Implementing The E-Badge Academy At The Arc Mid-Hudson
The following article is adapted from the NADSP report titled ‘The NADSP E-Badge Academy: Integrating Direct Support Professional Knowledge, Skills & Values into a National Career Ladder Program,’ which lays out how the E-Badge Academy can be used as the foundation for a Career Ladder program for direct support professionals (DSPs) and frontline supervisors. This article profiles how The Arc Mid-Hudson has integrated the E-Badge Academy into their career ladder program and describes the impact it has had on the organization and its DSPs.
Customizing A Career Ladder Program With The E-Badge Academy
The Arc Mid-Hudson is a not-for-profit, voluntary organization that supports people with intellectual and other disabilities in Ulster, Greene, Putnam and Columbia Counties in NYS. Their supports include residential, day habilitation, community habilitation, waiver respite services, vocational and school-to-work programs, clinical services, and two schools. They serve over 1400 individuals and employee about 1600 employees, about 900 of whom are DSPs. They are accredited by CQL | The Council on Quality and Leadership.
The E-Badge Academy participants at The Arc Mid-Hudson are selected through a simple application process. To be involved in the E-Badge Academy, the following are the requirements of employees:
- Maintain good standing at the organization – no seniority requirement
- No significant disciplinary actions in their recent file
- Receive a recommendation from their supervisor
The Arc Mid-Hudson has 2-3 cohorts each year with an “open enrollment” period that lasts roughly one month for each cohort. The organization offers an initial orientation session to teach participants how to navigate the system, brainstorm E-Badge ideas, and show them an E-Badge sample.
In addition to this, they offer a monthly virtual “workshop” and 1:1 counseling session as requested. Participants in the E-Badge Academy are encouraged to complete the program within a year.
Financial Incentives For The E-Badge Academy
Prior to issuing their bonus, The Arc Mid-Hudson conducts a final 1:1 meeting with each DSP to give them an opportunity to talk about their E-Badge work. Upon completion, DSPs receive one-time bonuses. A $500 bonus is provided at the time a DSP receives the credential and then annually for as long as they retain their credentialed status. They receive $800 annual bonus if they get Direct Support Professional and the Frontline Supervisor Certifications. This is tracked using the organization’s learning management system (LMS) to ensure DSPs keep up on their re-certifications and receive their bonuses on time.
Other Forms Of Recognition
Upon receiving their credential, they celebrate publicly with a surprise visit from their credentialing “champions” with balloons and a big whiteboard check for the amount of their bonus. The Arc Mid-Hudson shares their pictures on internal and external social media sites. E-Badge Academy participants also enjoy agency perks throughout the year, such as being considered to be VIPs at the agency employee recognition dinner. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization held biannual, in-person orientation/graduation celebrations where old cohorts came together with the executive team to share their work involving the E-Badge Academy and provide mentorship for the next cohort.
“The turnover rate of DSPs who are certified is only 4.41%.”
The Impact Of The E-Badge Academy
Supervisors at The Arc Mid-Hudson report that DSPs who are credentialed show increased confidence and empowerment, which improves both their performance as DSPs and contributes significantly to the overall quality of their program. Certified DSPs indicate that they feel more empowered and competent in their jobs and they are more likely to apply for (and receive) promotions, volunteer to sit on committees, request additional training, and attend conferences. All certified DSPs mentor new hires on-the-job for up to 6 weeks, which has a positive impact on the retention of new hires, as well as the overall workplace culture of the programs in which they train.
The Effect On DSP Turnover
Finding creative ways to keep high-performing DSPs in their jobs has plagued this system for decades. The costs of replacing a DSP in I/DD services have been reported to be between $2,413 and $5,2007. With nearly a 50% turnover rate nationally, these costs are estimated at $2,338,716,6008.
So, it’s not surprising that the most frequent question potential E-Badge Academy customers ask is, “how will it reduce my DSP turnover”? In looking at data from 2019-2020, The Arc Mid-Hudson found that while the average annual turnover rate of all DSPs at the organization is 45.95%, the turnover rate of DSPs who are certified is only 4.41%.