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Identifying the Function of Staff Performance Issues

By Noelle Drake
July 20, 2020
1 Comment

Functional assessment is a critical component to creating and implementing function-based treatment. This is standard practice in the assessment of challenging behavior of the individuals we serve. Staff may also engage in challenging behaviors such as tardiness, missing meetings, or not completing required tasks or paperwork. When managing staff performance issues, it can be too easy to jump to writing someone up and having them meet with human resources. Staff performance issues should be identified using functional assessment. Carr et al. (2013) created the Performance Diagnostic Checklist – Human Services (PDC – HS) to assess and identify the variables that contribute to staff performance issues.

What is the PDC – HS?

The PDC-HS is an assessment that supervisors can complete to identify environmental factors that contribute to staff performance issues and implement targeted interventions based on the specific function (Carr et al., 2013).

The PDC-HS is a checklist with 20 questions organized into 4 domains:
a) Training
b) Task Clarification & Prompting
c) Resources, Materials, & Processes
d) Performance Consequences, Effort, and Competition

Many questions can be answered based on report by the staff’s supervisor while 7 questions require direct observation (Carr et al., 2013). Questions are answered either yes or no. Each question scored as no is a possible area of intervention. Domains with multiple items scored no should be prioritized first for intervention. Intervention options and literature are provided for each potential function/domain.

How can it help?

It is critical for supervisors to use systematic tools to identify staff performance issues. It can be all too easy to become busy and implement punitive strategies to try to fix staff behavior problems. By using a systematic assessment such as the PDC-HS, it can help supervisors be more effective by:

  1. Saving time
  2. Reducing punitive consequences
  3. Improving staff performance

Supervisors can save time by targeting an intervention to address the specific staff deficit. This saves time by only targeting the specific issue and not providing extra training or instruction for areas that are not indicated in the assessment.

A staff performance assessment can also reduce the use of punitive consequences such as getting a “write up”, a note in their file, or sending an email to human resources. These consequences do not teach a new behavior (ie; staff member performs the task correctly next time). Sometimes supervisors may change the staff’s schedule or tasks to avoid the performance issue. Instead, the PDC-HS helps by identifying the specific concern and targeting the concern with a tailored intervention to solve the issue.

Not only does the PDC-HS reduce the need for punitive consequences, it identifies areas for supervisors to teach staff so that they can be successful with their job. Punitive consequences create an environment where supervisors are looking for behaviors to criticize. However, teaching staff the skills to be successful at work creates a collaborative environment where supervisors support their staff and reinforce positive behaviors.

Supervisors should use an assessment such as the PDC-HS when considering how to manage staff challenging behavior. Using a simple and quick assessment can save time, create a supportive workplace, and improve staff performance. When staff are performing at their best, we can provide effective treatments and quality outcomes to benefit the individuals we serve.


Carr, J.E., Wilder, D.A., Majdalany, L., Mathisen, D., and Strain, L.A. (2013). An assessment-based solution to a human-service employee performance problem: An initial evaluation of the Performance Diagnostic Checklist – Human Services. Behavior Analysis in Practice, 6(1), 16-32.

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