Frontline Initiative DSP Recognition

Starting a recognition program

Recognition programs have a positive impact on both Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) and employers. In addition to increasing DSPs’ job satisfaction, the programs can increase DSPs’ sense of professional identity and pride in working for a particular organization. DSPs who receive merit bonuses or service awards as part of the programs are more likely to plan on staying in their jobs for years to come. These are some of the lessons that we learned from Dr. John Sherlock’s project with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

If you are starting a recognition program, take our advice: Involve DSPs in designing the program. It is important for employers to consider these guidelines to increase their likelihood of success —

  • Involve DSPs in selecting the awards.
  • Hold organizational events where DSPs can gather and be recognized in front of their peers and family members.
  • Remember the costs of a recognition program will typically be much less than the high cost of unwanted turnover.
  • Establish and communicate upfront the criteria that will be used for recognition awards, such as attendance.
  • Think creatively about the possible awards. Organizations might consider tangible items, such as a fleece jacket or pins, in addition to other kinds of rewards, such as paid time-off, based on years of service.
  • Reward years of service with increasingly valuable awards to show the value you place on your DSPs’ loyalty to the organization.
  • Enter a recognition program with the understanding that everything won’t go perfectly; you may have to make adjustments as you proceed. That’s OK—the DSPs will appreciate your efforts to recognize them!

Adapted with permission from Sherlock, J. J. (2008). An employee recognition program designed by direct support professionals. Frontline Initiative, 8(1), 10.