According to the CDC, the cases of autism in the United States continue to grow.
And along with that growth, the cost of care and support also climbs
. Early detection and management are key, which puts the care of autistic children into the spotlight
– not only the centers who provide the care, but especially the people hired in the caretaking role.
So You’re an Experienced Babysitter? It‘s Much More Than That
The number one failure point when recruiting for autism care centers is how they communicate about the work environment. While many cases of autism are not extreme, some certainly are. Care workers often find themselves having their hair pulled, dodging bites, and being splatted with spit. Many applicants to these types of care jobs believe that their babysitting experience is enough to prepare them for the position. They are attracted because of their love of children and are keen to find regular employment, without fully appreciating the reality of childcare for those affected by autism. And, autism care can involve much older children – well into adolescence. Imagine that kick coming from a 15-year-old boy, and you get a sense of what autism treatment really entails. Staff turnover is high for many autism treatment companies. Where bonds have been created between caretaker and child, emotional anxiety ensues when employees don’t last. Plus, families are often just as dependent upon the caretaker as the child. The distress of turnover and its effect on families – and businesses – is completely avoidable.
Autism Care as a Career Path
There are a variety of qualifications and education requirements for professional autism behavior therapists. The career journey often begins with individuals who have experience with childcare and are interested in psychology. Sometimes those motivated to pursue this type of career may have specific experience with autism in their family or community. In order to become a BT (behavior therapist or behavior technician) or RBT (registered behavior therapist), the chief requirement is the combination of experience with children and an interest in the field. This is the entry point for all caregivers and the path can lead to advanced autism therapy positions like BCBA (board certified behavior analyst) or ABA (applied behavior analyst).
Just as the profession is science-based, you’ll definitely want your recruiting practices to be science-based, too. This is particularly important given the low experience point for getting started on this career path. Here is your three-step plan to effectively recruit for your open BT/RBT autism care positions.
STEP 1: Tell it like it is
One of my favorite parts of working with our autism care clients is learning about the day-to-day life of the therapists. Things quickly get real as we discuss what new employees can expect in working within their environment, from managing tantrums to dealing with exhausted parents. Effectively communicating the ins-and-outs of the position is a crucial first step in attracting ideal candidates. You do this with effective employer branding on your company career site. It may seem counterintuitive – but telling the difficult stories sets you up to explain how your company better prepares new recruits in the position. Your messaging needs to reflect your culture of support, training and education, and philosophy of childcare. You may land fewer applicants, but the ones you do will be genuinely interested in the position and potential career path. This will ultimately lead to lower turnover and upfront training investment for your organization.
Step 2: Replicate What’s Working
Think about your best behavior technician. I know you’ve got one in mind, that gem who blends compassion and patience with capability, that all your clients – and their children – cannot do without. Now go out and find ten more just like that person. Sounds like a pipe dream, doesn’t it? Well, it’s not. While it all begins by effectively communicating your core values within your career site, it continues through to effective screening and testing. This includes pre-qualification questionnaires, as well as psychometric testing baselined against your top performers. You want to increase your chance for “no surprises” and spend your time interviewing those people who have the highest likelihood to not only perform well in the position, and also have staying power.
A Surprising Trait Revealed Through Preferred Profiles: Because BTs are helping children develop, you might think that they are natural leaders and jump at the opportunity to serve from the front. But the reality is, behavior techs are more interested in serving a group in supportive role. They prefer contributing their skills and expertise to the overall group, or company, success. Because of this, they are not social butterflies, either. They take comfort in working with small, familiar groups and remaining in the background. Collaborative care planning is their cup of tea, which is why they prefer an informal cultural environment without competitiveness.
Step 3: More Isn’t Always Better
You’ve spent the time and energy in the first two steps and now you’ve got your new hire: what does it take to achieve staying power? Onboarding processes and having key leadership positions in place are critical, but how do you find the time? You’re going to get uncomfortable with this – you may want to sit down. All that feel-good volume recruiting you’ve done in the past, where you see all the applicants flowing in for your open BT positions, you need to just stop it. If you’ve truly communicated the essence of your culture and deployed high-powered screening and testing techniques, looking at volume simply doesn’t matter. Quality is more important than quantity. To achieve better results, you want to be efficient in the channels where you advertise; you want to spend the money where your best employees are sourced (not where the highest applicant volume originates!). If you’ve got confidence in the authenticity of your brand and you understand which channels are most viable to lead to quality, long-term hires, then you’re going to have more time to manage the business. That’s right – the business – because each unfilled BT position is lost revenue, never mind the lost care opportunity for families in need.
Don’t Take My Word for It
Talentcare has been working with autism centers across the country for many years now, helping recruit and hire for thousands of BT/RBT positions. We work with one of the largest autism centers in the country. Years ago, the client covered roughly 20 markets with a mixture of clinic-based (six physical locations) and home-based services and had about 140 behavior technicians on their team. When we started our work with them, there was no career site and no applicant tracking system (they used spreadsheets to track applicants- ack!). Turnover within the first four months was a critical factor in retaining talent, as more than half of new recruits were lost during that key time period. Fast forward to today – they now cover 25 markets and have increased to twelve physical locations with about 220 BTs on their team. Together, we have helped reduce that percentage of employees who terminate in the first 120 days to under 35%!
And, they just finished one of their busiest summers ever where they were fully staffed for the first time in the company’s history!!! Not a single child went without care, and no revenue was lost due to inadequate staff levels. It genuinely may be one of my proudest accomplishments within a Talentcare partnership.