10 Ways to Increase DSP Job Applications and Hires

Finding good, qualified applicants to fill your DSP roles is not always an easy task.

Getting more job applications only causes extra work if the percentage of applicants accepting positions and staying longer than 30 days is low. Hiring is important. Weak hiring leads to higher overtime and training costs.

Don’t focus on competing with McDonalds, fast food outlets and retail chains. Agencies need different types of employees. Agencies need someone to care about their job. McDonald’s employees don’t need that quality. Emphasize the caring part of the job!

Depict the job by providing examples of “wonderful outcomes”. Employees love to know what it is in for them. Make sure you highlight any potential growth or long term outcomes of working with your agency.

Think of your ideal candidate and write the application with them in mind. Who is your star DSP? If you want more employees like them, create an application that includes their qualities.

There is a lot to keep in mind when looking for your perfect DSP, so we did some research and put together our top 10 tips to keep in mind in the hiring process.

  1. Think about the job descriptions. Avoid wordy, cold and impersonal lists of responsibilities and skills
  2. Make sure your stability and “extras” are highlighted
    • Benefits
    • Paid training
    • Bonuses
    • BYOD plans
    • Overtime opportunities
    • How the job will make you feel
    • Advertise the typical weekly gross pay of a DSP after 30 days including benefits instead of the hourly rate
  3. Don’t use content that creates barriers:
    • Industry jargon
    • Acronyms
    • Unspecific text
  4. Paint the applicants a picture of what they’ll be doing day to day. Stress the impact on them and others. “Make a difference in someone’s life”, “Be special”, “Want to be more than a cog in a wheel”.
  5. Write different job profiles for different roles – it is easier to get a response from your ideal candidate.
  6. Make sure your adverts appear on all job boards. Indeed is the leading, but not the only source of DSP applicants. Employee references are very beneficial and Facebook ads work if you have a “great story”.
  7. If you go to job fairs, only go to specialized job fairs. This will narrow down your search and guarantee that are you are only looking at applicants that are interested in, and qualified for the position.
  8. Respond quickly to applicants. Make sure they know that you are interested in them, so you won’t lose them to another organization.
  9. Work on your online content and forms:
    • Make applying easy.
    • Tell applicants what they should expect next in the process.
    • Keep it simple – name, email, phone and option to upload resume is all you need.
    • Apply to your own jobs via mobile phone – over 60% of applicants do so on their phone.
    • Don’t link the homepage of your website or Facebook or Instagram – applicants get lost down rabbit holes.
    • Don’t require driver’s license number, social security number, emergency contact, or anything the applicant might not have readily to hand at the time – this is not necessary on an application.
    • Don’t link to PDF applications – not smart phone friendly.
    • Avoid a slow loading page – Google reports people move on if it takes longer than 2-3 seconds.
  10. If listing a hiring contact, do so as personally as possible.
    • Give name
    • Extension
    • Personal email address 

Learn more about applicant tracking; download the myApplicants fact sheet.

Missouri Providers are Struggling with Employee Retention

Missouri workers providing care for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities make less than a Walmart or Target worker, even after a pay increase that went into effect last month. 

The low pay is the main reason about half of Missouri workers quit each year, according to Missouri Developmental Disabilities Division Director Val Huhn.

Starting wages now range between $9.50 and $10.50 an hour thanks to Missouri state lawmakers appropriating $20 million more in general revenue to providers. But advocates worry this isn’t enough to address the chronic worker turnover that affects the quality of care people with intellectual and developmental disabilities receive.

“It’s just devastating, not having that reliable staff,” Huhn says. “Can you imagine constantly training somebody on how to brush your teeth if you can’t do that? I mean, just you’re just constantly teaching people how to help you.” 

Crisis levels 

Travis Anderson has spent about a year trying to find a personal care assistant. He’s 45, has a disability, and uses a power wheelchair to get around. 

Anderson works as a receptionist and self-directs his care, meaning he hires a worker and the state pays for it. While Anderson is looking, his aunt has stepped in. But she’s almost 70 and Anderson says he’s not sure how much longer she can do this. Travis Anderson interviewed five people for a personal care assistant job the day KCUR spoke with him. Anderson said once they found out the pay, none of them were interested.

