Using Organizational Behavior Management in ABA organizations: Interview with Shannon Biagi

Organizational Behavior Management is the science of human behavior, what you know of reinforcement, punishment, and motivating operations applied with staff. Shannon Biagi, BCBA and OBM practitioner, joins us on the podcast today to discuss the gap in HR where ABA businesses are having retention and burnout. I’ve said it before in my episode on the four myths and truths of ABA, ABA is a science used every day. Shannon explains that OBM is the same way, using basic ABA principles with employees both in and out of the autism space.

When discussing OBM and how it can affect the workplace environment, I was able to think of some pretty negative provider and teacher situations right away. Aversive control is a problem that affects performance and workplace relationships. We discuss a few different perspectives that come to the same point of moving the ratio of positive and negative interactions to higher positives. When using aversive control, threats of punishment, and ultimately having poor rapport, that employee is not going to perform or is only going to perform when you’re there to avoid punishment. This is especially a problem for ABA settings in which your employees are alone in the home with the clients. Employees respond just like clients to positive reinforcement and the goal is to have the desired performance whether you’re watching them or not.

Knowing the information about poor workplace environments, how can you as a parent choose a provider or you as a professional choose a clinic to work for? Shannon says a tip is to take note of the way the facility trains its employees. Are they giving them a 1-2 day orientation and sending them off on their own? Or are they nurturing their staff and providing extended support? My advice for professionals is to ask to shadow at a facility for a few hours or a day to get an idea of how the place operates and how they treat their staff.

The ABA field is facing a very low retention rate, mostly caused by burnout. Ultimately, this is because leadership skills are severely lacking. We do not know how to support our staff. So ultimately this is the goal of OBM, turning workplace environments into teaching these skills that aren’t taught in school or in training. The basics are covered in Shannon’s Performance Management Basics Program, which is available to BCBAS as 9 CEUs for $99.

Shannon’s mission is to improve the world at work, one behavior change agent at a time. Her advice to parents and professionals out there is to be kind to yourself. Take a look around and determine what about your environment is causing your behavior because you are not a bad person. I think that part of improving your life is looking at it in a more systematic way. OBM can be the key to this. I truly learned a lot this episode and hope you have as well.


Shannon Biagi is the CEO and founder of Chief Motivating Officers, LLC, an organization dedicated to improving the world at work, one behavior change agent at a time. Through her work as an organizational behavior management (OBM) practitioner and educator, she has enacted positive behavior change in numerous organizations worldwide, and has influenced the professional development of thousands of leaders through speaking opportunities, training engagements, performance management solutions, and executive coaching/mentorship. She is a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst, and an all-but-dissertation PhD dropout. In support of the growing community of practitioners, Shannon also volunteers her time as the director of operations of the largest OBM-focused professional development organization in the world –The OBM Network. Finally, she is an adjunct professor at the University of West Florida, teaching graduate students ethical decision-making, supervision, and leadership skills.


  • How to find a good provider for parents and professionals.
  • The problem with aversive control.
  • The importance of positivity in the workplace.
  • Dealing with retention and burnout in the field.

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Transcript for Podcast Episode: 136
Using Organizational Behavior Management in ABA: Interview with Shannon Biagi
Hosted by: Dr. Mary Barbera
Guest: Shannon Biagi

Mary: You're listening to the Turn Autism Around podcast, and I'm your host, Dr. Mary Barbera. Today, I have interviewed Shannon Biagi, who is a board-certified behavior analyst and an OBM practitioner, that is organizational behavior management. We are talking all about how to find a good provider, whether you're a parent or a new professional trying to get into the ABA world. We talk about things like aversive control, how to be more positive. We talk about retention, a little bit about burnout. It's a really fascinating discussion. So let's get to this important interview with Shannon Biagi.

