Module 1- Staffing

  1. Module 1- Staffing
    1. Who are Residential Directors (RD)? And What do they do?
    2. Hiring
    3. Recruiting
    4. Cultural Competency
    5. Interviewing
    6. Background Checks
  2. Training
    1. Required Training for All Staff
      1. Rule 50: Abuse and Neglect Training
      2. Direct Support Professional (DSP) Training
      3. Qualified Intellectual Disabilities Professional (QIDP)
      4. Additional Training
      5. Competency Based Training
  3. Retention
    1. Employee Performance Evaluation
    2. Employee Recognition
    3. Mentoring
    4. Mission and Vision Statements
  4. Final Thoughts

Module 1- Staffing

Who are Residential Directors (RD)? And What do they do?

For the purpose of this course, residential directors are persons who direct and oversee the day to day operations of a residential program in a variety of settings, e.g. CILA, ICF/DD.

They have many duties, including:

  • Assuring that individuals in the program have optimal placements
  • Work with community day service providers in planning for a holistic approach to the individuals overall supports
  • Work with family members and significant others to better support the individuals in residential program
  • Work to achieve the highest standard of support, health and safety for those in the program
  • Work as part of the interdisciplinary team to acquire maximum independence, satisfaction and joy for those supported in a residential program
  • Assist individuals in the attainment of identified goals and objectives, as well as achieving outcomes  they have identified
  • Work with other agencies and providers of services, both public and private to obtain needed services and supports
  • Interview, hire, and train staff for the program
  • Manage the program budget
  • Ensure staff development


The topic of staff hiring is included in this training because many RD's are responsible for management duties themselves or they oversee the agency's personnel departments. The responsibilities may include hiring new staff, conducting performance reviews, facilitating teamwork, staff meetings, writing job descriptions, encouraging effective communication, defusing conflicts between staff and implementing grievance procedures if necessary. This training will suggest ways to help reduce the high turnover rate of Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) that many agencies experience.

Although RDs oversee a variety of staff positions, much of this training will pertain to DSP staffing and training procedures. An important step to hiring DSPs will be to develop an accurate, complete job description. This will be your initial offering to prospective candidates. The job description would include a copy of the associated competencies for the position. It should also be written at an 8th grade comprehensive level. A DSP's job description should be based on the DSP informational and international competencies that can be found at 

The key features that should be included in the job description are:

  • Job title
  • Job objective or overall purpose statement (this is a statement designed to orient the reader to the nature, level, purpose, and objective of the job)
  • Includes a statement of how the DSP will function within the agency
  • List duties or tasks expected to be performed
  • List continuing responsibilities and accountability
  • Include percentages of time allotted to each task with the higher percentages to those tasks with the greatest importance
    • A job analysis may be needed to accurately determine the percentages for each task. A job analysis is a structured process that identifies the skills, knowledge, abilities and attitudes needed to achieve outcomes and carry out the mission and vision for the organization.
  • Include relationships and roles the DSP will have with others in the agency
  • Include the type of supervision and how often work will be evaluated
  • Job specifications, standards, and requirements. The minimum requirements needed to perform the essential functions of the job such as education, knowledge and skills
  • Job location
  • Nature, purpose and frequency of contacts with people other than the immediate supervisor necessary to accomplish work assignments
  • Description of the type of equipment the DSP will need to use to perform the job. i.e. Mechanical lifts, computers, assistive devices
  • Required training
  • Expected work schedule
  • Additional duties


Another important duty RD's may be tasked with completing is recruiting new candidates to the organization. Recruitment, retention and training have challenged human service agencies for many years. Recently, however, they have reached near crisis proportions. To compete successfully for a dwindling supply of employees, human service agencies must consider what sets them apart from other human service agencies and from other service industries. Agencies must then develop, implement, and evaluate comprehensive marketing plans designed to let prospective and new employees know what the organization is about, it's mission, vision and values. Typically agencies look to recruit either from internal or external sources.

Recruiting internally typically means that another position is left vacant and therefore, you still need to recruit. However, when hiring an internal employee you have more information about the employee to help make the decision. It is also motivates employees to excel if they know there are opportunities to advance.

Recruiting externally can be completed many different ways. Some of which include

  • Brochures
  • Internet (Facebook, Linked In, etc)
  • Newsletters
  • Newspapers
  • Networking at professional conferences/workshops
  • Radio/TV
  • Job Fairs

This is not an exhaustive list. What other strategies have worked for your agency?

