Connections - 02.28.23

Pulse Check on the Workforce: Findings from ANCOR Members

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Late last month, ANCOR’s CEO, Barbara Merrill, fielded an open-ended question to our members via our ANCOR Connected Community (ACC) online forum. The big question: have our members been seeing any improvements in their organizational direct support professional (DSP) turnover and vacancy rates?

Specifically, the questions Barbara asked our members were:

  • How have recruitment and retention challenges changed for your organization in the past six months? Are things getting better? Worse? Staying the same?
  • Have you noticed that shifts in the broader labor market (e.g., the leveling off of inflation, mass layoffs in particular industries, etc.) are affecting your ability to recruit and retain staff?
  • Have you adopted any new strategies to respond to your workforce challenges in the past six months?

Thank you to the many members who answered! These responses provided valuable information and insights as ANCOR continues to represent community providers in Washington. Here are some key findings and highlights from ANCOR members.

Key Findings from Member Responses

  • Workforce staffing shortage remains consistent, with little to no improvement (most commenters reported between a 20-30% vacancy rate).
  • Those that did see staff improvements (retention and applications) correlated improvement to increased staff wages, bonuses, and perks.
  • Poor retention/survival rate from offer to first day of work.
  • Long-term increase in rates to allow for sustainable wage growth will help, but do not resolve the shortage.
  • Advocacy at the state level for increased wages is necessary.
  • Utilizing bonus hourly pay for undesirable shifts has been successful.
  • Members experience significant competition from workers in the service and industry sectors.
  • One outlier member is fully staffed and has utilized a variety of strategies to achieve this, including excess hirings to expect frequent attrition, a shared living model, and strategic partnerships.

Key Quotes from Our Members

Because members shared their comments on the ACC, we share their insights anonymously here since Connections is accessible to all. However, if you are an ANCOR member and would like to connect with the people who shared these insights, head on over to the ACC thread at connect.ancor.org to get in touch.

  • “After implementing raises for our staff in fall 2022 and January 2023, we’re starting to see an uptick in applications. Problem is, we don’t have the rates to support those raises long term. We’re advocating for rate increases (again, still). We closed three households in 2020 because of staffing shortages; we’ve reopened one of those households, and need to add staff to reopen the others, and to fill other openings in our community homes.”
  • “We are finding that recruitment has improved, we are getting applications, interviewing and hiring people, but our retention is still very poor, including about 15% who never actually show up to work at all. Last quarter, our turnover was 44% which is about 5% worse than the same time last year.”
  • “Over the last six years, the TDM [They Deserve More] coalition has been very successful in helping convince state elected officials to increase reimbursements allowing providers to increase wages specifically for direct care workers DSPs. Prior to 2017, the average state hourly rate of reimbursement was under $10.00 per hour and now in 2023 the new average hourly reimbursement rate is $19.55 (Chicagoland) per hour.”
  • “The other businesses in the area are paying employees (or many are) considerable sign-on bonuses and $18.00/hour or more for jobs that require a [high school] Diploma/GED minimum. The local McDonald’s pays the same entry-level rate of pay that we do for DSPs. We have simply been unable to recruit to open case management positions in our mental health services and our I/DD services—jobs that require a degree, experience and/or an MHRT/C. As others have said, the number of no-shows, no-return calls to requests for interviews or no-shows to scheduled interviews or no-shows to new employee orientation is enormous.”
  • “We need higher rates, affordable housing, and a pathway to bring more employees into this country. Even if we were able to pay more there is not the workforce in the US to fill this gap.”
  • “Our culture simply has not invested in a workforce that knows how to support adults with ID/A in the community with quality and not just compliance. I think it’s time to re-frame our issue as a Social Justice problem. The people who receive support AND the employees who provide the support deserve better!”

Noah Block is the Advocacy Manager at ANCOR.

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