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Supervision in IDD: Monitoring DSP Job Performance

In the Relias 2023 DSP Survey Report, we asked direct support professionals about the traits that make a good supervisor. Across the board, DSPs told us that one of the most valuable supervisor traits is holding all staff accountable in an equal manner. Additionally, the longer a DSP has worked in the IDD field, the more important this supervisory trait becomes to them. Supervisors who haven’t been trained in proper monitoring techniques can actually hurt morale and DSP 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.

Three tips for monitoring DSP job performance

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 observing. 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 DSP job performance and make recommendations for improvement.

Remember, monitoring is conducted to:

  • Obtain information that will help you to improve and support your staff’s performance.
  • 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.

Provide safe avenues for feedback

Providing feedback is a critical supervisory skill. It is the most readily available way a supervisor can directly impact staff performance and work fulfillment. 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. When giving feedback, remember to begin with something positive, and make sure your directions for improving performance are specific and measurable.

The paradigm of supervisors providing feedback to their staff is great, but more is needed to help your DSPs know they are appreciated and to work more effectively. Supervisors must also give their DSPs a means by which they can provide feedback to, or regarding, their supervisor.

In 2021, 80% of respondents reported that is “very important” or “extremely important” to have a safe platform through which they can provide feedback about a supervisor. Despite this importance, only 55% of DSPs said they actually had a safe avenue to provide feedback.

This is a crucial point when it comes to retaining your DSPs, thereby offering a better continuum of care to persons served year after year. DSPs who were satisfied with their supervisors were more likely to agree that they had a safe avenue to provide feedback about a supervisor at their organization.

Feedback, like every other form of communication, is a two-way street. While it’s important that your DSPs receive open and honest feedback on their performance, make sure they also have the ability to safely share their thoughts with you. By instituting this cycle of communication, your team can grow together, become better at what you do, and provide higher quality care to those you serve.


The 2023 DSP Survey Report 

Download the 2023 DSP Survey Report to get even more data and insights on job satisfaction, supervision, recognition and appreciation, and career growth to improve DSP engagement and retention at your organization. 

Download Report →

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