Program Profile

Impact Feature Issue on Direct Support Workforce Development

NTIFFS Profile #5: New Horizons Resources

Providers of services and supports for people with developmental disabilities know in their hearts that the fragility and vulnerability of our work lies not in our clientele, but in our workforce. The nature of our work is relationships and the quality of our work is defined at the point of service. NTIFFS has given our organization one very important tool to use to encourage the retention of competent and dedicated direct support staff and also to recruit effectively. It helped us understand that, vagaries of the economy aside, organizations can increase the attractiveness of their cultures, the competency of their management, and the motivation and performance of their workforce. We also learned that turnover is directly related to one’s experiences with co-workers and with immediate supervisors.

In 2003, New Horizons led 10 Mid-Hudson Coalition agencies in the NTIFFS training program to improve direct support staff retention and recruitment issues through a comprehensive frontline supervisor training curriculum and organization development interventions. The program used the curriculum “Removing the Revolving Door,” the online College of Frontline Supervision and Management curriculum, and the book “Staff Recruitment, Retention and Training Strategies.” As a result, the following changes have been implemented by New Horizons and other agencies of the coalition:

  • Using a realistic job preview in the hiring process.
  • Bridging mission/orientation/training/evaluation of staff.
  • Employing strategies of recruiting direct support staff, such as replacing newspaper ads with internal referral bonuses equivalent to the cost of a media ad.
  • Using structured behavior-based interview questions.
  • Distinguishing training from orientation.
  • Setting up a strategic welcoming program.
  • Focusing on reducing turnover in the first six months of employment.

New Horizons closely tracks recruitment and retention rates of direct support staff as one important measure of quality services. As a result of our participation in NTIFFS, our DSP turnover rates declined from 26% in 2003 to 10% in 2006, and we reduced turnover in the first six months of employment from 26% in 2003 to 13% in 2006.