Employment consultants devote nearly half (44%) of their day to administrative or nonemployment related activities, which includes things like authorizations, reporting, and billing tasks, according to a year-long study published in the Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation. These are tasks that detract from their core work as an employment consultant.
By contrast, only about 30% of their work time — roughly 2.4 hours a day — is spent providing supports that lead to job seekers finding work.
“As regulatory requirements have increased, so has the amount of information that must be collected and reported. Some of that administrative burden trickles down to direct service staff, which takes away time to be with the individual and the family,” says Mary Lynn Revoir, co-director of the American Dream Employment Network (ADEN) and a former employment agency director.
While almost half their work day was gobbled up by administrative tasks, employment consultants who assist job seekers with disabilities also spend a significant portion of their day supporting individuals after hire.
The study of 61 employment consultants — otherwise known as employment specialists, job developers, or rehabilitation counselors — also found about a quarter (26%) of employment consultants’ day was spent providing job coaching and other support post-hire. This means in total, employment consultants spend about 4.4 hours per day directly supporting individuals.
In other words: For every billable hour, employment consultants spend almost another full hour on non-billable tasks during their work day.
This is partially due to the hoops many providers have to jump through to be paid. It can also be due to the fact that service providers sometimes can’t afford a full-time administrative person to manage these tasks, leaving direct support professionals to shoulder more and more paperwork.
“If your funding isn’t able to absorb additional costs, some of these administrative positions like quality assurance are not going to get funded,” says Mary Lynn.
It may come as a surprise to some that the largest share of employment services were provided in a consultant’s office (41%), as opposed to the expected community settings (25%) or workplaces (18%).
One possible explanation has to do with the amount of pre-planning work that goes into landing a job.
“The supports provided include a lot of job searching, resume building, practicing for interviews, and so on — which if you or I were looking for a job, we’d do at home, not in the community,” observes Jocelyn Leatherman, SETWorks Client Success Manager, who served nearly seven years at IDD agencies.
It’s worth noting that this survey was conducted prior to the pandemic, so the percentage of supports delivered from the office could be even higher today, due to the rise of virtual services which enable employment consultants to support clients in the community without ever leaving their desks.
According to a separate study from ANCOR, nearly 8 in 10 providers are having to turn people away from services because they don’t have enough staff. Yet, this survey suggests that the average employment consultant only spends about half their day directly supporting clients.
Now, imagine if you could increase this time just a little. What if they were directly supporting clients for six or even seven hours per day? How many more people could you serve?
One solution is to simplify administrative processes so that employment consultants have more time for providing direct support to job seekers. This means streamlining time-sucking tasks like scheduling, documentation, and billing.
Technology can have a real impact in this area. By using SETWorks’ disability service software to manage their programs, providers reduced administrative work and increased their billable time on average from 4 hours to 6 hours per staff per day.
For example, when AtWork!, an employment service provider in Washington, started using SETWorks to streamline workflows, they were able to meet their target goal of 6.5 billable hours per day for each employment consultant.
Likewise, Project Hire was able to achieve 80% billability by tossing paper records in favor of SETWorks’ simple, mobile-friendly system. ”Our billable percentages are better than they ever have been, and we’re operating more efficiently than we ever have been,” says Project Hire Director Adam Kubler.
The right technology can also give employment consultants more freedom to deliver services when and where they’re needed. With SETWorks, Project Hire staff are able to provide support in the community or on the job without having to drive back and forth to the office to turn in paperwork.
“We have 30 staff members, and I’m the only one with a desk,” says Adam. “Everybody else is out in the field 100% of the time.” After all, isn’t that where they should be?
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