By: Tameika Meadows, BCBA from I Love ABA
Across multiple industries, staffing deficits are a big problem right now.
There are many different explanations for this, but certainly in a post-COVID world all of us are redefining work, evaluating our priorities, and learning how precious our time is…..if people are unhappy at work/in their career, it makes sense that the past 2 years would push them to DO something about that.
But let’s talk about RBT’s, specifically.
The RBT credential is an entry level position into this field. When a clinician company hops, it is usually for a different BCBA position. After all, there was tremendous time, energy, money, and schooling that went into the decision to become a BCBA, so most will try a new company out before trying a new profession.
For RBT’s though, many are not that connected to the field. They may still be figuring out if this is what they want to do long-term. Or, they may already know that they plan to pursue education, mental health, counseling, or other degrees, and are working as a RBT now for valuable experience. The point being, its often true that RBT’s not just company hop, but industry hop/leave the field. Especially right now, when the impacts of quarantine and the pandemic are still lingering. Client cancelations, health scares (e.g. sessions canceled for a week until a clear COVID test), companies lowering rates or decreasing benefits to ease financial strain, funders decreasing reimbursement rates, etc. All of this contributes to the experience of the RBT.
I mean, just look at current gas prices. If you think that isn’t impacting the job satisfaction of RBT’s who spend most of their day driving from client to client, then you are deluding yourself.
So, what can be done?
Why Do RBTs Leave?
What is often attempted is increasing incentives. Things like: pizza day, bonuses, raffle drawings, trivia nights, casual Fridays, referral bonuses, public recognition/”Shout Outs” from management, use of a company iPad, etc.
Here’s the problem though: did anyone ask for that?
What are your frontline staff asking for? When people leave, WHY did they leave? When people turn down an offer, or decline moving forward in the interview process, WHY did they lose interest? What happened? When staff complain or bring up concerns, are they addressed and resolved? Or bounced from person to person in the company? Is management toxic to deal with, unprofessional/gossipy (especially in center based settings), incompetent, etc.? Toxic managers are one of the largest reasons why people leave otherwise good companies.
When I speak with unhappy RBT supervisees, the issues they describe to me tend to be systemic/management level problems (meaning, the supervisee cannot fix the issue), or a symptom of RBT mistreatment/low regard.
- Low pay/Pay rate has not budged since hire/Low hours (hired as FT but only working PT hours)
- Client cancelations or schedule changes that cause loss of income
- Poor fit to clients on caseload/Working outside of clinical competency
- Not supported by BCBA/Minimal supervision
- Issues with admin or management (rude, unprofessional, incompetent, etc.)/Inaccessible owner, management, or HR/Management does not support or “back” the RBT when there are issues with the client parent
- No company policy on parent involvement or participation/No company policy on respecting the staff or employees/No consequences when client families regularly arrive late to sessions or cancel frequently
- Excessive driving (only client is 2 hours away)
- No benefits/No healthcare due to unable to maintain FT hours
- Company does not provide needed equipment and supplies to perform job/RBT must provide their own supplies
- Being expected to do extra work for free (required to train new hires for free)
- Insufficient training on company required technology (required to use data software, but minimal training on it or support when it isn’t working correctly)
If I was working with a client, and providing access to pizza, gift cards, and trivia nights, but the target behavior was not improving, my conclusion would be that I need to reevaluate my reinforcers. Looks like they aren’t so reinforcing after all!
Okay, then let’s apply that same conclusion to our workforce. If they are continuing to quit in large numbers, the reinforcers and motivating variables are lacking. Something is wrong, something is off. And as owners, bosses, managers, and stakeholders in this conversation (supervising BCBAs may not actively hire or employ RBTs, but we can certainly advocate and speak up for them in the workplace) we need to do better for our highly important RBT workforce.
So, what do RBTs want?
Heck, I don’t know. 😊
You need to ask THEM that. Individually. Consistently. Intentionally. At the onset of employment. As well as on a recurring basis once they take the job.
Don’t wait for people to become unhappy and dissatisfied and only then start pouring on the incentives, gift cards, and bonuses. Be proactive and intentional about building a strong workforce, demonstrating value (link), and probing individual employee preferences and reinforcers, so that the workplace can be an enjoyable setting (and reinforcing stimulus) for the people wo work there.
…… Or it’s highly likely they won’t work there for long.
This piece originally appeared at www.iloveaba.com.
About the Author
Tameika Meadows, BCBA
“I’ve been providing ABA therapy services to young children with Autism since early 2003. My career in ABA began when I stumbled upon a flyer on my college campus for what I assumed was a babysitting job. The job turned out to be an entry level ABA therapy position working with an adorable little boy with Autism. This would prove to be the unplanned beginning of a passionate career for me.
From those early days in the field, I am now an author, blogger, Consultant/Supervisor, and I regularly lead intensive training sessions for ABA staff and parents. If you are interested in my consultation services, or just have questions about the blog: contact me here.”