Frontline Initiative Workforce Development

State-of-the-Art Definition:
Direct Support Workforce Development

Imagine if you were dependent on someone else to help with personal and intimate care. Imagine that every few weeks or so you were faced with a new person. When they show up (if they show up) to provide support and personal care, you don’t even know who they are, let alone if they can properly support you. For many people with disabilities and their families, this is their reality. The dream of full inclusion and full citizenship in communities for individuals with disabilities and their families is in jeopardy because it is becoming more and more difficult to find, hire, and retain competent, caring Direct Support Professionals (DSPs). 

Low wages, lack of recognition for their important work, poor supervision, lack of clear direction or job descriptions, problems with coworkers, and lack of training all contribute to the current crisis in DSP workforce. Direct Support Workforce Development is a set of strategies and interventions to help employers find, hire, and retain high quality DSPs and Frontline Supervisors (FLSs). 

Direct Support Workforce Development strategies and interventions include —

  • Use of inside recruitment sources. Involve current employees, consumers, family members, volunteers, and board members who are familiar with the agency and the work, and who have an investment in new employee success, to recruit potential DSPs.
  • Realistic job preview (RJP). Provide a description of the positive and negative aspects of the job to potential employees.
  • Structured behavioral interview. Solicit more accurate information from a candidate and relates their previous experiences to their potential success in the job with this interview method.
  • Help new employees connect positively with existing employees and consumers, and buy in to the agency mission and vision.
  • Mentoring. Assist employees in socialization, developing new skills, and connecting with other employees through peer mentoring programs.
  • Effective orientation. Help new employees feel welcome, a part of the agency/family, and confident in their jobs.
  • Improve training practices. Use adult learning principles, competency-based training, and other methods to assure that employees fully understand and can perform their job duties.
  • Job carving. Restructure jobs to help employees be successful by reducing the number of duties and the amount of training required to learn new skills.
  • Support immigrant workers. Understand the unique needs and challenges of being a new American in the workplace, and adapt the workplace to be welcoming to all employees.
  • Promote networking and career advancement opportunities, use effective formal and informal recognition strategies, and acknowledges long-term DSPs.
  • Team building. Use effective conflict management techniques that build camaraderie.
  • Participatory management. Provide opportunities for DSP voices to be heard, involve DSPs in management decisions that reduces hierarchy.
  • Evaluate recruitment, retention and training outcomes. Develop accurate baselines and use data to diagnose needs and evaluate interventions.

Direct Support Workforce Development interventions help improve or refi ne how a community human service agency or family employers find, recruit, hire, train, and retain high-quality DSPs and FLSs.