Welcome to the Turn Autism Around podcast. For both parents and professionals in the autism world who want to turn things around, be less stressed and lead happier lives. And now your host, autism mom, behavior analyst, and bestselling author, Dr. Mary Barbara.

Mary: So, Shannon, it's so nice to have you here today.

Shannon: I'm so excited to be here. Thank you for making the time and navigating your current situation over there.

Mary: Yeah. So Shannon is in Florida, so we got kind of reamed out with it with a hurricane, tropical storm from last week. And then this week, all of a sudden we had some lightning and my electricity went out. So I'm actually relocated into my parent's condo, which is right down the street. And since my parents are big time podcast fans, shout out to the location loan for the day. So we are going to talk with Shannon all about organizational behavior management. And that may sound really technical, but I will say that we are going to be talking to both parents and professionals out there. So let's start the same way we usually do describe your fall into the autism world.

How Shannon Got Started:

Shannon: Yeah. So a lot of folks don't know that. I did start in the autism space. I kind of fell into it through getting a degree in psychology. It was a bit of an accident. Originally, I was a neuroscience major at Florida State and I transferred down to the University of Central Florida because my father had some health issues and I came back to support him and they didn't have a neuroscience program. So the closest thing I had for transfer credits was a degree in psychology. So when you're a fresh college student, I think a lot of folks who end up in the field have somewhat of a similar story. I would say probably have you up with a degree in psychology going, what do I do with this? And I stumbled into an adult day training facility for adults with autism and developmental disabilities. And I had remembered all these terms like unconditioned reinforcement and all of these, these terms. And I was like, whoa, we can actually use this. I thought this was just an academic thing. So I stumbled and started working with adults with with autism and developmental disabilities, getting out into the community, teaching them job skills, and slowly started to get more into, well, I can impact my client that I'm working with, or if I create a new system, I'm actually influencing all of the technicians or the specialists. So when I would put these systems in, the company would adopt it and I'd see those impacts and I was like, well, what if I change the way that everybody's and I just kept, like, moving up a little bit. A little bit. A little bit to the point where I'm like, well, if I impact all the BCBAs, I impact all the specialists. And then if I impact the CEO and I can impact multiple CEOs, I impact all the BCBAs and all the specialists. And that's when I discovered that OBM was really kind of where it was at for me, was I could reach that many more people through using the same science, essentially.

Mary: OK, so around what year was this when you kind of fell into that OBM world?

Shannon: So I, I fell into autism I think around twenty fourteen and then I started doing most of my OBM work very shortly after, probably two years after that, maybe when I was doing OBM exclusively for about eight years now.

Mary: OK, so tell our listeners what OBM is.

What is Organizational Behavior Management:

Shannon: So organizational behavior management is the science of human behavior, what you know of reinforcement, punishment, motivating operations, the consequences, all that good stuff. But we apply it with staff essentially. So we are bridging the gap between things like human resources, business and what we know works as far as influencing human behavior. So that's kind of the short, long and short of it. I do a lot of work in staff retention and satisfaction and processes efficiency, ultimately driving towards an increase in quality of service and mitigating burnout, which has been just a huge issue, particularly in this human service space.

Mary: Right. So OBM is organizational behavior management and it is basically using ABA, but using it with any employee even outside of the autism space. It has a lot of, like you said, human resource field approaches to training and retention. And I was telling Shannon before we started the record button, because we don't, we've never met in person. And we I just have heard about Shannon's work. She's heard about my work. So I really do want to tie it together for our audience because this is kind of a different topic for us. But I've always been drawn to the OBM part of ABA because I before I knew what ABA was, I had a master's degree in nursing administration from Penn and I was a nurse manager at University of Pennsylvania and then at a rehab center and then at Jefferson and really started my work as a researcher and writer and presenter in nursing administration, which was retention time management shift to shift report. I was in staff development and continuing education for a while and I didn't even know what ABA was at that point. But I was drawn to administrative, kind of the same things you are drawn to when you started working with those adults with autism, which is really fascinating. So I even did my whole PhD dissertation on training in the use of fluency based procedures to improve training, which we can link in the show notes for this episode. So I didn't realize until I started going to the ABA conferences in two thousand and four that OBM is actually a separate subgroup of ABA. Is that how you would describe it?

