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What is Individualized Participant Worker Engagement?

One-on-one participant worker engagement (i.e., case management or coaching) is a collaborative process to guide and serve participant workers on their employment journeys. This involves assessing a participant worker’s needs, strengths and interests; co-developing an individualized plan with personal and professional goals; coordinating employee success wraparound services and training; providing coaching and assistance with job search, matching, placement, and retention; and continuously monitoring, evaluating, and documenting services, participant worker progress and outcomes.

As part of the engagement process, the inputting and tracking of individual participant worker data is critical to understanding a participant worker’s progress against goals, the impacts that specific services have, and participant worker outcomes and measures of success.

*Some employment social enterprises outsource these services to partner organizations or work with participant workers’ existing case managers.

Why is it important?

  • Having 1:1 participant worker engagement and participant worker data enables employment social enterprises to:
    • Develop individualized, clear, actionable goals with the input of participant workers.
    • Increase participant worker buy-in to social enterprise programming and job training.
    • Develop a clear structure for data tracking and evaluation to measure success in achieving goals.

Best practices   

Optimize each component of 1:1 participant worker engagement to build a well-coordinated and effective process (see below diagram)

  • Carefully plan and integrate direct service activities – from conducting the initial needs assessment, to creating individualized plans and coordinating employee success wraparound services, to coaching and matching participant workers with quality jobs, to helping them retain employment.
  • Use case management software to facilitate consistent data collection, monitoring, reporting, and evaluation. This will help streamline the process, facilitate clear communication internally and with other service providers, generate automatic reports, and provide information needed to measure outcomes and inform service planning.
  • Hire, develop, and/or partner with case managers who have strong interpersonal communication skills, can connect with participant workers, and can successfully motivate, support, and empower participant workers. Develop practices and policies to support and resource case managers so they can be most effective.
  • Use case conferences in which multiple ESE professional staff regularly connect to jointly discuss the challenges participant workers are facing and problem solve together. In some cases, the participant worker is also part of these conversations. 
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Source: “Effective Case Management: Key Elements and Practices from the Field”, Mathematica Policy Research, June 2011

Keep in mind some guiding principles for 1:1 participant worker engagement

  • Build trust and rapport with participant workers: Be present, listen attentively, and meet people where they are. Collaborate with participant workers as partners in working together to achieve their goals. Create an environment of understanding, empathy, and positivity, and focus on strengths and successes. Establish a consistent and frequent check-in cadence, with each session building on the last. As an ESE staff member, follow through on your action items from your conversations. Developing a strong connection with participant workers is critical to engaging them in the process and positioning them for success.
  • Ensure confidentiality: It is very important to maintain confidentiality and privacy for participant workers and their personal information, as this is part of building trust. Both written and electronic documentation should be kept in a safe place (e.g., with appropriate firewalls or passwords), and there should be clear instructions for who is authorized to access the information. 
  • Make meeting easy: Consider the location and hours one-on-one meetings are offered. Ask yourself whether it is feasible for participant workers to meet you at the given location and/or time. Consider public transportation routes, childcare challenges, and parole / probation officer meetings when scheduling meetings. Consider whether virtual meetings are feasible. 
  • Compensate for time: Depending on your ESE budget, consider one-on-meetings as an on-the-job required activity. Compensate participant workers accordingly. 
  • Facilitate opportunities for employee voice: Seek anonymous feedback from your participant workers regarding your one-to-one engagements. 
  • Use Motivational Interviewing as a coaching method: Motivational Interviewing is an international evidence-based practice focused on effective and efficient communication skills that promote sustainable behavior change. This practice is anchored in helping participant workers continuously leverage their internal motivation and commitment to change.