Retaining professionals saves money, improves care.

Every time you lose a direct-care professional, you can expect to spend $3,700, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health. And your service to people with developmental disabilities declines, at least temporarily.

So it’s in your best interest to reduce turnover. We asked Barbara Lehrer — founder of The Beacon Group, which places direct care professionals in facilities serving special needs clients on Long Island, in New York and Westchester County – how to do that. She said:

-- founder of The Beacon Group

Barbara Lehrer -- founder of The Beacon Group

Hire well – It’s not just a matter of looking at a resume. Do the criminal background check. Check with New York’s Office for People with Developmental Disabilities or similar agencies in other states, which often maintain a database of people certified and decertified for direct care work. And when you do look at a resume, look for experience that prepares them well.

“They may be hiring people they should not have hired originally, and that may be contributing to a lot of turnover,” Lehrer said.

Train well – “There are many direct care workers who are just not trained properly. They don’t know what to expect,” Lehrer said. Make sure they do.

Place well – Different skill sets, personal and professional, lend themselves to different environments. “We have direct care professionals who love to cook. One loves to make ice cream sandwiches. We place her in high-functioning homes,” Lehrer said. “Put the right direct care professional in the right place.”

Pay appropriately – Salary and benefits should be competitive. “When agencies tell me they don’t have enough direct-care staff, they can say they haven’t been able to find them,” Lehrer said.”I think many of them say they can’t find them because they don’t want to pay for them.”

Create incentives to advancement – “Internal promotions are wonderful,” Lehrer said, and opportunities to increase skills via training are even better, creating a more valuable employee while building loyalty.

Create a supportive environment – Create an employee-of-the-month program, or maybe a bonus for good service. Get out of the office and meet your direct-care professionals in their work environment. Provide new employees with a peer mentor. Show them you care.

Keeping good staff is important. The people you serve respond better to people with whom they’ve built a relationship, Lehrer said. And it costs serious money to hire and train personnel.

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