Shannon: Yeah.So ABA is kind of this overarching science or philosophical approach to things, and under ABA you have things like clinical, so individuals, autism, developmental disabilities, you've got animal behavior, you've got all these subdisciplines and OBM is one of those. So we're kind of parallel to the clinical piece. Our applications look very different, but the foundation science is all the same stuff essentially.

Mary: Yeah. So if you are if there are BCBAs listening or people with psychology degrees, how do you become specialized in OBM?

Shannon: So there isn't a lot of regulation right now of OBM as a practice area because to make things even more complicated, OBM has a bunch of subdisciplines within it. So there is performance management which looks at individual performer behavior. There's behavioral systems analysis which looks at organizational systems, there's consumer behavior of how do we sell things using behavior, analytic concepts and principles. And it goes on. And on so. Because it's such a broad area, there's been a lot of pushback in the OBM space to have a more formal credential because what do you test on similar to as a behavior analyst? We've kind of honed in on a very specific application of ABA, and that's what the BCBA, the board certification tests on in OBM. Well, do we test on systems or safety or performance management or change management? It's a bit too broad. So the Obama space in general hasn't really come to an agreement on that. And a lot of folks even push back against Sebas getting into OBM because the BCB, a curriculum that's typically being taught in universities, is so focused on the clinical aspect. So I was fortunate enough to go through an Obama program. So my master's degree is in both applied behavior analysis and organizational behavior management. It was the longest title stated at graduation when they announced what your degree is for.

Mary: And where was that degree from?

Shannon: Florida Institute of Technology. So I was on campus at FIT.

Mary: I did a lecture down at FIT. That was many years ago. And I think that's still available under the CEU credential or whatever. But there are very few programs out there that are ABA plus OBM like a handful or two handfuls or you're not sure

Shannon: We did a review and I know it's a little outdated now, but I think it was 20, 16 where we looked at all academic programs accredited under ABA and we found that I think six of them offered OBM coursework, let alone not. There wasn't any. There were there are very few places you can major in it. So Western Michigan University, North Texas, Florida Tech, a few others out there. But it's so, so limited, which is why a lot of what I do is trying to get the information out there, because the level of burnout in the field of ABA in general is staggering. And OBM has a lot of the tools that you can use to help mitigate that. So I put stuff out there that's cheap and easy to access to try to increase those behaviors in clinicians. In twenty nineteen, between twenty eighteen and 19, I visited 60 ABA clinics across the United States and abroad. I was on one hundred and nineteen planes in a single year. Wow. Getting into these organizations and I learned a lot. I learned about a lot about what the needs are. And there's just there's a huge deficit in a lot of these organizations if they can't generalize what they know of ABA to how they treat their staff. So there's a lot of aversive control being used, a lot of negative reinforcement threats. And that doesn't create a healthy work environment and it doesn't create healthy clinical relationships with clients. So I don't know why we so quickly use that with staff.

What is Aversive Control and How Does it Affect the Workplace?

