Skip to content

What is a Barrier / Needs Assessment Process?

A barrier / needs assessment process helps employee success program staff understand a participant worker’s barriers and needs upon entering the program and aids in tracking their progress over time. Common barriers to employment include:

  • Homelessness / unstable housing
  • “Collateral consequences” related to incarceration
  • Physical health and mental health conditions
  • Substance use and/or addiction
  • Limited access to transportation, food, or childcare
  • Disconnection from the community 

Why is it important?

Having a barrier / needs assessment process enables employment social enterprises to:

  • Tailor wraparound services and recommendations to the individual, to ensure that each participant worker has access to the services they need to thrive.
  • Set a benchmark “starting point” for each participant worker, so program staff can gauge progress over time.
  • Aggregate and assess broad trends to better understand the collective needs of participant workers and continuously improve wraparound services accordingly.

Best practices   

Take a trauma informed approach to designing your barrier assessment

  • It may take a new participant worker time to share their history, needs, and goals given the new relationship they are forming with your organization. Make sure to build in sufficient time and perhaps offer multiple time slots to complete a barriers and goal assessment, as it likely will be difficult to complete within just one hour / one session.
  • Consider the phrasing and tone of the questions you ask participant workers so that you minimize the possibility of re-traumatizing individuals.
  • Steer away from traditional institutional assessments that feel cold and impersonal. Your goal should be to lay the foundation for and build relationships through this tool.

Establish a consistent approach for assessing participant workers’ barriers, needs, and aspirations / goals

  • Develop an assessment process and tool for your program staff to use to learn about and document new participant workers’ barriers and needs, as well as their assets and aspirations.
  • Your assessment process and tool should include a method for prioritizing which barriers to address most urgently, with immediate stability issues taking precedence.
  • Participant workers play a large role in the assessment process, helping to self-identify barriers and assets, as well as co-develop their individual plan. This tailored plan should include a participant worker’s short- and long-term goals, barrier removal plan, and benefits access – and should be used and adapted throughout the program.
  • Ideally, the assessment process should happen as part of your intake / enrollment process and / or other initial conversations.
    • For every barrier or need included in your assessment, there should be a corresponding wraparound service that is either provided in-house or through a referral partner.
      • Track your referral providers and make sure to collect feedback from participant workers on their experience with the referral partners. 

Design a process for regularly checking in with participant workers to discuss and track their progress over time

  • It is helpful to establish a consistent and frequent check-in cadence with participant workers. Ideally, these sessions would be weekly in the beginning and later move to bi-weekly or monthly.
  • During check-ins, program staff should discuss with participant workers their progress toward removing barriers and achieving goals, with each session building on the last. They should also review the participant worker’s individual plan and update it based on personal or professional changes.
    • Participant workers may also track progress themselves using a templated guide and may refer to it during check-ins.
  • Program staff should regularly meet as a group to discuss the progress of shared participant workers. They could hold weekly team meetings, although not all participant workers would be discussed that often (newer participant workers may be discussed weekly and others around every two weeks).
    • Case managers, job coaches, and job search specialists should also provide feedback on participant worker progress.

Regularly aggregate data from your participant worker assessment tool to understand trends

  • Analyze the data to identify shifting barriers or needs of your participant worker population, and apply these insights to continuously evolve and improve wraparound services. 
  • Use the data to identify collective aspirations or goals of your participant worker cohort and brainstorm how your organization may be able to support through its services or training curriculum. 

Additional Resources