Addressing Employee Turnover in Your ABA Agency

The reality is that sometimes employees quit. While not all employee turnover is bad, many applied behavior analysis (ABA) service providers seem to experience a higher employee turnover rate than is seen in other industries. Since employee turnover is costly (at approximately $5,000 each person), if your ABA agency is experiencing a high employee turnover rate, you must address this problem. Once you discover the reasons that your employees are resigning, you can begin to address these issues and reduce your employee turnover rate.

High Employee Turnover Affects Your Entire Team

Obviously, your entire team is negatively affected as employees come and go: Workloads increase and schedules change, both of which can harm the quality of care an employee is able to provide to persons being served. Furthermore, a high turnover rate means that training new behavior therapists is a constant; thus, negatively affecting the quality of care your employees can provide.

The High Cost of Employee Turnover

As previously mentioned, in general, employee turnover costs approximately $5,000 each person.

However, that cost increases depending on the resources your ABA agency uses to:

  • Fill service gaps due to lost staff
  • Search for a replacement employee
  • Recruit new employees
  • Screen candidates
  • Assist a new employee with achieving organizational socialization
  • Train a new employee
  • Provide support for a new employee as he or she becomes proficient

It is easy to see how a high employee turnover rate can negatively affect nearly every aspect of your applied behavior analysis agency. All of these additional costs make it clear that the loss of a single employee reaches well beyond that initial $5,000.

Furthermore, indirect costs such as the loss of a knowledgeable employee and a decreased morale among other staff members needs to be recognized.

Employee Turnover Rates

According to the 2015 study, Predictors of intention to turnover in behavior technicians working with individuals with autism spectrum disorder, the typical turnover rate for industries is 17.9 percent. Since comprehensive turnover rates directly related to the ABA industry are not readily available, the closest comparison the researchers could find involved the employee turnover rate for support staff at a residential facility: Turnover rates in this industry can range anywhere from 45 to 75 percent.

Investigating 4 Common Reasons Employees Quit

The researchers (Ellie Kazemi, Marnie Shapiro and Alyssa Kavner), who conducted the aforementioned study, surveyed 96 registered behavior technicians (RBTs) from 19 applied behavior analysis service agencies in Southern California. They asked these RBTs about the organization they worked for, as well as whether or not they intended to quit or would consider quitting. These surveys shed light on the reasons ABA employees choose to leave a particular agency.

Reasons for leaving include:

  1. Supervision – dissatisfied with the way their individual supervisors behave.
  2. Training – dissatisfaction with their initial training and continued education opportunities.
  3. The job itself – dissatisfied with their agency’s policies as well as the perceived significance of their work.
  4. Salary/Pay – dissatisfaction with their salary/pay. Researchers note that this dissatisfaction was not always associated with the amount of money an individual received. Other areas included the ability to advance within the agency and praise for a job well done.

After reviewing these surveys, Kazemi, Shapiro and Kavner concluded that 37.5 percent of staff members are likely to leave the applied behavior analysis agency for which they currently work. However, each of the four variables listed above point to factors that an agency can address.


5 Tips for Reducing Employee Turnover

1. Effective Supervision

Effective supervision requires leaders to provide therapists with task clarification, goals, reinforcement, feedback (positive and negative) job aides and adequate support.

2. Adequate Training and Continued Education Opportunities

One of the most successful models of training within the applied behavior analysis industry is the Behavioral Skills Training model. This training model encompasses brief instruction, modeling, practicing and then providing feedback. In addition, as opposed to providing therapists a specific amount of time for training (i.e., three-weeks) employees need to be trained until they have mastered the skills necessary to provide the persons being served with excellent care.

3. The Job Itself

Working as a behavior therapist can be frustrating, especially with the daily friction an employee encounters while he or she is performing tasks. While an employer cannot necessarily eliminate these encounters, there is always room to improve the way that jobs get completed. Encourage input from your employees and if you find a better way to accomplish a task, implement that change throughout your agency. In addition, when hiring, choose an applicant who loves working in the ABA industry; thus, improving the odds that he or she will remain with your agency for a substantial amount of time.

4. Competitive Wages and Bonuses for a Job Well Done

In the world of applied behavior analysis service providers, determining pay can be complicated. Consider that offering a higher wage in and of itself may not be as effective as making an employee’s pay depend on his or her performance level. This policy allows employees to have more control over their earnings. In addition, once this policy is implemented, employees receive the recognition they need to feel as if their contribution to the organization is substantial.

5. Implement the 360 Degree Review Method

Many employees consider their employee review a time for supervisors to mention everything they do not like about their on-the-job performance. In order to address this, organizations are utilizing what is referred to as the 360 Degree Review method. With this method, an employee’s information is collected from multiple perspectives. For example, a review can encompass information collected from an employee’s supervisors, co-workers, persons being served (when applicable) and a self-report. This practice allows each employee to recognize his or her strengths and weaknesses. Furthermore, now the employee has the information necessary to set goals and improve future reviews.

In conclusion, high employee turnover does not necessarily have to be an accepted factor in the applied behavior analysis industry. Although employee turnover will never be eradicated altogether, implementing these practices could encourage your employees to perform their best and improve the likelihood that they will enjoy working for your ABA agency.

Trina McMillin

Trina brings to Relias a wealth of knowledge and personal experience related to the medical field, dental issues, mental health, and physical therapy techniques. She has worked in various positions over her career which includes being a phlebotomist, laboratory assistant and medical transcriptionist.

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