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In lesson one, I’ll discuss the role of the job coach at the job site. I look at what your responsibilities are and are not. We’ll also go over ways to identify employee and employer preferences about your presence and the actions you will take at the workplace and I’ll explain how to offer support on-site in a respectful manner. After completing this lesson, you will be able to identify the employee’s and the employer’s preferences about job coaching, explain the role of a job coach to the employer and co-workers, and provide job site supports in a respectful, non-stigmatizing manner. When you’re getting ready to support an employee the first thing to do is find out how and when the person wants to receive job coaching services. Do they want you by their side all day? Do they want you on call your office where they can reach you if needed? So they want you to call them at the end of the day or during evening? Services and support should always be discussed with employee and provided in a respectful non-stigmatizing and agreed upon manner. This is even more important if you’re going to be present at the jobsite. Its expectations aren’t set up before you show up. Your presence can create stigma and misconceptions about the employee’s abilities. When the decision is made for you to be at the workplace you’ll also need to clearly inform the employer about your role. Do this before the first day of work. It’s important to factor in the employer’s preferences when providing supports to the individual. For example, the employer may have strong feelings about where you’re located in the workplace or how much you interact with the new worker’s colleagues.
The role of a job coach can include many things, so to make it less murky let’s break it down at what job coaching is really all about. In a nutshell, the job coaches role at the job site is to do five things: 1, help a new employee to learn their job tasks; 2, identify natural supports, accommodations and assistive technology that will enable the new employee to be more independent at their job; 3, a system employed to become socially included in the workplace; 4, the assisted employee to advocate for himself or herself at the job site; and 5, act as a consultant as they support and supervise their new employee. There are three roles that a job coach should never take on or imply that they will perform. You should never perform any management or supervisory role. You should also avoid performing job tasks for or with the employee even if your goal is to increase work production or work quality. Finally you shouldn’t spend unnecessary time at the job site.
Consider this scenario: Your agency has been assisting Arnold to find a job. He’s finally accepted a job offer and is starting work this Monday. You support Arnold and share his news with his family, residential staff and other team members. Everyone is very excited for him. You discussed Arnold’s preferences about the coaching. Now what happens? Well, your next step is to talk to the employer about how job coaching will work on their end. In particular, it’s important to clearly explain what your role will and will not be.
What do you think you might say to the employer? How does this sound? I’m a job coach for Arnold and I’m paid through XYZ agency. I can assist Arnold in learning his job and help him perform his tests and I can stay with him at work to ensure that he does his job properly every day. Believe me, he’ll have all the support he needs to be successful at your company. Hmm. If I was the employer, what assumptions might I make based on this statement? Well, I might think that you’re not only going to help out Arnold learn how to do his job, but there you’re also going to help him perform his tasks by doing the job with him. I’d also assume that you’ll be there with him all the time regardless of how well he’s performing. I might even think that you’re going to take on some level of supervision of Arnold that’s way too much responsibility for any job coach.
You should be there to supplement the supervision, training and support that the employer already provides to any employee. You can also act as a resource and consultant to the new employee and the employer on accommodations, assistive technology and disability law. Job coaches should also facilitate the social inclusion of the individual into the workplace.
Back to the five roles of a job coach. How might you use those to create a better description of what you’ll do for Arnold? Take a few minutes and jot down some notes. When you’re ready to resume, press play. Okay, let’s see; another way for a job coach to describe their role. How does this work better? I’m a job coach for Arnold and I’m paid through XYZ agency. I can come to work with Arnold and help him complete all the new hire paperwork. I can also sit through any training that he gets. That way I can support him as he learns his tasks and gets oriented to his new work environment. Over time, he’ll need me less and less. Basically, my job is to collaborate with you to make sure Arnold is a successful employee.
This statement makes it sound like the job coach will work as a partner with the employer to make this job a success. It doesn’t make any commitments about how long the job coach will be coming to the job site or overseeing Arnold’s work performance. It describes job coaching as phasing out over time. Overall, it makes a job coach sound like what they truly are: a consultant to Arnold and the employer. Let’s pause for a brief review of what I’ve been talking about.