During any recruiting process, it is important to ensure that you are marketing to people who meet the minimal qualifications to complete the job. Below is a table that will explain the qualifications for the positions you may be tasked with hiring.

Requirements DSP QIDP RN Trainer
Educational Requirements 8th grade equivalent/GED Bachelors' in Human Service Licensed Registered Nurse
Experience None required 1 year w/ individuals w/ IDD 2 Years RN/ 1 Year with ID/D
Driving Agency policy Agency policy Agency policy
Background Checks Required Required Required
Required Training 120 hours 40 hours + DSP Training 12 hours Medication
Registry/Data base, License Health Care Worker Registry QIDP Database+ HCWR RN License

If a DSP/QIDP will be administering medications, they are required to be a minimum of 18 years of age and have a high school diploma or GED and demonstrate functional literacy verified by TABE, ABLE or CASAS reading test in their employee file.

Cultural Competency

Cultural competencies are the skills you use to work with people of all cultures.

Culture is generally thought of as relating to ethnic or religious background, but it can involve much more. Components of culture can also include:

  • Age
  • Race
  • Sex
  • Skin Color
  • National Origin

The way your culture communicates may be very different from the norms of other cultures. Certain aspects, such as personal space or eye contact can create conflict and misunderstanding in a multicultural workplace. Try to be aware of the cultural values of your coworkers and the people you support by  avoiding stereotypes. Cultural competency does not mean knowing everything about every cultural group you work with, but it does mean being aware of cultural factors and taking appropriate steps such as asking questions and doing research to learn about people's cultures. People who demonstrate cultural competence treat each person as an individual. They ask question to determine their views on important topics, family relationships, language/communication styles. They work to know what is important to each person and how their dietary, religious and community values impact their daily life. It is important to know how someone's culture values gender roles in society.


There are many different questions that can be asked during an interview. It is important to know what types of questions you can ask and what should be avoided. It is also important to ensure you are following a similar interview structure every time. There can be set questions that are asked of each applicant to help you determine if you believe the applicant would be a good fit for your agency. Some examples of questions are listed below to help guide you in setting up your structure.  

  • Describe a situation where you've encouraged someone to advocate for themselves.
  • You are at a local restaurant with a person you support. The waitress comes over to take your order and only speaks to you. The individual with you can give his/her own order. What would you do?
  • Describe ways in which you have communicated with a person who does not communicate verbally.
  • Describe a time when someone was injured and you had to make an immediate judgement on what needed to be done to help the person.
  • When working with individuals, what do you think is the key to establishing a respectful working relationship?
  • Describe a time when you witnessed a person with intellectual disabilities being teased by a coworker or other person. What did you do? What could you have done to assist that person?
  • What one or two words would most all your previous supervisors use to describe you?
  • Other than money, what rewards, benefits or work situations are most important for you?

There are many questions that can be asked during an interview, but there are also many that cannot be asked. Employers cannot ask any questions about where an applicant was born, how many children they have, what kind of disability they have, anything about sex, race/culture, marital status, religious beliefs, or sexual orientation.

Background Checks

There are various background checks that must be completed prior to starting work. For a complete list of required checks and steps to complete them, please visit 


Required Training for All Staff

Rule 50: Abuse and Neglect Training 

All agency staff must successfully complete DHS OIG approved 59 Ill. Admin. Code 50 training within 14 days of hire or before the new employee assumes any regular duties or responsibilities of their position and complete a biennial (every two years) refresher training course approved by DHS OIG Department of Human Services Act (20 ILCS 1305/1-17). The initial and biennial requirement for OIG Rule 50 training can also be satisfied by completing the Abuse & Neglect Module of the DSP Classroom Curriculum.

Direct Support Professional (DSP) Training

Direct Support Professional (DSP) must receive 40 hours of classroom and 80 hours of On-The-Job training. Each contains competencies that the employee must be able to demonstrate knowledge of, as required by DHS. The entire 120-hour DSP training program cannot be presented in a time frame of less than three weeks (21 calendar days) of when it starts but must be completed within 120 calendar days of hiring persons as DSPs. The only exception is if a community college or other educational institution conducts the classroom training component of the agency's DSP training program. In these instances, the completion date is tied to the end of the term, semester, or trimester.

