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Using Assessments for Hiring and Retention in IDD Organizations

Most sectors of the healthcare industry have been using assessments for years. In the intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) space, however, these tools are somewhat new. As a result, some IDD providers have had trouble picturing how to use assessments for hiring, training, and professional development.

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

What kind of 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 (DSPs), industry experts have identified the following core characteristics as necessary to do a good job:

  • Compassion
  • Judgment
  • Reliability
  • Empathy

An assessment for hiring 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.

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 un-validated assessment 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, you can use these assessments for developmental discovery.

It’s important to give job knowledge assessments to every new employee. This allows them to demonstrate the knowledge and skills they already have, minimizing the amount of required onboarding training. 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.

Why are assessments for hiring 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.

A situational assessment that gauges a person’s compassion, empathy, reliability and judgment can give you invaluable information on candidates. You can use the results to 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.

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 can 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.


The Employee Lifecycle with Assessments [Infographic]

Follow three new DSPs to see how assessments affect their training, placement and professional development.

View the infographic →

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