Mary: Yeah, and and I think I'd like to talk a little bit more about aversive control. And I saw that a lot as a BCBA working when I was working for the Verbal Behavior Project, which is now known as the Pattern Autism ABA supports initiative is I would go into classrooms and I remember this one story and I don't know if I've told it on any other podcast, but I think it's a good one to talk about right now. But I was doing a site review and the tension in the classroom was like crazy bad. Right. And the kids all seem to be OK. They were passing their little rubrics with three graphs or whatever, but the teacher was barking at the assistants in the classroom. And afterwards I sat down with her and the consultant for the classroom. And I was not privy to being in the classroom on a day to day basis or week to week basis. I was just coming in for one time review and I sat down with them and I said that negativity and the tension here is, is you could visibly cut it with a knife kind of thing. And I said, you really just like Glenn Latham talks about in positive parenting behind the schoolhouse door. We've done a whole podcast episode on that with ABA inside track folks. And we can link that on the show notes. But Glenn Latham, I talk about him a lot in my podcast and my books, but he was a great, great human being. And he had a PhD in education. He wasn't a behavioral analyst, but he recommended five to eight positives to every negative for everybody, for staff, for students, for parents. And this woman, this teacher, I mean, she was a well-meaning teacher, she was just barking and negative, negative, negative to the staff. And I said I gave her that analogy and I said, you really need to flip this ratio around and be a lot more positive with your staff. And she said, well, I don't even know what to say because they don't do anything right. And I'm like, oh, well, you know, they're doing a lot, right? I said, even if you can't stand somebody, you need to turn it around. If you have to work with them, you need to be positive. I said you could start out with I like your shirt. Those are really pretty earrings. I mean, I know this sounds really like why would you want to start there? But you got to start with something and you cannot be barking at them and giving them. You did that wrong. I told you to be five minutes early for library class like all this. Negative, negative, negative. And six months later, I did go back and she had really she had checked herself and turned things around. But aversive control is basically punishing or the threat of punishment, which is really outlined in a book by Sid Murray called Coercion and it's Fallout. I'm sure you're familiar with that book. But anything our whole every system is based on aversive control, like the whole criminal justice system, the whole education system. Everything is kind of like the way it was in nineteen fifty where a parent would just yell at a kid or spank a kid. And I think a lot of grown ups who are schooled that way and have systems in their lives like that, they just don't know better.

Shannon: Right. Yeah. And I would say that there's some signs that you can look for. So if your staff members snap to when a leader comes in the room rather than consistently performing the way that they need to, that's what positive reinforcement does, is even when you're not in the room, people will perform, do what they need to do. When you're operating off of aversive control, they do what they need to do while you're there, which is a huge issue, particularly in ABA, in clinical ABA, because some of our folks are our staff members are working alone in people's homes. So if you have to be in the room in order for that to happen, your behavior plan is an expensive stack of paper. So you have to create an environment in which it's just rich and positive reinforcement. And I wanted to touch on rapport. Leaders have to have rapport with people in order to be able to give that feedback. So you were talking about barking and telling them all the things that are bad. And I lean a little bit on Dr. Brennan Brown's work here because she talks about the marble ja- and she talks about the marble jar. And she says for every positive interaction you have with somebody, you're putting the marble in that jar. And then when you have to give them constructive feedback, you're basically taking a handful out, not a one to one ratio here. So that's why that five, five to eight to one or Aubree Daniels says a four to one ratio of positive to constructive because you need to have that credit in the jar. And it sounds like the leader that you're talking about didn't have any marbles in the jar, no positive interactions. So when you go to give that constructive feedback, there's nothing there and you're basically taking the jar and just dropping it on the floor and it breaks and you don't have a relationship. So people will not perform that way. People will not do what they need to do. They'll do it while you're in the room to escape punishment. But that's it. And I don't think that's how we should be operating as a field. And we know better. We know this with clients. We just need to generalize over to staff.

Choosing the Right Provider:

