By | July 23, 2019

Most sectors of the healthcare industry have been using personnel assessments for years, but these tools are new in the field of intellectual and developmental disabilities. As a result, some IDD providers have had trouble picturing how assessments could affect their hiring, training and professional development processes.

We put together this list of frequently asked questions to help illustrate the power of assessments.

1) What kind of personnel assessments are available for IDD providers?

There are two types of personnel assessments. A situational assessment measures key characteristics of how an individual works. For direct support professionals, industry experts have identified compassion, judgment, reliability and empathy as the core characteristics necessary to be a good DSP.

A job knowledge assessment does exactly what the name implies. Industry experts identify the knowledge domains essential to being proficient at a certain job—DSP, qualified intellectual disability professional, manager or IDD nurse—and create an assessment that measures knowledge, skills and abilities related to those domains.

2) When would I give a candidate or employee an assessment?

You can give someone an assessment before hiring them if the assessment is validated. A validated assessment has statistical rigor behind it, which provides support that the assessment actually measures what it claims to measure. In addition, the validated assessment should minimize as much as possible any bias against individuals based on race, ethnicity, religion, national origin or gender. Using an assessment that isn’t validated to make a selection decision may violate the rules of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and can get you into legal trouble.

Once you’ve hired someone, validation becomes less important so long as you do not use the assessments to make further selection decisions, such as influencing entry into programs or promotion. Instead, these assessments should be used for developmental discovery.

It’s important to give job knowledge assessments to new employees so you can give them credit for the knowledge and skills they already have. Then you can customize their onboarding to target areas where they struggle and give them more advanced training on topics they already know a lot about.

3) Why are assessments especially important for IDD service providers?

We know how hard it is to find direct support staff. Chances are you sometimes have to hire people who have no experience working with the IDD population. In those cases, you have little to rely on other than your gut.

Assessments are especially important for IDD service providers because you need to know as much as possible about the people you hire. A situational assessment that gauges a person’s compassion, empathy, reliability and judgment can give you invaluable information. You can use the results to help you decide where to place that new employee or with whom to partner them. For example, if you have a new employee who scores below average on reliability, you could give them a peer mentor who is very reliable. Or if your new employee scores below average on judgment, you might want to place them in a position where they can be monitored and coached.

4) How can I use assessments for professional development?

If you are in human resources or upper management of an organization, you may not get to see your best DSPs or QIDPs in action very often. It’s easy to make the mistake of giving recognition to those who are more visible, while leaving those who do a great job but are not front and center feeling unappreciated.

Assessments let you use the power of data to inform development and identify high-potential employees. A job knowledge assessment for QIDPs can help agencies identify their next generation of leadership. For DSPs, a quality job knowledge assessment will evaluate skills like participant empowerment, community networking and cultural competence. These skills can be difficult to teach and often are developed through experience and commitment. By giving your employees a job knowledge assessment, you may identify the best people to serve as peer mentors or team leaders. For professional development, you can use assessments to see where your employees are strong and give them the opportunity to further their skills with advanced education and training.

Diane Morris

Diane has been researching, writing and advocating on issues facing people with IDD and autism for 15 years -- from the time her two sons were diagnosed with autism. She has more than twenty years of communications experience and previously worked at a disability rights non-profit.

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