Every time he thinks he’s found someone to hire, there’s an issue. Sometimes they can’t work the hours. Anderson needs help getting ready in the morning and then the worker would have to come back in the evening to help him get to bed. Other times they don’t pass the criminal background check. 

Nationally, the direct support workforce has reached crisis levels, according to a 2017 report by the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities.

“Not only does the crisis facing this workforce threaten people with intellectual disability and their families; it also undermines the stability, efficiency and ability to grow much needed long-term services and supports and, therefore, undermines the overall U.S. economy,” Jack Brandt, the committee’s chair, wrote. 

It’s been almost a year since Anderson’s aunt said she could help out for three months. Without his aunt, Anderson doesn’t know what he would do. He says his service coordinator wants him to consider going to a nursing home. 

“I don’t think I would fit very well into a nursing home,” Anderson says. “…When you envision how your life’s going to be, I mean, nursing home doesn’t even come up right now. But I’m really struggling to find good staff.”

The Developmental Disabilities Division doesn’t “encourage placements in nursing homes,” Debra Walker, the director of public affairs, said in an email. “ That being said, sometimes there are circumstances when a nursing home would be an appropriate placement.”

Walker said Anderson’s support coordinator is from a private organization and not a state worker. Walker said the state can’t speak to the specifics of the case, but generally, it’s “certainly important to have a support coordinator that is helpful and seeks out all the options.”

Anderson is two classes short of a bachelors degree in psychology but he said he’s had to put his future on hold. 

“I can’t very well get back in school when I literally don’t know from week to week or month to month how I’m getting out of bed,” Anderson says. “I mean, you have to prioritize.”

You have to really like this” Pagi Bowls and Rojai Morris both work at White Oaks, a residential home for people with developmental disabilities.CREDIT AVIVA OKESON-HABERMAN / KCUR 89.3

Rojai Morris got a pay raise because of the additional state funding. She works at White Oaks, a residential home for people with developmental disabilities. It’s run by the Center for Developmentally Disabled in Kansas City. CDD increased their starting wage for workers from $11 to $12.25.

The additional $1.25 an hour isn’t enough for Morris to quit her second job. Between her two jobs, she says she works 70 hours a week to get by. She says she loves her job but the long hours take a toll. 

“It kind of makes you want to second guess working in this field,” Morris says. “Is this really for me because of what I’m going through? I’m only 21 so I kind of look at it like I’m stressing going through this now. Is this where I see my future?”

Nationally, high turnover has been an issue for decades but a strong economy means workers can make more money at less demanding jobs, according to Amy Hewitt, the director of the Institute on Community Integration at the University of Minnesota. Hewitt says an aging population also means workers are serving people with more complex needs. 

“We continue to place higher expectations on this workforce,” Hewitt says. “So it really is a highly-skilled workforce. But we don’t talk about it that way. And we don’t support it as a highly-skilled workforce.”

“It’s heartbreaking” 

David Earls took care of his son Edward, who is nonverbal, for about thirty years. 

I like to think of myself as one of the shallowest, insignificant, heartless people ever created until I started caring for my son,” Earls says. “And luckily, my son has an enormous amount of patience. And so he’s been working with me for 33 years now.”

Earls was getting older and he wanted to make sure Edward would be taken care of, so about three years ago, he moved Edward to a residential home. Almost immediately, he noticed issues with turnover. 

“When you become attached or very fond of a staff member because you’ve seen this person interact with your son for three, four, five, six months, and then all of a sudden, they’re gone. It’s heartbreaking,” Earls says. “Because you know that there’s a relationship being formed there that positive for both Edward and the caregiver.”

12 Retention Ideas That are Working for Providers

In this labor market, where agencies face tight margins and increasing shortages, many agencies find they are being pushed into new territory. Many are forced to consider new benefits, new management strategies, and new staff programs that were never options before to maximize hiring & retention.

