In April 2017, the Workforce Development Division (WDD) housed within the Department of Workforce Services implemented a 15-month pilot in the Family Employment Program (FEP). The Family Employment Program is a temporary cash assistance program for families with a 36-month lifetime limit. The pilot incorporated Theory of Constraints principles and family-focused philosophies into the program service delivery model with the goal of helping families achieve and sustain self-reliance while reducing the ongoing need for financial assistance.
Key elements of the pilot included proactive and frequent communication. Throughout the process, an intense focus was placed on building a strong alliance between the employment counselor and each individual customer. To do this, the pilot focused on completing a thorough assessment of the customer’s needs before developing an individualized, relevant, employment plan. FITT (frequency, intensity, time and type) elements were incorporated into the pilot through early proactive engagement, increased engagement and phased employment planning.
Working with an employment counselor and developing an employment plan is an eligibility requirement for FEP benefits. During the pilot, WDD formed a partnership with the Eligibility Services Division to refer customers to an assigned employment counselor at the time of application. Once notified, the assigned employment counselor proactively reached out to the customer, providing immediate communication to get the process moving forward.
An increase in the number and types of contact during the initial stages of the employment planning process were important factors for success. The intent was to engage with customers more quickly, begin the process of assessing and addressing immediate needs, provide resource referral and establish support leading to successful employment planning. A process that historically may have taken six months could now potentially be accomplished in six weeks.
The value of increased worker attention was not limited to the early intervention period. Authentic connections between a customer and their employment counselor created opportunities for ongoing support following employment and case closure. By intensifying efforts, individualizing services, and taking a systematic approach to employment planning, an alliance with the customer was created, barriers were resolved and customers were better prepared for long-term employment.
The pilot achieved the following results:
- Strategies around early proactive engagement resulted in a 28% reduction in the number of days between application and first appointment, as well as a visit decrease from three to one for a customer to connect with an assigned employment counselor.
- Monthly number of contacts per customer increased from one (or less) to more than seven.
- Survey results reflected higher customer and employment counselor satisfaction than before the pilot.
- Pilot customers were six times more likely to stay engaged with their employment counselor after obtaining employment.
- Almost a year after case closure, more customers remained employed with higher wages than those in the control group.