Panel: Using Evidence to Design and Improve Employment Coaching Interventions
(Employment and Training Programs)

Friday, November 9, 2018: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
Johnson - Mezz Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Panel Chairs:  Sheena McConnell, Mathematica Policy Research
Discussants:  Sophie Sahaf, LIFT

Cutting-Edge Science and What It Could Mean for Human Service and Workforce Programs
LaDonna Pavetti, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

People’s ability to find, keep, and advance in a job depends on self-regulation skills and executive functioning such as the ability to finish tasks, stay organized, and intentionally control emotions and behaviors. Research has shown that these skills are important to attaining goals and in determining employment outcomes (Almlund et al. 2011). Everyone has stronger and weaker self-regulation skills, and the strength of these skills can vary over time. But evidence shows that a lack of financial resources, and the demands and stresses associated with it, can interfere with the effective use of these self-regulation skills (Mullainathan and Shafir 2013). Yet research has shown that interventions can both strengthen self-regulation skills and encourage people to use them (Kautz et al. 2014). In response to the growing evidence about the importance of self-regulation skills and the ability of interventions to address them, some employment programs, including those offered as part of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, are increasingly using strategies designed to address self-regulation skills (Cavadel et al. 2017).

Coaching is one strategy that employment programs can use to strengthen self-regulation skills. Coaching involves a staff person trained in coaching techniques—a coach—working with a participant to set personalized goals and motivating, supporting, and providing feedback as the participant pursues those goals. The coach is not directive but works collaboratively with the participant as he or she sets and pursues goals. This emphasis on setting and working toward goals is the key mechanism by which coaching addresses self-regulation skills. It is fundamentally different than case management, which involves a program staff member directing the clients.

This panel discusses how evidence about the strengthening and use of self-regulation was used to develop two new employment coaching interventions and how evidence collected on their implementation was used to improve them. The panel will begin with the chair providing a short framing of the session and introducing the speakers. The first paper will set the stage by describing the science behind self-regulation and what we know about the conditions under which people best develop self-regulation skills. It will also describe how coaching can strengthen these skills. The second paper will then discuss a program developed by MDRC based on the evidence about self-regulation called MyGoals that has been implemented in housing authorities in Houston and Baltimore. The third paper will then discuss a Goal4 It!TM , a coaching program that was designed to be implemented in TANF programs. It will also discuss how the program was refined based on systematically-collected data on its implementation. The discussant will be a Vice President of Evaluation at LIFT, an organization that implements coaching programs for low-income populations. This program is currently participating in a large scale experimental evaluation of coaching programs. The discussant will discuss the issues related to implementing a coaching program as well as participating in an evaluation.

See more of: Employment and Training Programs
See more of: Panel