Program Management

Employee Supports Program Structure: Encouraging Participation


As part of your employee supports program design process, you will want to think about the specific structural components that support and comprise the delivery of your employee supports program. These components should align with and support the key goals and strategies for your employee supports program.

In this learning guide, we cover one of the six components: participation models for encouraging participation. Please note, these do not necessarily represent a comprehensive summary of options or implications.


Participation Model: Compensated

A compensated model is one in which the employee may be mandated to access some or all employee supports and, in accordance with employment law, the employee is compensated for this time. Alternatively, some social enterprises elect to view mandated supports as part of a program and that only active participants in the program are eligible for ongoing employment. REDF recommends that social enterprises seek legal counsel prior to implementing.


Pros Cons
  • SE can be assured that employees are participating in ESP activities
  • Employees can be disciplined relative to their attendance at ESP activities
  • Employees may be present at ESP activities to earn wages but may not be fully engaged or committed
  • Cost of paying for employee participation


Participation Model: Incentivized

The social enterprise may choose to incentivize participation in employee supports and/or positive behaviors with monetary or other rewards, including recognition or access to additional services.


Pros Cons
  • Research increasingly demonstrates value of incentives in encouraging change. Incentives may provide initial motivation while still creating space for development of intrinsic motivation.
  • Only those making progress are rewarded
  • Cost of incentives (though typically less expensive than compensation)
  • Cost of staffing for tracking achievements required to earn incentives (can be minimized through simplification of program design)

Participation Model: Voluntary

Social enterprises may have participation in some or all employee support services be voluntary.


Pros Cons
  • Low cost
  • Voluntary nature may mean that staff have to ensure high quality of services and communication about available services to ensure participation
  • Hard to secure and enforce 100% participation; often those most in need of services opt out
  • SE needs to make efforts to normalize employee/alumni participation in ESP activities
  • Employee/alumni participation may largely depend on personality and/or connection with a few ESP staff
  • Challenge of predicting numbers likely to access services may make planning difficult
  • Unless very intentionally designed, voluntary services may have unintended result of less integration of employee supports with SE operations and less collaboration between ESP and operations staff

Participation Model: Hybrid

Many social enterprises take a hybrid approach, combining some portion of compensated or incentivized employee supports with other voluntary ones.


Pros Cons
  • SE can mandate “gateway” employee supports like case management meetings that are likely to help build enthusiasm for accessing other voluntary supports
  • Messaging a hybrid approach may require more nuance
  • Costs incurred in wages for participation in any mandated supports


Participation Model: Integrated

Social enterprises may have work adjustment counselors working alongside employees at the work site and providing continuous coaching and support.


Pros Cons
  • Value of providing immediate and sometimes continuous coaching and support
  • Ensures employees access services and have opportunity to apply learnings on work site
  • Depending on job description, work adjustment counselor may also be a productive employee of the SE
  • Expense and potential operational challenge of having ESP counselor on work site
  • Integrated supports while on the job are typically limited to job coaching – thus likely to be insufficient and needing to be combined with one of the models above if offering wider array of ESP services


Other Structural Components To Consider

You will want to think about the specific structural components that support and comprise the delivery of your employee supports program. These components should align with and support the key goals and strategies for your employee supports program. REDF has identified six core areas to consider:


Metrics to Track


Participation Model

  • Desired goals and outcomes
  • Data on SE employees hired/exited
  • Staffing
  • Employee supports
  • Equipment
  • Subcontracts
  • Compensated
  • Incentivized
  • Voluntary
  • Hybrid
  • Integrated

Read more about metrics >

Read more about budget >


Delivery Method



  • One-on-one
  • Group
  • Hybrid
  • Other
  • Functions
  • Roles
  • Structure
  • Coordination
  • Access
  • Employee privacy

Read more about delivery method >

Read more about staffing >

Read more about reporting >


You will find links to resources for each of these considerations, walking you through the pros and cons and key considerations for each.

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