure out how to accommodate gatherings of the individual committees in May. With the establishment of secure connections in May, the Exam Development team completed remote review of the three exam forms that had originally been slated for completion in March. The team also successfully facilitated the June Exam Committee meeting via secure Zoom sessions.

Finance and Administration

The Finance and Administration department completed both the 2019 audit and the Form 990 before the offices went to remote work status. Since then, the team led by Director Heather Foley has been transitioning to online payment processes, developing personnel policies related to infectious disease control/containment and telework, and staying up to date with government guidance related to human resources issues. This team also spearheaded the move to ASWB’s new headquarters, which included closing seven offices on three campuses in Culpeper.

Member Services and Strategic Initiatives

Despite COVID-19, ASWB remains committed to the 2019–2021 Strategic Framework. The Member Services and Strategic Initiatives department, led by Senior Director Jennifer Henkel, remained focused on the framework’s objectives. In response to member requests, ASWB issued a statement opposing implementation of a temporary licensure category. Henkel also worked with the VEO department to move the Administrators Forum and member trainings to virtual meetings. Some have occurred, others are coming. In addition, MSSI has been supporting members by compiling information about emergency regulatory provisions for publication on ASWB’s COVID-19 page. The application processing and preapproval team has continued supporting exam candidates in Massachusetts, Utah, and Colorado. The ACE team issued a temporary format waiver to allow ACE providers and providers of approved individual courses to present their in-person courses as live interactive webinars during the pandemic, making it easier for social workers to complete required CE for license renewal. The Path to Licensure program offered support to social work programs as they transitioned to online teaching formats.

ASWB headquarters

Looking ahead, ASWB’s new headquarters will open on July 6 for staff members who wish to return to the workplace. Staff will have the option, with departmental approval, to work remotely through August. Future work arrangements will be determined based on the progress of recovery from the pandemic.

Hymans is positive that ASWB staff will continue to keep the engines humming: “I’m certain we will be able to continue to handle whatever comes our way as our country continues the journey through the pandemic. We learned much through the first wave. If a second wave happens this fall as predicted, ASWB is in a good place to handle it.”