Supervision in IDD: Monitoring DSP Job Performance

It really doesn’t matter what level you are at professionally or how good you are at your job—being monitored by your supervisor is stressful! It’s even worse if your supervisor doesn’t give you any feedback during or after the monitoring session.

In our national survey of direct support professionals working in intellectual/developmental disability services, frustrations with supervisors came up a lot. Two of the primary challenges were that supervisors don’t have the management skills they need, and that DSPs’ job responsibilities were not clearly communicated and fairly assessed.

Front-line supervisors must ensure that DSPs know what is expected of them as they complete their day-to-day tasks. The best way to accomplish this is to create performance checklists and share them with the DSPs.

Using checklists when monitoring helps to ensure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to how performance will be evaluated, and it reduces the use of subjective measures for evaluation.

Three Tips for Monitoring DSP Performance

The only way to know if your organization’s DSP training and efforts to improve performance are working is through routine monitoring. But supervisors who haven’t been trained in proper monitoring techniques can actually hurt morale and job performance by being overly negative, nitpicky or just plain rude.

To avoid these pitfalls, front-line supervisors should follow these tips for effective monitoring:

1. Help Your Staff Feel Comfortable

It’s human nature to be nervous when someone is watching you and assessing your performance. Let your staff know that you understand their anxiety. Help them to feel more relaxed by telling them ahead of time when the monitoring will occur and what tasks you will be monitoring. Assure them that if the situation turns out to be potentially harmful or highly unusual, you will stop monitoring and either get out of their way or provide assistance.

2. Keep It Simple

Your checklist or monitoring form should be specific and brief. Make sure you’re only collecting information that will help you to actually assess job performance and make recommendations for improvement.

Remember, monitoring is conducted to 1) obtain information that will help you to improve and support your staff’s performance, and 2) determine if training and supervision have impacted staff performance. If the information you’re collecting when monitoring doesn’t support one of these two purposes, then you probably should not do the monitoring.

3. Stay Focused

Try to focus on the most important staff behavior during each situation. Make sure you’re recording accurate information and not subjective opinions. If something distracts you from monitoring, such as a disruption or emergency, you may need to reschedule your monitoring session rather than make your assessment based on incomplete information.

Providing Performance Feedback to DSPs

Don’t be afraid to provide positive feedback or direction during the monitoring session. Even a nod and a smile can help to put a DSP at ease and improve their performance. When sitting down with staff one-on-one to go over the results of a monitoring session, remember to begin with something positive, and make sure your directions for improving performance are specific and concrete.

Providing feedback is a critical supervisory skill. It is the most readily available way a supervisor can directly impact staff performance and work enjoyment. Feedback is also effective—there is more evidence to support the effectiveness of supervisor feedback than any other means of improving and supporting day-to-day staff performance.

Diane Morris

Marketing Manager for IDD and ABA, Relias

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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