The following ideas came from a recent agency conference.

Implement Specific Policies to Increase Manager/Staff Interaction

An employee who feels respected and valued is more likely to stay with an agency. However, in the rush of day-to-day management, that can be difficult. It’s important for agencies to create policies that encourage meaningful daily interaction among all employees and their supervisors.

One agency discussed their policy of encouraging supervisors to “round on employees,” meaning that every day the supervisor needs to check in with every one of their direct reports, much like a physician rounding on their patients in a hospital. The formal term is MBWO (Management By Walking About).

Good communication within the agency is important for many reasons, but it mainly helps with retention.

Centralize and Optimize Recruiting Strategy

In a tight job market, agencies can’t afford to have an inefficient hiring process. If the process is dragged out, or the agency appears unresponsive, people will accept other positions and potentially great hires are missed.

Centralize the recruiting process (rather than leaving recruiting in the hands of individual departments or teams), and build a clear hiring process that utilizes applicant technology and on-boarding automation wherever possible. Having an affordable but effective applicant tracking system is key.

Formalize Training for Interviewers so The Right People Are Hired

Make sure you are hiring the right people by training interviewers on what questions to ask and what responses to look for during the hiring process.

Standardize the On-Boarding Process

Most DSP employees leave within three to six months of their start date. If you can get them over that initial stretch, they are more likely to stay. Create a formal on-boarding process that focuses on welcoming the employee to the agency as a whole; explaining your agency’s mission, values, goals, and how the employee fits into that picture. Build a relationship among the employee and their supervisor and coworkers, and use good training to prepare them to do their job well.

Eliminate Drug Screening Where Possible

This is a controversial option and not a real solution for direct care professionals, but there are many other positions where it may help with recruiting issues. Many agencies noted that with marijuana becoming legal in many states, it doesn’t hold the same stigma it once did – particularly among younger generations. This creates a major staffing problem.

One agency explained that this became such an issue that, while they still have drug testing for employees who provide consumer care, they eliminated drug testing among housekeeping, janitorial, grounds keeping, and dining services staff at their facility.

Create a Sense of Camaraderie Among Employees

You want your employees to have multiple ties into your agency at every level. To do that, create opportunities for socialization and build a sense of community. For example, create a Young Professionals Association and allow a small budget to support their activities outside of work, or offer days of service during work hours that allow employees to volunteer together in the community.

Build Connections Through a Peer Mentoring Program

Peer-to-peer mentoring can help employees build confidence in their role and feel a greater connection to the agency. Peers can assist with on-boarding, be a part of training, demonstrate quality work, be a resource for questions and concerns, and offer encouragement in tough situations. Prioritize the role of peer mentor with employees so they don’t feel overwhelmed and unable to meet their role as mentor and employee.

Give Employees a Concrete Personal Growth Plan

Map out the possibilities for advancement and new skill building with every staff member during reviews, and then check in periodically with their process. Offer scholarships for advanced education (that come with commitments to the agency) that allow employees to meet their personal goals. Investing in employees’ personal development helps them grow in their positions and see a long-term future within your agency.

Create a Culture of Visible Recognition and Appreciation

 An email or a personal word of thanks is important, but you should also show that you value employees in more tangible and high-profile ways. Many studies show that recognition is a huge driver in employee performance and satisfaction. Highlight employees in your newsletter, recognize their work publicly at staff meetings, feature staff profiles on your website or social media, or invite a different high-performing employee to attend your board meetings monthly for a special introduction and thank you.

Allow for the Flexibility to Shift Small Policies That Can Make a Big Difference

Employee expectations about workplace culture are changing and creating some freedom in office policies that can have a big impact on day-to-day employee satisfaction. For example, several agencies saw employee satisfaction increase when dress code restrictions were relaxed. One agency improved morale by redesigning the break room for comfort and providing free drinks and snacks, and another noted that allowing employees to bring dogs to the office created a surprising amount of goodwill among employees.