Qualified Intellectual Disabilities Professional (QIDP)

Qualified Intellectual Disabilities Professional (QIDP) must meet the state and federal definition of a QIDP. After a credential review confirming qualification, the QIDP will be added to the state QIDP-Eligible database. All QIDPs must have 12 hours of continuing education (CEs) each state fiscal year beginning the first state fiscal year after completing the 40-hour QIDP training. 6 of the 12 annual Continuing Education hours must be obtained outside the employing agency. Topics must be related to the field of developmental disabilities or to the work of a QIDP. QIDPs that have completed QIDP Orientation training and have a gap in service of less than two (2) years will not need to repeat this QIDP training if they have met the annual 12 hour continuing education requirement during the gap in service. More details of QIDP training requirements can be found at:

Additional Training

Every agency will have additional courses such as CPR/First Aid, a Crisis Prevention Course and possible Medication Administration course.

Competency Based Training

A competency based program will help create a positive employment experience for all your employees as well as a improving the quality of life for the individual you will be supporting. It also helps your employees feel valued by leadership which will lead to improved retention. Training can help identify employees who are skilled and excel in their current role. Employees who feel valued, appreciated, and recognized will help improve the quality of life for everyone! Competencies are the employee's classroom and on-the-job knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviors that demonstrate a specific level of performance needed to meet job expectations. New DSPs often start their jobs with little or no experience in providing support to people with intellectual disabilities. They may struggle with the realities of direct support work. Many times, they do not understand the duties and responsibilities nor have realistic job expectations. This conflict can lead to dissatisfaction with the job and often results in people resigning. Supervisors should communicate with DSPs about what the expectations are, and observe them as they perform their job, to determine their level of competency at each of the tasks they are responsible for. The employee needs to understand and be willing to learn more and demonstrate they can perform each competency as required. For a complete list of all competencies required, please visit 


Residential Directors are often faced with the challenge of retaining DSPs after they are hired. Below is a list of things DSP's have requested to help improve retention. Many times, not having these supports leads to turnover.

  • Full-time hours if desired with stable work schedules, balanced workloads, and no mandatory overtime
  • Wages
  • Health insurance and other family-supportive benefits
  • Excellent training that helps workers develop and hone skills
  • Participation in decision-making
  • Non-financial incentives such as positive performance reviews and recognition
  • Pleasant physical work environment
  • Informal support from co-workers
  • Career advancement opportunities, professional challenge
  • Flexible work schedules
  • Supervisors who set clear expectations and require accountability, and at the same time, encourage, support and guide each DSP

DSP retention could become even more important in the future given the projections that the growth rate of the core labor supply is expected to decline while the demand for direct support workers is expected to increase. Additional training and motivational practices are necessary to lower the DSP turnover rate. Other suggestions to improve training are:

  • Orientation and training strategies to improve the effectiveness of employees by supporting new employees adequately 
  • Competency-based training approaches ensure that workers can demonstrate new skills on-the-job before giving them credit for completing training.
  • Performance evaluations are used to provide feedback to employees and to establish goals for future performance.
  • Mentoring programs provide one-to-one support from someone who is not the person's supervisor to reinforce learning and facilitate successful employment.
  • Recognition strategies acknowledge the contributions made by all employees. Recognition includes treating DSPs as professionals and providing regular meaningful reminders to employees acknowledging them as individuals (e.g., birthday cards), and as employees.
  • Realistic Job Interviewing is a retention strategy that reduces turnover due to the job not meeting the new employees' expectations. Managers should give potential employees clear expectations about the positive and negative aspects of the job for which they are applying that they would not be likely to know otherwise. Potential employees are told about the actual duties and responsibilities of the job before they decide to accept a job offer. A Realistic Job Interview helps reduce the time used to interview hire, orientate and train people who are not well suited to direct support work.

Employee Performance Evaluation

Many organizations use a person-centered planning approach with persons receiving supports. However, some of these same organizations may not apply this philosophy with their employees. The person-centered approach for persons served is not very effective or long-lasting if there is a "disconnect" between the individuals' person-centered planning strategies and the organization's employee policies and philosophies. Treating employees with respect and showing appreciation for their skills should be the expectation. Once employees are hired, they should be made to feel valued and treated with respect. They are integral and indispensable! Evaluations help foster professional development. Employees need to be recognized for the specific set of skills they have while being held accountable for performing the job duties. One way to evaluate employees is to talk to the individuals they are supporting. Another step to collecting feedback is to ask front line supervisors how the employee performs the job duties. Supervisors should observe employees performing work as often as possible. The supervisor completing the evaluation should be familiar with the employee. It is impossible to accurately evaluate an employee you have not interacted or observed. Evaluations are great motivators for employees if completed properly.

