Hiring and Retaining Talent: Reducing Turnover in ABA Therapy

The ability to attract and maintain top talent is a crucial factor in the growth of most companies. This principle holds true for the ABA therapy industry as well. Despite the notable growth of ABA professionals, as reported by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) 2022 Annual Data Report– certifying 59,976 BCBAs and 130,273 RBTs, a significant challenge in hiring and retaining talent in the ABA field persists.

Employee Retention Equals Growth

When a company masters the art of keeping employees for extended periods, it signifies both employee and client satisfaction, as well as business growth. A high volume of employee retention directly impacts the organization’s productivity and business performance. This is especially valuable for companies, particularly startups, as retaining employees is more cost-effective than recruiting, which incurs substantial expenses related to onboarding and training. 

Despite this principle, high turnover rates are heavily impacting the growing ABA therapy industry. According to the 2022 ABA Compensation & Turnover Report presented by BHCOE Accreditation, the turnover median in the Applied Behavior Analysis field is one year for Behavioral Technician/RBT– an average of 65% in 2021 for direct care staff. In contrast, for a company to foster continuous growth, it is suggested to have an average turnover rate of 10% or less. Clearly, not having a hiring and retaining talent strategy in place has contributed to the drastic increase in the turnover rate in ABA therapy, thereby affecting its ability to sustain a healthy growth rate.

Understanding the Unmet Needs of RBTs and BCBAs

In the ABA therapy industry recruitment aspect, clinics tend to clearly outline the candidate’s skill requirements to fulfill a position, such as certifications and previous experience in the field. However, what clinics fail to prioritize is the needs, requirements, and professional goals direct care staff have in mind when applying for a job in this field. For this reason, RBTs and BCBAs are increasingly voicing their concerns regarding the need for a better work environment. There are online forums and social media accounts dedicated to fostering conversations aimed at improving the working conditions in these professions. Common issues discussed in conversations about job applications in the ABA field include better pay, respect for their careers, and guaranteed hours and benefits.

In particular, RBTs often grapple with inconsistent hours and frequent cancellations, consequently affecting their work-life balance. Furthermore, training for RBTs is almost nonexistent and the lack of peer support is palpable, making it difficult for them to cope with the demands of direct care staff. Many Registered Behavioral Technicians share their discontent about their compensation inadequately reflecting the effort they invest in each session with their clients, especially given the daily challenging work conditions.

Building a Proactive Approach for ABA Therapy Recruitment and Retention

More often than not, clinic owners and directors know what they want from the staff and have an idea of the skills they need, but what they need is a clear plan to retain talent. Besides having a competitive compensation package, there are other factors a hiring and retaining strategy must contain:

  • Onboarding new hires: RBTs, in particular, are usually less experienced and, therefore, less confident than other professionals in this field. A detailed weekly onboarding plan outlining the clinic’s culture and policies, job responsibilities and expectations, setting time aside for the new hire to meet the team, and feedback sessions helps your clinic keep tabs on ensuring a smooth welcoming of the new team member so that they feel confident and safe in their new work environment. 
  • Ongoing training and feedback sessions: Reinforce your staff’s confidence and desire to continue impacting lives. Developing online accessible training resources is highly suggested, as RBTs and BCBAs can revisit the material whenever needed. Equally important, create a safe environment to foster open and transparent communication channels between staff and management so your team feels supported and more confident in the work they deliver. 
  • Improve consistency in work shifts and scheduling: As mentioned earlier, one of the significant challenges for RBTs is the inconsistency in hours and paychecks. As an ABA clinic owner, ensure that the new hire agrees with the hours you proposed during the interview– be transparent. Implementing software for case management with scheduling tools can reduce client cancellations and schedule gaps. That way, your staff works the hours you agreed on when you hired them. Platforms like ABA Matrix make it easy to schedule multiple weeks and months with just a few clicks, all while preventing any overlaps.

As an ABA Therapy clinic owner, prioritizing the well-being and support of your staff is the cornerstone of success. By nurturing a content and confident team, you not only reduce turnover rates in your clinic but also elevate the quality of care provided to your clients, all while achieving your organizational mission and business goals. Remember, when you invest in your staff, you invest in the future of your clinic.