Offer Debt Reduction as an Employee Benefit

Debt is a real concern for many employees, one that often outweighs the desire to save for retirement. For many agencies, offering debt reduction, particularly student loan repayment assistance, can be a major attraction to potential employees. This has gotten a lot of attention across all employment sectors. Last fall, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued a private letter stating that companies could offer contributions to 401k retirement plans matching employee contributions to student loan debt.

Offer Child Care On-Site or a Credit Towards Day Care at Another Provider

Quality, affordable day care is a primary concern for many working parents, so offering subsidized day care can be a huge motivator for employees. Building your own day care center can be a challenge, but several agencies noted that they think of the day care as part of the employee benefit package, and offer anywhere from a 30% to 50% discount for employees. That discount is then charged back to the employee’s department, like their other benefits.

For more information on generating more job interviews, managing the hiring and on-boarding process, download the myApplicants fact sheet.

For more information on an affordable system for inter-agency HIPAA compliant communications, download the myCommunications fact sheet.

For more information on how to manage employee schedules more effectively and keep employees engaged, download the mySchedules fact sheet.

The War for Talent: 3 Ways to Boost Retention

The turnover rate among health care workers is reaching a level of concern for many agencies. The median turnover rate among caregivers in the home care industry reached 66.7% last year, according to a study by Home Care Pulse. Among direct support professionals, turnover averaged 45.5% in 2016 according to a National Core Indicators report. In addition, the entire human services industry is facing a labor shortage, so providers cannot always fill vacancies as quickly as they would like.

The economy, stagnant wages, and workforce demographics all contribute to high turnover rates. But providers can increase retention in several ways even if these outside forces do not change.

Make It Easy

The key to attracting and retaining staff is to make things easier for them. You might never call the job of a caregiver “easy,” but you can certainly make processes like on-boarding, scheduling, and documentation easy. That will let employees focus on their clients, which is why they chose the profession in the first place.

Reduce the administrative burden on your staff by providing as much as you can online. Don’t make them come into the office to sign on-boarding papers if they can do so electronically. And provide a digital platform for them to complete client documentation before they clock out. Small moves like these can make routine paperwork a lot less stressful.

Focus on Culture

Many agencies cannot afford to increase pay and benefits. Fortunately, those aren’t always the most important factors in employee retention – workplace culture is an even bigger factor to some employees than pay. So even if you can’t give the whole staff the raises they deserve, you can still help retain them by nurturing a healthy culture.

Culture is formed by the values, attitudes, and behaviors of your organization as a whole. A healthy agency is focused on quality care more than anything, so ideally the desire to serve vulnerable individuals will motivate staff to show up on time. But when an agency stresses timeliness for its own sake without showing support for the valuable work its employees do, the staff may feel policed. That feeling quickly leads to burnout.

To promote a healthy culture, work together to create a list of values the entire organization can stand behind. Then, use those values to inspire compliance. Reinforce your appreciation for staff by always paying them on time, responding quickly to their requests, and giving them the tools they need to serve their clients well.

Hire Smarter

When your applicant pool is rather small, it can be tempting to hire “poor fit” employees. These employees usually quit within the first year, simply because they cannot handle the job.

The first way to fix this problem is to expand your applicant pool by using an advanced applicant tracking system. This can push your applications to dozens of job boards, with no effort on your end. Make sure your applications include detailed questions about any required licenses/certifications, experience, and what type of work they enjoy. You don’t want to be surprised by their lack of qualifications, and you don’t want them to be surprised by the type of work they are signing up for!

When you have a solid candidate, set your organization apart by emphasizing your culture/values. You may not be able to attract them with amazing pay and benefits, but you can appeal to them with your mission. Those who fit your culture are the most likely to stay with the agency long-term.

Tips to Combating the Effects of the Labor Shortage

Human service providers face a labor shortage, as the demand for services outweighs the supply of workers. Unfortunately, the problem is here to stay. There are multiple factors causing the labor crisis, but even if one or two go away, which is unlikely, the others are sufficient to continue to cause problems for providers. So, agencies will need to learn to live with a labor shortage for the foreseeable future as best they can.

