DSPs (Direct Support Professionals) are at the heart of any I/DD provider organization. However, they are often the most difficult roles to fill and retain long term. The estimated annual turnover rate stands at 46%, with about 38% leaving within the first six months of employment and 21% leaving within the first year. The pandemic has only magnified these issues.
In a May 2020 survey of DSPs, 42% report having a colleague who quit due to the pandemic, many of whom left due to fear of being infected with COVID-19.
Outside of the pandemic, wages for DSPs are traditionally low. It's also reported that close to half of the workforce receive some type of social assistance. Additionally, many are working at least two jobs to support themselves and their families.
According to the Institute on Community Integration (ICI), the cost to replace a DSP ranges from $2,400 to upwards of $5,000. And at the current turnover rate, an estimated 574,200 new DSPs need to be hired into the workforce each year to maintain current service levels.
These workforce issues are far reaching for providers. Lower staff levels can impact the quality care and service clients receive. It also hinders providers' ability to expand program offerings. Throughout the pandemic, demand for services has decreased and this, combined with their inability to staff appropriately, has even led some to close their doors.
As COVID-19 cases continue to decline across the US, the demand for service is anticipated to increase. But in order to meet this demand, providers must not only continue to hire new DSPs, but have the right structure in place to reduce turnover and retain them long term.
Here are some of the strategies I/DD providers have put in place to boost engagement among DSPs and create a culture that retains staff for the long term.
Provide Transparency & Support Through Consistent Communication
Employees feel safe when they are well informed. And throughout the pandemic, providers who have kept their turnover rates low are those that have consistently communicated with their staff, giving them real-time updates on cases within their group homes, safety recommendations, policy changes, etc.
Providing this level of transparency is also essential in keeping staff engaged. DSPs want to know what’s going on in their organization—whether it’s in regard to the pandemic or something as simple as an open shift.
Throughout the pandemic, providers have relied on communication systems like the ones within OnShift Schedule to quickly send important messages to staff right to their mobile device.
Providers have also been encouraging their staff to regularly communicate with them through most consistent staff surveying. OnShift Engage, our employee engagement software, allows you to quickly measure staff satisfaction and gather valuable feedback in real time. Our clients have used these surveys as a soundboard to better understand their employees' struggles and implement meaningful changes to keep staff feeling safe and supported.
Frequently Recognize Top Talent & Reward Their Efforts
Everyone likes to be recognized for a job well done. However, consistent recognition often takes the back burner, especially in the healthcare industry where the needs of patients and clients are always at the forefront.
Your DSPs have gone above and beyond during this time to keep clients safe and their families at ease. And in response, many providers have implemented a rewards and recognition program to show their staff just how much their efforts matter.
Establishing a rewards program doesn’t have to be complex. OnShift’s employee engagement software provides a systematic way to reward points based on key attendance behaviors such as punching in and out on time, not calling off and tenure milestones. Providers can also award points manually for going above and beyond the call of duty.
The rewards you provide should be tailored to the needs of your staff but could range from something as simple as a gift card to a local grocery store, company swag, additional PTO days or raffle tickets for a larger prize. One provider, for example, recently raffled a new car.
Offer Flexible Scheduling Options
Flexibility has been essential throughout the pandemic as DSPs have struggled with issues ranging from transportation to childcare to additional family responsibilities. As previously mentioned, many DSPs are working multiple jobs and will continue to do so throughout this crisis and well beyond.
Flexible scheduling starts with giving staff the ability to view and manage their schedule anytime, anywhere. The OnShift Mobile App makes it simple for DSPs to see when they’re scheduled next, as well as view and request open shifts all from their mobile device. Those not at risk for overtime can even be automatically approved for the shifts they request.
I/DD providers and home managers should also meet regularly with staff to ensure the schedule they have works for them. Best-fit schedules support employee work-life balance and help your organization staff to meet client needs. A 360-degree view into your staffing needs and the ability to quickly adjust shift offerings can help meet everyone's needs.
Implement Impactful Perks
One of the best ways to differentiate your organization from the competition, both in and outside the industry, is through the impactful perks you offer your employees. With financial struggles being at the top of the list of personal challenges impacting DSPs, financial wellness software such as a daily pay app can go a long way in showing staff you care, while also making a positive impact in the lives of your employees.
OnShift Wallet allows staff to anonymously access earned, but unpaid wages between paychecks. As a result, they’re able to avoid hefty late fees, overdraft fees and high interest rate loans. Many use the funds they access in OnShift Wallet to pay for essential items such as groceries, utilities and rent. And according to a 2020 survey conducted by OnShift, 89% of Wallet users say they would recommend their organization to a friend.
And this isn't the only financial perk you can offer. Some offer discounts on common goods and services, childcare reimbursements or tenure bonus pay. Whatever you offer, make sure it is something your staff is excited to have. Not sure what perks they want? Ask them!
Bring Staff A Modern Employee Experience
Investment in workforce technology is an investment in your staff. In a recent survey of healthcare providers, many are making investing in workforce-related software a top priority for 2021. This includes investments in staff scheduling software, employee engagement software and even contactless time & attendance.
OnShift’s human capital management platform helps I/DD providers redefine the employee experience by offering mobile access to schedules, mobile time and attendance (allowing you to ditch traditional, expensive timeclocks), an automated rewards and recognition system, and access to earned wages. This is all while ensuring you have the visibility you need to reduce excess labor costs, operate more efficiently and staff consistently for quality care and service.