Mary: And to parents if you're especially if you're working in the home. But, yeah, everybody and even parent to parent, there's a lot of parents listening. If you even if you don't aren't in the autism world, just say you have a two year old typically developing toddler and you are going to choose a daycare setting and you go into daycare and that teacher is like, stop it, or I'm putting the jumper away. I told you that crisscross applesauce, knock it off. You know, get your you're not keeping your hands to yourself. All these negative, negative, negative. And then you go into classroom B and it's I like the way you shared that's so great that you're standing with your arms by your side. Everybody gets five points marbles in the jar. We're going to celebrate. You hopefully are going to just instinctively think, if I were a two year old, which environment would I rather be in? And so whether your daycare is that positive or negative or whether you're home, I think a lot of people are really stressed out, especially with covid that, you know, you don't even catch yourselves. Kind of going down that negativity road, even with your spouse, constant nagging. There's a really great book that I want to link in the show, notes I would love to have this author on. And the book is What Shamu Taught Me About Life, Love and Marriage by Amy Sutherland, which is a great book. Just to show that this is across the board in clinics and home programs at Wal-Mart, being a worker, being a customer, whatever. Wherever you go, these principles are happening. Reinforcement of birth control, punishment where we're not talking about punishment being spanking, we're just talking about punishment, extinction. All this is happening. So people that say I just did a podcast a few weeks ago called The Four Myths about ABA because people think like ABA. Some people think it's bad. It's like it's a science. It's happening. It's just like gravity. You can not believe in it, but it is happening all around you. So, so, so, OK. So how do we know if we are in a situation that's aversive or how do we even select the place or select the provider? I mean, I gave the daycare example, but a lot of people are waiting in line and they don't have a choice to go looking around or you don't even have the ability to look for how is this going to be in my house? It's like you're to the front of the line. How do you know if they are going to provide a positive environment, an environment where people know what they're doing and you even want it, right?

Shannon: Yeah. So then when you're considering getting a provider, maybe you move maybe or you're just looking for somebody new, really pay attention to how they treat their people, pay attention to how do they train their staff, how long are their staff being trained for before they're put on their own? That's a huge issue that I'm seeing a lot of lately. As you get two days of training and then you're on your own with somebody's child in their home with no support, that's not going to result in quality service delivery to increase the outcomes for your child. If you notice a lot of those negative interactions and those threats, that means that person will do what they need to do while the supervisor is there or when you're in the room because you are available to tattletale on them, which you should be. Just there's a lot of indicators. How often are they being observed and how is their performance measured? As an OBM practitioner, I develop a lot of systems for measuring staff performance to it's collecting data. So we talk about collecting data with our clients. There's a ton of data that we can collect on staff without getting into micromanagement, which that's another extreme is either you've got no management, nobody shows up, they're kind of left off on their own or you have micromanagement where somebody is on the staff member all day long critiquing every small thing that they do. And there is a balance there that has to be struck. So there's definitely extremes that happen. So, yeah, there's a lot of different things. How often are staff getting feedback or are they collecting data to provide that feedback? And if there's no data collection related to staff, if training one, you need a training to begin with. If they're not monitoring skills afterward, then there's no way of knowing whether you're receiving quality services at that point.

Mary: Yeah, and I know within our community I have courses and communities from those courses. There's a lot of questions always like how do I find somebody that uses the term autism around approaches? Like, Wow, that's like at this point, unfortunately, it's like looking for a needle in a haystack, somebody that can come to your house or you could go to a clinic and it would be local and it would be paid for by insurance and that they would know not only about and not only just general positivity practices, then they would also know the verbal behavior approach, which is my first book and a lot of science before my first book, which basically talks about it, and then to know my more recent findings and my more recent four step toward autism around approach, to have all of that located in even a big city like Orlando, Florida, versus somewhere small or somewhere internationally is going to be really hard. And so what I usually tell people when they are looking for somebody or a provider is just search. Autism ABA verbal behavior, because I do believe that if you don't understand Skinner's analysis of verbal behavior and you're trying to program for a child with autism, you're not going to do very well. And then I prefer the baby map, so I might throw that in plus your city or state and just find somebody reasonable that's willing to work with the parent. That's the other thing is they could be OK with staffing and OK with performance appraisal. But if you're, like, not treating the parent as a key team member, that's going to be tough too. There's just so many variables, like the more I talk to you Shannon, the more that I'm thinking this is really complicated. Right?

