Person-Centered Staff Assessments Create Person-Centered Service

Image Courtesy: RISE Services

A safety net, like a chain, is only as strong as its weakest link. In any long term supports and services organization, the safety net under each individual is composed of all the members of your team. One weak loop in the net and service is compromised.

Tone and emotion in any organization are set from the top. When executives sincerely care, the love and concern flow to the staff. In turn, feeling cared for,  the staff better support the individuals their organization was created to serve.

All of that is why it’s important not only to frame assessments as supportive and beneficial to staff but make them so in reality.

People aren’t machines. But in our systems of assessment, we can seem to forget that.

Assessments should accomplish the following: 

  • Encourage and motivate staff
  • Mitigate risks
  • Reduce staff turnover
  • Track staff performance

Here are 5 ways to ensure your assessments accomplish those goals:

1- Ensure your Direct Support Professional staff is sincerely cared for and that they feel it

Staff in any position which is paid low relative to other professions can all too often feel less-than in our hyper-competitive, status-seeking culture.  Love is the cure. In fact, people want status as a means to an end. And that end is to feel loved and respected.

We as their employers can provide love and respect in the environment where our staff spends much of their lives — at work. When executives and managers love and respect their staff, and show that through consistent and sincere actions, their staff will feel it. And it pays off in the quality of support and services that they provide. Creating love and empathy is also just the right thing to do as a human being in a position of power. Individuals under your organization’s support are the ultimate beneficiaries.

2- Relevant, person-focused training

People generally don’t enjoy mass training, even though that can seem like the most efficient way to deliver it, and is in fact often the only practical way. But in any organization, it shouldn’t be the sole offering on the menu. Whenever possible, treat staff like the individuals they are when it comes to training. Direct support professionals want to do well and to improve. They want specific mentoring, special outside training, and online training specific to their individual professional needs and ambitions.

And so when we can frame even remedial training as a positive, career-enhancing benefit, they’ll feel valued and respected, rather than feeling like a cog in a machine.  This isn’t as expensive or difficult as it may seem. Mentors and staff-directed training can be accomplished at little to no extra cost. Someone on your staff usually knows the right way, or a better way; assign them as mentors. Even outside training, while expensive, can cost less than staff churn.

3- Person-centered assessments

Assessments should directly benefit the staff, and staff should feel good, cared for, and directly benefited by all assessments.

The meaning of communication is what it communicates. That can be measured only by what the response is in the person receiving the communication. What do these axioms of communication have to do with staff assessments? Everything: You’ll know your assessments are being done well when staff feels unthreatened, happy, grateful, and motivated by them.

The Golden Rule of staff assessment might go something like this: “Assess others in the way you’d like to be assessed.” If you were a professional care-giver, in a relatively low position in the organization, how would you want to be assessed? This simple act of empathy and imagination makes it easy for executives to evaluate assessment procedures. It has as much to do with tone and delivery as with structure.

When your staff make mistakes, hold them accountable in the way any emotionally healthy person likes to be held accountable: clearly, firmly, and yet with support and empathy. People don’t like making mistakes. They like doing well. When they know that you hold them accountable firmly, with support, they will not only learn the technical or logistical skills you want them to perform well. They’ll also be much more highly motivated and loyal.

4- Support your staff’s ambitions

Support your staff’s ambitions to acquire higher professional qualifications and certifications. Some want to become nurses. Some simply want more skills to do their current jobs better.  Support and encourage every level of ambition. It’s part of love and empathy, and it pays off directly in education, specific skills, and better care.

5- Hire well

Second only to treating people well is hiring well.

Qualities to look for are the qualities of a person who responds well to love, being held accountable firmly and supportively, and training. Every individual varies far more than any hiring assessment can discern. A questionnaire, carefully devised, can be useful. But these can give us only a blurry view of any individual.

Recommendations are important but less so than we wish. True, the best indicator of what a person will do is what they have done. But this is not at all an infallible guide. Maybe they just never had the benefit of working in an organization run with love and empathy and support. For wise managers, recommendations are taken with a grain of salt.

We need to rely on personal interviews in which we establish a human connection in a state of highly attuned emotional intelligence. Hiring managers can do that by looking for the following qualities:

  • Ambition. People who want more out of life are those willing to give more. No employee relationship is permanent.  So don’t be afraid to follow this logic to where it leads — look for individuals who are ambitious for more qualifications, more education, and even to move on, eventually, from the position for which they’re applying.  It will bring you much better employees.
  • Responsibility. An ability to make good decisions, to accept responsibility for mistakes, and display a personal locus of control.
  • A sense of vocation for the work. Staff who see their work as a personal commitment to improving the world are a match for any organization run by people who feel the same way.

Hiring and retaining qualified, effective, and caring staff may be simpler than we sometimes make it. Our staff isn’t static, like machines. Human performance varies dramatically based on how we’re treated in a specific environment. More love and empathy and accountability from the top means better work environments and better care for every individual in the organization.

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