Building a Supportive Workplace Culture improves life for people with developmental disabilities


Many people with developmental disabilities depend on Direct Service Personnel (DSPs) to assist them with everything from helping with daily activities, acting as their advocates, and enabling them to gain and keep meaningful employment. Over the past several decades the improving economy and increased minimum wage levels have resulted in high turnover among DSPs positions, threatening the sense of stability and well-being these staff provide.

A strategy of The Coleman Foundation’s Disabilities Impact Plan is to “fund efforts to improve direct care staffing.” This complex, industry-wide challenge is being addressed by Intersect for Ability, a collaborative network of multiple agencies, launched by The Coleman Foundation, and serving individuals with developmental disabilities of all ages. These agencies work together to increase opportunities and improve quality of life for the people they serve.

Rather than addressing the turnover problem at only one agency, 12 organizations are collaborating on a long-term strategy focused on staff development and organizational change. The “Building Supportive Workplace Cultures” initiative aims to improve supervisory effectiveness, increase support and appreciation of DSPs, leading to increased DSP satisfaction and retention. As a result, more consistent support and care will provide more stability and better outcomes for the people the DSPs serve.

The coaching and organizational development experts at PHI, a national research and consulting organization, were carefully selected as the initiative’s lead training partner, given their program’s high success rates with similar agencies in other states. In its first year, 755 people were trained in the method. First, PHI trained 64 instructors from across the 12 organizations, then those sixty-four instructors went on to train 691 supervisors and managers in their own organizations. PHI cites that 80% of supervisors report behavioral change in staff, a significant number reported saving in time managing HR issues, and 30% report a reduction in time spent disciplining staff. These outcomes will mean more time, consistency and support for DSPs as well as those the agencies – and the DSPs – serve on a daily basis.

Moving forward, the Intersect for Ability group will focus on how to most effectively sustain the PHI Coaching ApproachⓇ culture. The group will conduct a full evaluation in 2020 to ensure the anticipated outcomes have been met. Impact achieved through this collaborative effort far exceeds the potential of any single agency, resulting in better outcomes for the individuals they serve.

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The Coleman Foundation, Inc.
651 West Washington Boulevard, Suite 306
Chicago, IL 60661
Phone (312) 902-7120
Fax (312) 902-7124

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