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Staff Development in IDD: How ANCOR’s Certificates of Achievement Can Improve DSP Retention

Direct support professional (DSP) turnover consumes a tremendous amount of time and resources, and impacts all aspects of an IDD organization. The most recent National Core Indicators: Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities report found that the national turnover rate for DSPs ranged from 29% to 88%, with an average turnover rate of 43%.

From low wages to difficult work, the reasons DSPs leave their jobs, or the field altogether, vary greatly. It is no surprise, however, that a lack of opportunity for professional growth is at the top of the list. That’s why Relias and ANCOR have joined forces to empower DSPs with the tools they need to help them develop their skill set, using the ANCOR Certificates of Achievement.

What are the ANCOR Certificates of Achievement?

The ANCOR Certificates of Achievement are a series of ten professional development plans created for Direct Support Professionals working in an intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) setting. Each plan was carefully designed by ANCOR, Relias, and provider stakeholders. The development plans contain the training necessary for DSPs to excel in their chosen specialty.

The Certificates of Achievement development plans include specialized courses for the following staff development tracks:

  • Emerging Leader
  • Peer Mentor
  • Health and Safety Specialist
  • Aging Specialist
  • Employee Wellness Specialist
  • Customized Self-Employment Specialist
  • Community Employment Specialist
  • Community Inclusion Specialist
  • Human Resources Professional
  • Behavior Support Specialist

The benefits of ANCOR Certificates of Achievement

The Certificates of Achievement offer several benefits to IDD organizations and their staff.

1. Increase DSP engagement

Employee engagement is defined as an emotional commitment to the organization and its mission. In the 2023 Relias DSP Survey Report, 86% of respondents told us they enjoyed their work because they felt they made a difference in the lives of the people they supported. Additionally, 82% reported that they enjoyed being with the people they supported.

This is good news for IDD organizations, as engaged employees are more likely to put forth effort that leads to better quality of services and organizational health.

2. Foster a culture of respect

DSPs are valuable sources of information in an IDD organization. Working on the frontlines of service provision generates unique insights into the needs of persons supported and organizational policies and practices. Organizations can thus foster a culture of respect for employees by providing opportunities for training and development, involving DSPs in decision-making processes, and obtaining input regarding organizational policies.

3. Reduce the cost of turnover

DSP turnover is expensive. The cost of replacing a DSP ranges from $2,400 to $5,200, including both direct and indirect costs such as separation, new employee training, lost productivity, and lost revenue. Retention of high-performing staff should be the foundation of your turnover reduction strategy.

4. Provide appreciation

That which gets rewarded gets repeated. In the Relias 2023 DSP Survey Report, we found that DSPs prefer the following methods of receiving recognition and appreciation:

  • 66% – Provide professional development opportunities
  • 65% – Provide new leadership/career opportunities
  • 64% – Private recognition directly from my supervisor

Consequently, offering opportunities for development helps reinforce the fact that you value your employees and are invested in their success.

5. Foundation for a DSP career ladder

As ANCOR highlighted in Addressing the Disability Services Workforce Crisis of the 21st Century, one of the reasons why DSPs leave the profession is due to a lack of opportunity for career advancement.

Implementing a DSP career ladder can greatly affect both the quality of provided services and DSP retention. As noted above, 66% of respondents to the 2023 Relias DSP Survey Report stated that professional development opportunities were their preferred form of recognition from their organization.

6. Improve quality of services

It’s no surprise that quality training improves quality services. DSPs want the knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to do their jobs. Indeed, in the Relias 2023 DSP Survey Report, 61% of respondents reported that they wanted more educational opportunities.


Certificates of Achievement: Professional Development Plans for DSPs and IDD Staff

For organizations looking to improve staff satisfaction, engagement, and retention, Relias and ANCOR’s Certificates of Achievement program are here to help. Learn more about the program and see the full list of course topics for each certificate.

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