Program Profile

Impact Feature Issue on Direct Support Workforce Development

NTIFFS Profile #4: Devereux

“Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach that man to fish and he will eat forever”. With that in mind we wanted to teach our residential management staff to become effective managers. Prior to participating in the “Removing the Revolving Door” curriculum through the NTIFFS project, our turnover was 54%, with DSPs representing 92% of that number. Given our turnover rate we were an ideal candidate for the project.

With the support of our National Training Director, Mary Imbornone, we embarked on the journey of implementing the curriculum within Devereux New Jersey. It was not difficult to sell it to our senior management. Our Director, Maureen Walsh, became a key advocate for its implementation. With our National Training Director and Executive Director’s support, we had the major ingredients for a successful kickoff. We also had to sell it to our residential management staff who were very protective of their staff’s work schedule. It was not uncommon for them to feel that training merely took away valuable service delivery time. The task was to put together a marketing plan to get them on board with the training. Since turnover was their challenge, the marketing plan was to educate them on the cost of turnover. We presented turnover rates and their cost and impact on the operation. At the kickoff meeting, our Executive Director, Corporate Vice President Sara Ellen Lenahan, senior staff members, and National Training Director were there in full force promoting the program. It was a winner! We captured the attention of the directors, managers and program supervisors in our residential operations. They understood we were giving them tools to do their job. The race was on!

We conducted six training sessions per month, which covered the entire “Removing the Revolving Door” curriculum. Because we did not have a facility large enough to accommodate a class of 30, we rotated training classrooms between public libraries throughout the state. We trained the entire direct support management staff. In addition to classroom modules, everyone was required to complete one online module. We used additional online modules as make-up sessions for participants who missed the live classes. The participants were engaged in learning application exercises that included:

  • Calculating turnover statistics and costs.
  • Creating new recruitment materials.
  • Critiquing ads and developing new formats.
  • Assessing effectiveness of Realistic Job Previews (RJPs) and developing RJPs for each program (e.g., film, scrapbooks).
  • Re-evaluating our structured interview process and developing new behavior-based questions.
  • Revising our orientation checklist.
  • Re-evaluating and rewriting our structured observation process and forms.
  • Practicing aligning the mission, values and vision of Devereux with common coaching statements.

It was an exhilarating experience that culminated in a graduation ceremony with 28 graduates. Within six months of adopting the program, we had an 11% decrease in turnover with a 13% reduction in the proportion of staff leaving within 12 months of hire. Since the inception of the program we have continued to see a downward trend in our turnover. We ended the fiscal year in June 2006 with a 38% turnover rate.

Today we offer bi-annual “Removing the Revolving Door” training to our new residential management and potential managers. We have linked elements of the curriculum to specific competencies within our managers’ role descriptions. Our corporate operation has embraced the program and it has been adopted with all our operations throughout the United States. Our formula for success was top level commitment; a strong working partnership between training, human resources, and operations areas; and an openness to change. The adoption of the program has made a difference in our organization, but most of all in the lives of those we support.