Hear From MITC’s Agency Solutions Team Lead

Sarah Dickey, MITC Agency Solutions Team Lead explains in this video the driving factors behind the shortage. She also offers tips and tools to help providers mitigate its impact. Watch the video for our ideas to rise above the competition!

New Hires

Tips for Competing with Walmart and Others During the Hiring Process

Walmart and other retailers or fast food outlets use aggressive marketing tactics to attract, hire, and retain employees. Agencies must compete with these industries in order to build and retain the best workforce they can.

One way to make your organization stand out among competing employers is to compile a checklist of advantages your agency offers. Communicate these benefits to all prospective new hires through your job listings, and feel free to share with existing employees as well!

Here is a sample list you can use to market your agency for new hires and existing employees:

  • We have a mission to help others
  • The average weekly pay for a direct support professional is ____
  • Minimum 40-hours a week
  • Overtime available
  • Any qualified employee can request extra hours from our website
  • Never miss a shift! We remind you by text of your next shift
  • 150% to 200% extra pay for working on any of the ___ holidays per year
  • Fixed schedule with the option to pick up more hours
  • View your schedule anytime, anywhere
  • See who you are working with
  • Earn paid time off
  • Receive unpaid time off with no penalties
  • Get 6-month reviews
  • Structured career path

Speed Up the Process with myApplicants

The labor shortage has a dramatic effect on human service agencies. Higher turnover and extra overtime make things even harder. In times like this, we know that applicant tracking and onboarding are more important than ever. That’s why MITC is pleased to announce the addition of myApplicants to Agency Workforce Management!

myApplicants is a robust, web-based, end-to-end hiring solution complete with applicant tracking, pre-employment assessments, background checks, and drug screens. It even has the ability to push your new hire data right into MITC Time & Attendance with just a click.

Contact info@mitcsoftware.com or read this free fact sheet for more information on myApplicants.

Fill out the form below to be emailed the download link.


Attracting and Retaining Millennials at Your Agency

According to LinkedIn’s 2015 Talent Trends Report, millennials will comprise half the workforce by the time 2020 rolls around. In less than 10 years, they will make up 75 percent of the workforce. Yet many agencies, despite hiring and retention problems, have not considered the unique opportunities and problems of attracting and retaining this growing segment of the workforce. Who are millennials, and how do agencies make themselves more attractive places for millennials to work?

Who Are Millennials?

There are no precise dates for when the millennial cohort starts or ends, but demographers typically agree that millennials were born between the early 1980s and the mid-1990s or early 2000s.

In reality, there are strong similarities between millennials and the generations that have preceded them: they want security and variety in their career, they want to be stretched and challenged, they want to work for a company of which they can be proud, and they have every intention of being loyal.

But there are many ways in which this growing proportion of the workforce is different. They have strong beliefs and expectations that extend to the workplace.

Where Millennials Want to Work

Data suggests millennials are driving a shift towards the public service sector. In 2010, the Journal of Business and Psychology published a study showing that this age group’s volunteer activity increased almost three times more than the volunteer activity of the overall population between 2007 and 2008. More recently, a 2014 Millennial Impact Report by consulting firm Achieve shows this generation has a high level of interest in public service. Out of the 1,514 employed millennials who were surveyed, 47 percent volunteered for a cause or nonprofit in the past month. The same study shows that 87 percent donated to a nonprofit organization in 2013.

This interest in public service bleeds into choice of work. In a recent Capital One Survey of millennials, 93 percent of respondents think it’s important that their career path that aligns with their personal values. Additionally, a 2013 survey by the National Society of High School Scholars (NSHSS) and a 2011 survey by Universum both show that they prefer to work for companies engaged in the betterment of society.

Political Views

Millennials are the most highly educated and culturally diverse group of all generations. Surveys suggest that their political views are more liberal than previous generations, both socially and economically. According to the Pew Research Center, they are the most likely of any generation to self-identify as liberals, and they are the only generation with a liberal majority. A clear example of this is 2016 presidential election cycle, in which Bernie Sanders was the most popular candidate among 18 to 29-year-olds. In fact, one polling director said of Sanders: “He’s not moving a party to the left. He’s moving a generation to the left.”

