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Recognizing DSPs Through The Kudos Program

Submitted By: Cassie Foxen, Staff Communications and Development Director, Imagine The Possibilities, Inc.

Imagine The Possibilities, Inc. understands the importance of employee recognition as it relates to job performance and overall satisfaction. Imagine wanted to create a way for employees to feel valued, let others know about their good work, and show appreciation for their contributions. As multiple agencies came together several years ago to create Imagine the Possibilities, Inc., each agency had their own way of celebrating and recognizing employees. As the agency became larger, it was difficult to use a physical token of recognition along with no way for employees to later view the positive comments.

Imagine’s COO Tiffany Higgins wanted to take the agency to the next level and incorporated the various recognition ideas into one cohesive rewards program called Kudos, with the addition of peer-to-peer feedback and earning points for ‘Swag’ or money. The Kudos Program is Imagine the Possibilities Inc.’s initiative which provides employees with opportunities to acknowledge others and be recognized for their everyday work, while celebrating one another’s success as we strive towards our mission of “individual achievement.”

Employees of Imagine can give ‘Kudos’ to their colleagues with the structure of The Kudos Program based on the Olympic Metal system. Bronze, Silver, and Gold have a different value assigned to each level including verbal/written feedback, a points system, or a dollar amount – respectively. For Imagine The Possibilities, Inc., all employees can give Kudos at the Bronze and Silver levels, while the Gold level can only be submitted by organizational leadership.

  1. Bronze – Verbal/written feedback
  2. Silver – Points in the amounts of 25, 50, or 100. For this points system, employees can choose from items listed in the ‘Kudos Catalog.’
  3. Gold – Monetary values in the amounts of $25, $50, $100, or $250.

Impact Of The Program

At an organizational level, the program has created a culture of appreciation, with employees on the lookout for the positive things that happen every day. It helps employees feel valued and also identify opportunities to work more collaboratively, be willing to go the extra mile, and see the good in each other.

“It feels really good when you aren’t expecting anything and you are emailed that someone noticed what you did.”

Kelsey L., Direct Support Professional

At an individual level, it has allowed DSPs to receive valuable, positive feedback from their supervisors and co-workers as well as earn additional points or money for stepping up. It creates a culture with our workforce of being valued and recognized. We see people more willing to pick up shifts and feeling more connected to their team, in areas that use Kudos more frequently and consistently.

Steps To Implement A Similar DSP Program

By following the actions outline below, an agency could work to develop their own recognition program to promote the positive contributions of their employees.

  1. Develop categories/criteria for when someone should receive Kudos. Imagine used its values for the criteria.
  2. Create levels of Kudos based on staff contributions, assign the value of each of the levels, and determine who can submit Kudos at each of the levels.
  3. Identify a method for collecting information about Kudos submissions and recipients. This could include electronic platforms like an LMS/HR system and/or the use of PDF forms.
  4. Determine the personnel and time needed for your program. Imagine hired a staff person with the primary responsibility of running the program.
  5. Develop regional budget allotments for each level/type of Kudos.
  6. Identify stores/businesses to purchase items and develop a purchasing system with this entity.
  7. Create certificate templates for relevant levels and establish a method for presenting these in the workplace.
  8. Introduce new employees to the program through the orientation process. Find ways for new employees to receive feedback via Kudos early on in their employment.
  9. Develop ways to remind and engage employees about Kudos throughout the year. This could include an annual calendar of events for extra points to be gained for cultural engagement – crosswords, group crafts, scavenger hunts, etc. Additional points could be applied for birthdays and work anniversaries.

Challenges You May Encounter

Running a rewards system is fulfilling, but also time consuming. Without a computer system/application to manage the Kudos submissions and recipients, the time that it takes to administer the program can be overwhelming at first. It may be important to have this as a dedicated job duty with time allotted for these tasks. It is important that staff can expect program consistency over time.

Keeping things simple and accessible is a must! It can be difficult to get employees to use the program if the process is cumbersome. Imagine has worked to continue to improve the process over time to make it as easy as possible and accessible. It is important that employees see their leadership using the program and receive feedback from their leaders.

Developing a storage or warehousing system is important to figure out. On the fulfillment side of the program, the purchasing and warehousing can present logistical challenges with space and shipping costs. Imagine is currently working to secure a partnership with a company to warehouse and distribute items. Otherwise, items must be stored at an Imagine location to be able to secure bulk discount pricing. Then, additional time is needed for the repackaging and shipping of items.

About Imagine The Possibilities, Inc.

Imagine The Possibilities, Inc. is committed to providing quality community-based services to people with disabilities. Individuals served are connected with person-centered services that enhance capabilities in environments that promote dignity and respect for all. The organization’s primary focus is to enhance each person’s quality of life through “Individual Achievement.” Imagine the Possibilities, Inc. is now one of the largest organizations in Iowa providing a variety of services and service locations to people with developmental disabilities. The scope and size of the organization brings a wealth of knowledge, experience, and choices in order to provide the best quality services to people supported.

2021 National DSP Recognition Week

For 2021 National DSP Recognition Week, CQL and NADSP are sharing specific organization-wide initiatives that lift up and bolster direct support professionals (DSPs) throughout the entire year. These include significant, long-lasting, and meaningful actions that have far-reaching effects on DSPs. By sharing these initiatives, other human service providers can both learn about and replicate these efforts to build up the DSP workforce. This is also an opportunity to highlight the programs your organization has developed to strengthen DSPs.

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Since 1969, CQL | The Council on Quality and Leadership has been a leader in working with human service organizations and systems to continuously define, measure, and improve quality of life and quality of services for youth, adults, and older adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and psychiatric disabilities. CQL offers accreditation, training, certification, research, and consultation services to agencies that share our vision of dignity, opportunity, and community for all people.