Shannon: It definitely is. And with your interaction. So if I'm a parent and I'm interacting with my BCBA, are they willing to give me feedback? That's definitely an OBM skill. If they can't give feedback to staff, they're not going be able to give you feedback to help you do what you need to do better. If they're not training their staff, they're probably not providing you enough training to be able to do. You're essentially an employee in OBM terms. You would be an additional employee that needs all the same supports. And you also need to have that rapport with the provider before they start giving you a bunch of constructive feedback about the way that you do things. So it's all universal. It's just changing the actors in the play, essentially.

Important OBM Skills for the Workplace:

Mary: And some of the things that I'm hearing within my community, too, is people that have read my book or taking my courses is they are wanting to give feedback to the BCBA and their RBT and the kind of the roles are reversed and they're saying, why are we teaching prepositions and colors? Mary says in her courses, you need mending for sure. And then there's that imbalance of power that makes it even more complicated.

Shannon: Yeah. And I don't think we teach our clinicians well enough how to receive feedback. We the clinicians and remember, I was a provider. I'm not talking down about clinicians and we're responding to the environments and our own history as well, even as clinicians. But when a caregiver starts giving you feedback on what you're doing, if you immediately go to a place, this is well, I'm the expert. This person is stepping on my toes. They're trying to tell me how to do my job. That's not a great way to receive feedback. And we don't teach people enough in their course. Work on. Well, could you ask additional questions and say, OK, why do you feel this way? How can I make this better for you? Where's the social validity piece when caregivers come to us with concerns about the clinical programing and receiving feedback? I don't think I've ever seen anybody even do a module on it in a course. Yeah, it's an OBM skill deficit again.

Mary: Wow. So how would you respond, say, and you haven't read my book, you haven't, you don't really know my approach as of late. So what if somebody came to you and said, let's just say you were in in the autism space and you were programing and somebody came to you and said, you know, taking this course and you have the whole program laid out, your teaching colors, your teaching, tacting, your teaching, you anything, your timing, how long they wait for reinforcement, whatever you think is is the right way to go for this child. And the parent comes in and really questions like, how would you recommend people respond to that or how would you respond?

Shannon: It would really be information seeking to start. I think a lot of analysts get on the defensive immediately and say, well, that's not how I was taught. So for the clinicians out there to learn about it before you start critiquing it and see where it fits, because it may well be that there's there's conceptual differences, but the two can coexist or a lot of the things that you're already doing it again, I don't know I don't know the whole curriculum or the strategy, but very rarely are they entirely two opposing forces. And I think being open to learning about those things and saying, OK, well, why do I do it this way? Do I do it this way? Because that's how I was taught by people who learned their ABA stuff 30 years ago. Do I need to continue to be up on the literature and up on the changes that are happening in the field, that constant professional development? So if you're constantly just tossing out everything that comes your way because you were taught one way, that's not a very behavioral analytic approach to things. So we need to be open. So I would say the first thing you need to do, read the book, get the book, learn about it, see where are we differing, where are we the same? And are the changes warranted to use a cohesive system rather than piecing together what you learned in grad school?