Regarding religious beliefs, millennials are less likely to identify with a religion than older generations. A 2014 survey from the Pew Research Center reports that about three-in-ten are unaffiliated with a religion, which is possibly the most of any generation ever recorded.

Use of Technology

Millennials are using technology at unprecedented levels. According to a 2007 survey of students born between 1983-1992, almost all of them owned a computer and a mobile phone. In addition, 76 percent used instant messaging, 40 percent got most of their news from the TV, and 34 percent got most of their news from the internet. This means that, as a generation, millennials are comfortable with technology in all areas of life.

One of the most popular forms of media among millennials is social networking. In fact, a study published in the Elon Journal of Undergraduate Research in 2010 claimed that students who tried to quit social media showed the same withdrawal symptoms of a drug addict quitting a stimulant. Millennials are very active on social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Social media can help them create a sense of belonging, make acquaintances, and remain connected with friends.

12 Tips to Attract Millennials to Your Agency

Employers can take steps to address the needs and preferences of millennials. Consider these 12 tips to ensure your agency is millennial-friendly:

  1. Emphasize your mission. Since many millennials are interested in giving back to the community, encourage them to see work at your agency as an opportunity to do this. Invite them to fundraisers and offer volunteering opportunities. Show them that they can have a positive impact on the world at your agency. This should give agencies a hiring and retention advantage with millennials over other competing employers.
  2. Focus job postings on the greater good. Putting your agency’s work in the context of the global good will help emphasize your mission. Focus your job postings on their importance to the organization and society.
  3. Keeping in touch with millennials is key, whether it’s during the recruiting process or while they’re employed with your organization. According to LinkedIn’s Talent Trends Report, 95 percent of millennials want to hear what you thought about them after the interview. Keep an open line of communication through email or text and provide post-interview feedback opportunities.
  4. Use technology. While older employees may be more comfortable with paper timesheets and schedules, millennials prefer to use technology whenever possible. To appeal to their preferences, post timesheets, schedules, documentation, benefits, and training online. Use automated digital alert systems like next shift reminders, review notifications, or birthday and anniversary greetings to connect with them. Agencies that appear unwilling to adopt technology will not be attractive places for millennials to work.
  5. Be a mentor. Offering guidance is a way to create trust with millennials. To court millennial workers, send regular updates from the hiring manager to people in the application process. If your agency has a mentorship program, call attention to that during the interview process.
  6. Document your procedures. For some, part of the learning process is to learn by doing — to figure out a process that others in the organization already know. But millennials have a different approach to problem solving. They don’t want to “go figure it out” if someone can tell them how to do it more quickly. Set aside the perception that 10 minutes of downloading information is laziness. Allowing them to take it forward will challenge and excite them.
  7. Make work fun and challenging. For millennials, work is supposed to be fun. Keep your employees engaged by giving them more responsibilities so they feel like they are moving somewhere. Millennials love change, so mix it up for them. Also keep in mind that a millennial’s time frame for completing goals is 18 months or less – anything beyond that may not motivate them.
  8. Provide frequent feedback. Millennials enjoy instant gratification, which means they’re always on point to deliver rapidly. As a manager, provide frequent feedback to fill this need.
  9. Promote collaboration and creativity. Both culture and space can contribute to collaboration. In a collaborative culture, managers may encourage staff members to propose new ways of doing things. A collaborative space may be smaller to make interaction easier (e.g. a cozy conference room versus a 20-person boardroom).
  10. Offer individual recognition. While teamwork is meaningful, millennials still want individual attribution. They will embrace the challenge of a single-person task that is part of a larger team project. When they are successful, call them out for a job well done.
  11. Create a work environment that allows a healthy work-life balance. This is one of the things this young generation desires most. Emphasize benefits like PTO. Improving the quality of life both in and out of the office — with social events, benefits, and flexible schedules — will appeal to people looking for more than just a salary.
  12. Avoid an excessively rigorous hiring process. Millennials are informal. Your agency may be weeding out high-potential employees on a regular basis. To avoid this, try to loosen things up a bit. In place of the usual two- or three-round interviews, you can hold professional development classes, host open days, conduct informational sessions, or show potential candidates around the facilities. That way you can let the candidates decide for themselves whether they fit your company’s culture or not.
Strong Job Posting

