Using Performance Feedback to Increase the Billable Hours of Social Workers a Multiple Baseline Evaluation

By Clayton, Michael C.; Hayes, Linda J. | The Behavior Analyst Today, Winter 2004 | Go to article overview

Using Performance Feedback to Increase the Billable Hours of Social Workers a Multiple Baseline Evaluation


Clayton, Michael C., Hayes, Linda J., The Behavior Analyst Today


One of the most frequent staff interventions is performance feedback. Programmatic simplicity, low cost, flexibility, and relative consistency have contributed to its popularity. The present study provided performance feedback to six social workers working in an intermediate care facility for the mentally retarded in an attempt to increase staff productivity and self-management skills. Graphical feedback was presented using a multiple baseline across subjects design. Feedback conveyed past, present, and future performance, and allowed recipients to better manage their time. Results suggest that performance feedback was effective, producing increases of about 10%, and that self-management and consumer satisfaction were also important aspects of the study.

Descriptors: performance feedback; OBM; self-management skills; human service settings

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The focus of organizational behavior management (OBM) is the use of behavior analytic principles and procedures to enhance performance in the work place. From the point of view of applied behavior analysis and human services, OBM focuses on improving the operation of human service agencies by maximizing the quality of staff work performance (Reid & Parsons, 2000). OBM has been used to improve staff performance in residential (Parsons, Reid, & Green, 1993) and day programs (Fleming & Sulzer-Azaroff, 1992) serving both children (Hundert, 1982) and adults (Sigafoos, Roberts, Couzens, & Caycho, 1992) in both the public (Suda & Miltenberger, 1993) and private sectors (Boudreau, Christian, & Thibadeau, 1993) of service provision. Most importantly, improvements in staff performance resulting from OBM applications are accompanied by improvements in measures of client welfare (Fleming & Reile, 1993).

One of the most popular ways in which staff performance has been augmented is by utilizing performance feedback (Komaki, Barwick, & Scott, 1978; Sulzer-Azaroff, 1978; Balcazar, Shupert, Daniels, Mawhinney, & Hopkins, 1989). Programmatic simplicity, low cost, flexibility, and relative consistency have made performance feedback an attractive procedure. An initial review of the literature (Balcazar, Hopkins, & Suarez, 1986) found that feedback did not uniformly improve performance, but that consistency was improved by pairing feedback with additional consequences for performing well. A more recent review (Alvero, Bucklin, & Austin, 2001) extended the previous work up until the present, and found that the consistency was most improved by pairing feedback with antecedents (i.e., goal-setting). Performance feedback has been used with populations as diverse as hockey teams (Anderson, Crowell, Domen, & Howard, 1988) and bank tellers (Crowell, Anderson, Abel, & Sergio, 1988), the electric utility industry (Petty, Singleton, & Connell, 1992), roofing crews (Austin, Kessler, & Riccobono, 1996) and the Russian textile industry (Welsh, Luthans, & Sommer, 1993), and with nursing home staff (Hawkins, Burgio, Lanford, & Engel, 1992) and hotel banquet staff (LaFleur & Hyten, 1995).

The vast majority of OBM research conducted to date has targeted the performance of paraprofessional or direct-care staff in human service agencies. In contrast, the performance of professional staff (other than teachers) has been the focus of OBM investigations much less frequently (Reid & Parsons 2000; Reid, Parsons, & Green, 1989). Professional staff in human services typically includes nurses, doctors, case managers, social workers, vocational counselors, speech pathologists, psychologists, and occupational/physical therapists. In a recent review of 244 OBM studies conducted since 1984 in settings serving people with developmental disabilities, only two investigations involving professional staff other than teachers were identified (Schell, 1998).

Successful applications with psychiatric nurses (Ayllon & Michael, 1959), as well as other professional staff (Feldstein & Feldstein, 1990; Page, Iwata, & Reid, 1982) suggest that further such investigations are warranted. …

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