Mary: Yeah, and I think and it doesn't have to be like this major empty out. Everything you've ever learned and switched is a completely different approach. Like I like what you said about rarely is it so polarized that as long as people can work together and listen to each other, I don't provide any specific feedback on the child. So it may be fine for them to be learning colors. And it's like it's this very kind of difficult situation because parents, of course, they want their child to do as well as possible. And we all want that. And it's hard because what I provide is more general guidelines on the four step approach. But somebody that has a seasoned background of 10, 20, 30 years or even two years, I'm not saying that you're wrong and I'm definitely right because I don't know the situation then you do. So there's not just working with families and being positive and open and listening and even searching, like if it were me and if it was something like I'm not familiar with the peak assessment or peak programming. So if somebody came to me and said, I want to add this from the peak program about teaching colors, I wouldn't be like, oh, well, I know exactly what to do with colors. And that must be wrong because I am right. I would search peak program, color program. And with my approach, there's lots of things online. So you could find Mary autism teaching colors and you probably find out my approach. Now it would be a little mini free version, but that might begin to peak your thoughts on oh, or maybe it's something we should look into and the course. Although parents take the courses, it's very much for professionals as well. And so it's really hard, I think, for the parent to take my course or the peak course or you have a course that you know, and then try to tell somebody else how to do things, because there's a lot in courses that you need to learn yourself and apply it with your own background. But we're going to talk about your course in a minute. So besides really getting rid of aversive control as much as possible, being more positive, looking at training systems and not just sitting in front of a computer learning, but more Chattaway, more being able to ask questions like there's a newer person with my son, Lucas. Today, we already when I took them both for an allergy shot because she had never done that. You know, I'm checking in with her before I came here to do your podcast interview. Do you have any questions where you're going to know what you're doing next, like being available? I think sometimes parents have this unrealistic expectation that they're going to get insurance and they're going to have ABA and they're going to have a diagnosis and everything is just going to be handed to them. Just like if you had cancer, you would be handed the treatment or maybe two options for treatment. But it's not like you would have to make a lot of calls and try to figure this out, which is unfortunately the case for Autism. But you're not going to have an RBT or BCBA or show up at your house that's going to know everything that you want them to know. And it's going to have to be a relationship that you develop, that you work together and that you are all working for the best outcome for this for the child.

Finding the Right Fit for You as a Professional:

Shannon: Right. I think the issue is exacerbated a little bit by the turnover in our field with a lot of new technicians. So sometimes as a caregiver, you've got brand new staff, especially when you're first starting up, because that's who we have. And our field has created a system in which we're constantly promoting people out of their current job role. So we want an RBT to pursue their BCBA or BCABA. So we're constantly influx of that direct care practitioner. So being patient with those folks, they're learning it's not an ideal, especially right now. The job market is not ideal. A lot of flux is happening, especially Aptos, those entry level roles. So just knowing they're going to need a little bit of extra support and some patience as they get up to speed on what's going on with your particular programs.

Mary: Yeah, and and you would probably give the same kind of advice where parents are evaluating whether this provider is going to be a good one for them. Also, these new RBT and new BCBAs, same thing, eyes wide open, look for aversive control. Ask if, I always recommend ask if you could shadow the job before you take it. I mean, is that common? Is that does that happen?

Shannon: So I've been promoting in the last few years the idea of a realistic job for you. So before you take on a job, see if they'll let you shadow somebody for a few hours in a day. Some of the training programs that I'm putting together with some of my clients, we're building that in even before you start receiving kind of more academic office type training, see what it looks like so that when we're telling you about these concepts and principles, you've seen it at least a little bit before. The problems come in of and in general with the field of ABA, we're so hung up on insurance funding and insurance funding doesn't fund a whole lot of upfront training. We need to get somebody on the job available. And I think companies in general need to build in a little bit more overhead cost to allow for that time. It's not it's not really fair to the clients. It's not fair to the new staff member to put somebody on and expect them to be able to perform their new job after two days of training.

Mary: Right. And and I think as a potential employee, when you're looking for a job, I would just be very much like I would like to come in on my own time and shadow somebody to make sure that this is the job for me, because it is it is frustrating for employers to get somebody and they do the 40 hours of training and then they get out in the field and it's like, this is not good and it can't help the turnover. Do you have any stats on turnover or burnout?

The High Level of ABA Retention and Burnout:

Shannon: Oh, man. The turnover for the field of ABA floats around 60 to 70 percent annual average year.

Mary: Wow.