Four Tips for a Strong Job Posting

A strong job posting is a crucial part of an organization’s hiring process. As the economy improves, organizations are growing more concerned with attracting and retaining talent. In a 2015 study, Travelers created a Business Risk Index Summary. This study found that organizations were more concerned with talent acquisition then they had been the previous year. 53% of businesses surveyed said they worried about attracting talent. Additionally, 14% of organizations felt that organizations were not prepared to cope with the challenges presented by employee acquisition and retention.

Attracting the right employees takes planning, but is something any organization can do. Here are three tips for more effective job postings.

1. Make Sure the Job Title is Descriptive

Indeed.com found that job titles that were descriptive, such as “Marketing and Events Coordinator”, got significantly more traffic than those with less descriptive names, such as “Marketing II”. Make sure the job title both accurately represents the position and avoids generic labels.

2. Have a Realistic and Thorough Job Description

Make sure the job description makes it clear what you expect from a strong applicant, including qualifications, certifications, or availability. The description should include the tasks that the hired candidate will perform on the job.

If you’re looking to hire a person who can lift 200 lbs, be aware that some organizations often use “feminine” language when creating certain job postings. Words like “nurturing” and “caregiving” are often at the forefront, which may not be the image you’re looking to project.

Similarly, avoid emphasizing education or experience requirements unless they are necessary to the position.

3. Make the Online Submission Process Simple

Be clear about required materials, including information on resume format, references, or salary requirements. Make it as easy as possible to submit (ex. allow attachments instead of requiring employees to fill out an online form with information redundant to their resume).

4. Mention Any Non-Pay-Related Perks of the Job

Make sure the post presents your organization in a favorable light and gives the applicant a good idea of company culture.

Pay is not the only factor for employees when considering a job (or changing jobs). If your organization allows flexible schedules, the ability for employees to apply for opens shifts internally, or a strong benefits package, be sure to emphasize those facts in the job posting.

Staffing Survey

Agency Staffing Survey Reveals Acute Labor Shortage

MITC recently conducted a staffing survey of 137 agencies employing nearly 40 thousand people across the United States. The results showed a severe shortage of direct service professionals (DSPs). As they struggle to deliver vital services to a vulnerable population, agencies are looking for ways to hire more employees and retain the ones they have.

Across the board, from smaller agencies with less than 50 employees to the largest providers with over 2,800 employees, agencies reported an excessive number of open positions, primarily for DSPs. The average agency employed 320 people when fully staffed and had 25 open positions (nearly 8 percent). The total number of open positions was over 3 thousand.

The Hidden Costs of a Labor Shortage

An employee shortage is not just inconvenient; it is costly. For example, agencies have responded to the shortage by authorizing more overtime. Of the agencies who participated in the survey, 65 percent reported overtime was higher than they wanted.

Overtime is not the only cost of the labor shortage. Turnover costs money, both directly and indirectly. Direct costs include overtime, lost billing if services cannot be delivered, recruitment activities, and fill-in staffing. Indirect costs include lost productivity while managers are busy interviewing and training new employees. Less obvious, but no less costly, are the negative impacts to staff morale and performance, which can lead to diminished quality of client care. Among the survey respondents, turnover rates varied quite a bit. For example, agencies in Maryland, New York, and Pennsylvania reported turnover rates under 10 percent, while some agencies the Carolinas, Indiana, and Illinois reported DSP turnover rates as high as 80 percent. This is not surprising, since the states with the lower turnover rates are able pay about 20 percent more for DSPs.

As if the shortage isn’t difficult enough, agencies also reported problems with the quality of applicants among those who are available. Common problems were applicants who failed drug or background checks, had no relevant skill sets, failed to complete training, had poor concepts of attendance responsibilities, or did not show up for interviews/training.