Employee Recognition

Another step to retaining staff is to recognize them! Employee recognition is not just a nice thing to do for people. It is a communication tool that reinforces and rewards the most important outcomes people create for your business. When you recognize people effectively, you reinforce, with your chosen means of recognition, the actions and behaviors you most want to see people repeat. An effective employee recognition system is simple, immediate, and powerfully reinforcing. When you consider employee recognition processes, you need to develop recognition that is equally powerful for both the organization and the employee. You must address six important issues if you want the recognition you offer to be viewed as motivating and rewarding by your employees and important for the success of your organization.

  • You need to establish criteria for what performance or contribution constitutes rewardable behavior or actions.
  • All employees must be eligible for the recognition.
  • The recognition must supply the employer and employee with specific information about what behaviors or actions are being rewarded and recognized.
  • Anyone who then performs at the level or standard stated in the criteria receives the reward.
  • The recognition should occur as close to the performance of the actions as possible, so the recognition reinforces behavior the employer wants to encourage.
  • You don't want to design a process in which managers "select" the people to receive recognition. This type of process will be viewed forever as "favoritism" or talked about as "it's your turn to get recognized this month." Therefore, processes that single out an individual, such as "Employee of the Month," are rarely effective.

Some Ways to Recognize Employees

  • Flex work hours and work schedules (Employee determines schedule)
  • Send a hand-written note
  • Days off
  • Start an employee recognition board
  • Reserve a special parking spot
  • Celebrate success in newsletters or websites
  • Two simple words "Thank you!"
  • Sports Tickets
  • When an employee exceeds expectations, put the name in a "recognition pool". Once a month, pull a name and award that person a gift.
  • Membership in a professional organization


Mentoring can be an excellent strategy for providing learning and professional growth opportunities to experienced and motivated DSPs. Mentoring also allows for employers to demonstrate a high level of recognition for employees. Mentoring occurs when an experienced DSP helps someone with less experience and skills expand, refine and build new skills and gain a better understanding of "best practice" policies (for example, person centered supports). Mentoring can provide benefits to both the employees and the individuals they serve.

Staff who work with a mentor:

  • tap into the accumulated knowledge and experience of their mentor
  • have increased opportunities for feedback
  • can share anxieties and concerns with their mentor
  • connect socially with others
  • have decreased feelings of isolation
  • gain access to information
  • Receive guidance on agency norms and culture

Mentors receive benefits as well:

  • Receive recognition for their skills and abilities
  • Have opportunities to develop new skills and achieve advancement
  • Often have a renewed interest in their jobs
  • Persons Receiving Supports
  • Receive better quality supports and services
  • See less staff turnover which leads to higher quality relationships
  • Have more and varied community inclusion opportunities
  • Learn new and different interests and skills

A variety of approaches, including mentoring, use of self-directed work teams, and career ladders have been closely linked to employee satisfaction. The relationship between supervisors and DSP plays a significant role in job satisfaction and the intent to stay. Effective supervisors/mentors about able to listen attentively to the employee. They are willing to take the employees perspective into consideration when trying to help problem solve issues. Mentors/Supervisors are effective when they have the ability to constructively present and correct employment problems. Mentors should have the capacity to help teach problem solving and help build positive relationships with employees.

Mission and Vision Statements

Organizations should have a clearly defined mission and a means to continually assess, evaluate, plan and deliver services in a meaningful manner. Agencies must recruit, select, and retain persons who will work toward fulfilling that mission. We will discuss Mission statements more in a later module.

Final Thoughts

DSPs who are not recognized or made to feel like the jobs they do are worthwhile often leave.  For the unrecognized and poorly motivated employee, coming to work every day begins to feel like a chore and becomes draining, rather than energizing. Instead of finding creative and new ways to work with coworkers and people they support, undervalued DSPs may begin to dread their jobs, and do only what is necessary to get through the day. This can lead to problems such as poor work attendance, poor quality of work performance, and eventually an increase in agency turnover. A culture of inferior work is caused when supervisors ignore or fail to adequately address staff underperformance, or fail to make DSPs feel that their jobs are worthwhile or important. The quality of supports will decline when poor performance becomes the norm. Unacceptable job performance must be immediately addressed and corrected to ensure quality supports are provided to the individuals as well as to do everything possible to retain good, quality staff.