Shannon: I've worked with companies upwards of one hundred and seventeen percent per year, which means they're literally turning over staff multiple times. It's not a good look for our field in general. And I think a lot of it is due to the fact that we don't have good leadership skills. We don't know how to support our staff. And it's hard work. It is. It is. It can be very, very difficult work. And if our BCBAs haven't been trained to provide support for technicians, they're typically very good at supporting the client. But your client is not just the direct service recipient. It's actually the people who are providing the services. You're responsible for their health, wellness, their. Also burn out as well. Our field has grown so fast that the clinical space, I think was eight hundred percent between twenty thirteen and twenty eighteen over the span of five or six years, eight hundred percent growth. Supervisors can't keep up with that kind of support when you've got this exponential curve. So I think that's also contributing to burnout as well.

Mary: Wow. And then you have different insurance companies requiring different training, different supervision, different billing, different funding, different. It's really there's no easy answers, easy solutions or fixes for this. And the COVID situation obviously made things much, much worse. But you do, you are on a mission to really get OBM information out to whoever wants it. So you have a course. Why don't you tell people that are listening about your course and where they can go to learn more about purchasing your course if they're interested? Also, if you have any free resources or books that people could look at immediately.

Shannon: Right. So in my mission, my organizational mission is improving the world at work one behavior change agent at a time. And we spend how much of our time work during our lives, like a third of our life is spent at work. So understanding what I know of ABA in particular and the lack of education that's out there in our current academic programs, I developed the Performance Management Basics program. You can tell that there will be subsequent courses as well. But performance management basics is essentially bridging the gap between what folks know clinically and how to apply that with staff all the way from operational definitions, reinforcement, punishment, extinction, functional assessment, preference assessments. It's all the stuff you know and love from the clinical side saying, OK, well, what does that look like ? What does it look like in business?

Shannon's OBM Programs and Advice:

Shannon: And for the BCBAs or BCABAs it's nine CEUs for just ninety nine dollars. The mission is to get the information out there. I don't need to make a ton of money off of it and it's about eight, eight hours of content. So. Yeah, yeah. And it was a labor of love to sit and do that. So if you do a Google search for performance management basics chief motivating officers, hopefully you'll get to me. My company is chief motivating officers. You can find me on Facebook, social, all that good stuff. But I'm we'll put a link in the show notes, I'm sure, for the basics program so that folks can get to it fairly easily. So, yeah, that's the program.

Mary: That's so awesome. Yeah. I would, I would love to check that out. And I think we're just scratching the surface here for just to get people to think, both parents and professionals, about how we can improve systems to help people make more progress, be less stressed, and be happier. Which brings us to our very last question. Part of my podcast goals are for the parents and professionals listening around the world to be less stressed and lead happier lives. So do you have any self care tips or stress management tools that you use on a daily or weekly basis to have less stress in your life?

Shannon: So I do a lot of executive coaching with folks who are running businesses, typically the small, the mids. And one thing that I always tell them is to be kind to yourself. And I have to think about this, too, especially behavior analysts that understand the environment is what shapes behavior. So if you're engaging in behavior that maybe you don't like so much, be kind to yourself and understand that, that's the environment doing that. That's not you making that choice in a vacuum. You're not a bad person. So just taking that really serious to say, OK, what is it in my environment that's pushing me in this direction? And it creates that self compassion to where you're not blaming yourself so much, which I think ends up compounding over time to just make you feel really terrible. So focus on the environment, be kind to you. And that would be my tip.

Mary: Sounds great. Well, it's been lovely getting to know you, learning more about OBM. I think it's a very powerful science and a powerful part of ABA can be part of it doesn't have to be. But I think for everyone, I think part of improving your life is to look at this in a more systematic way. So I learned a lot. Hopefully our listeners did, too. Thank you so much Shannon for joining us.

Shannon: Thank you so much.

Mary: If you're a parent or early intervention professional working with young children with signs of autism, or if you're a parent or professional helping older children with moderate to severe autism, you'll definitely want to order my new Turn Autism Around book. Today you'll get access to all the book resources that will help you right away. For all the details, go to