Ways to Improve Retention and Hiring Rates

Almost all agencies participating in the survey have already taken steps to improve their hiring and retention rates. These steps include:

  • Better applicant screening to concentrate resources on those most likely to stay
  • Annual review of retention and on-boarding process
  • Improved, more organized on-board training
  • Working with local colleges, such as nursing schools
  • Emphasizing total compensation value, rather than hourly rate
  • Developing career ladders
  • Referral bonuses and new hire bonuses
  • Graduated pay scales
  • Early access to benefits
  • Mentoring/buddy programs
  • Contests and awards
  • Employee appreciation days and events
  • Monthly staff newsletter
  • Shift differentials
  • Profit sharing

In addition to these things, agencies can focus on several areas to increase retention and attract workers.

Follow Good Scheduling Practices

One of the biggest complaints employees have is lack of advance notification for schedules. Poor scheduling or last minute changes can cause conflicts with your employees’ home lives. A DSP will be much less motivated to show up if they are constantly being rescheduled, especially at short notice. Frequent rescheduling leads to a culture of frustration and uncertainty in your workforce, and it encourages absenteeism and turnover.

When scheduling employees, it is important to track their preferences and restrictions. This will help you avoid calling them in to cover shifts they can’t take. Capture these preferences during the new hire process. Also, allow enough time between shifts for employees to rest, and avoid calling employees who have just finished a shift back in. Also, planning for holidays well in advance can avoid disruption and lead to better attendance.

Good scheduling practices, together with an accurate time & attendance system, help your agency track frequent offenders who regularly show up late, leave early, or call in sick. These employees set a bad example to others, causing lower productivity and more overtime.

Of all the agencies that participated in the staffing survey, 42 percent are considering new scheduling systems. Additionally, agencies reported that they had already changed some of their scheduling practices by:

  • Investing in new scheduling software
  • Allowing flexibility in how different sites schedule staff
  • Introducing rotating weekend shifts (one on, one off)
  • Creating more full-time positions
  • Increasing the number of part-time staff
  • Creating scheduler position(s)
  • Monitoring hours to ensure employees get breaks
  • Scheduling longer shifts on fewer days
  • Using salaried staff to cover open shifts

Empower Employees Through Self-Service

Employee self-service refers to a system that gives employees a certain amount of autonomy. For example, an online self-service system allows employees to see their schedules, who they are working with, which shifts are open, their PTO balances, and more. This saves time for you and your staff. It also reduces the amount of phone calls and emails between you.

Another popular self-service feature is an automated text or email alert system to remind employees about licenses, training deadlines, upcoming reviews, and more. An alert system can also send birthday and anniversary greetings or HR updates. It can improve communication between employees and managers, too, by sending notices when PTO is requested or approved. Using text/email reminders to notify employees of their next shifts can also reduce absenteeism and helps motivate employees. On the same token, including a digital checklist to assign duties helps employees know what they are meant to do; this is especially helpful if an employee is covering a shift for someone else.

Recognize Excellent Employees

Employees like to feel like their hard work is being rewarded. To do this, make sure your agency provides clear career paths for DSPs. Give them written guidelines on what factors will help them advance, such as good attendance records. Reward hard-working DSPs by gradually increasing their responsibilities. A DSP who has advanced from an entry-level position to a manager role is more likely to be loyal than one who has done the same job for years. For this reason, try to promote from within your agency workforce, rather than recruiting outsiders.

Also, employees want to know where they could be headed and how they can get there. Annual reviews or mid-year check-ins are one obvious venue for these discussions, but also encourage workers to come to HR with career questions and wishes throughout the year.

When excellent employees leave your organization, conduct exit interviews. You may even consider asking longer-tenured employees why they stay. Ask questions such as: Why did you come to work here? Why have you stayed? What would make you leave? What are your non-negotiable issues? How about your managers? What would you change or improve?

While there are no quick fixes for overtime or turnover, making a few key changes can increase caregiver retention and help alleviate the challenges agencies face by caregiver shortages.