A worker’s job readiness can be thought of as the combination of three areas for professional and personal development: soft skills, hard skills, and personal readiness. In order to determine whether your workers are job ready, your social enterprise should implement a job readiness assessment procedure to determine performance in the transitional social enterprise and professional and personal readiness to transition to competitive employment.
Social enterprises use job readiness assessments as:
- Performance based assessment
- Case management tool
- Prompt for transition to employment outside the social enterprise or a promotion inside the org
- Program and business side in agreement on performance metrics
While determining job and performance readiness is critical to running an effective social enterprise, the specific methods can vary among social enterprises. This deep dive will cover some of the key components to implementing an effective job readiness assessment process, as well as share a tool that can help you do so.
Job Readiness Metrics
In our other resource on job readiness, we cover the combination of soft skills, hard skills, and personal readiness that are commonly required in order for a worker to be considered “job ready”. We recommend you use that guide as a starting point to begin to determine the job readiness metrics your social enterprise will want to measure. Ultimately, though, each social enterprise is different and you will want to build metrics around the particularities of your social enterprise and target population. This is particularly true for hard skills, as they vary from industry to industry.
It is important to decide on the metrics as a team, with both sides of the social enterprise (both program and business) clearly defining what makes the most sense in order to assess job readiness. Ensure that the metrics you decide upon align with your organization’s culture and policies.
Make your rubric as clear and concise as possible. The clearer the rubric, the easier it is to fill it out in a timely manner and relay feedback to the employee being assessed. If you decide to utilize a scoring mechanism, it is recommended to use an Excel sheet (or something similar) to do the math for you. This will avoid calculation mistakes and make it easier for supervisors to fill it out without accessing sensitive employee data, complying with HR best practices. If you have a data system in place in your organization, work with your data team to see if there is a way to incorporate assessment data into systems you already have.
Conducting a job readiness assessment involves many stakeholders: supervisors, case managers, and the social enterprise worker. Implementation of the process depends on the specific staffing structure of a social enterprise, and will vary from social enterprise to social enterprise. Below we outline a common structure for management of the job readiness assessment process.
The case manager (or employment specialist) is responsible for managing the job readiness assessment process. This role should:
- Documents the ratings provided by the supervisor
- Assesses worker on the “Personal Readiness” criteria
- Makes final determination of job readiness rating
Additionally, this role may coordinate and lead assessment meetings between the worker and supervisor. They should also support the worker in subsequent efforts to improve job performance and personal readiness.
The supervisor’s role is to inform the case manager and worker of ratings for each category of performance and behaviors, for the relevant time period. The supervisor should also coach, discipline, and provide feedback to transitional workers on an ongoing basis.
The worker must attend evaluation meetings and should be encouraged to ask questions to ensure clarity of expectations and opportunities for improvement. They should be encouraged to request support and/or referrals, as needed.
Assessments should be conducted early and frequently. REDF encourages a minimum of 3, conducted at a rate that makes sense given the length of your program. If your program is longer than 3 months, consider conducting it on a quarterly basis.
If your program is 3 months or shorter, conduct it monthly from the beginning of the program.
If an employee is exiting your program early, conduct an assessment at the time of exit and mark they are leaving for employment, assuming they have worked at least 1 to 3 months. If they leave before one month of work, there is no need to conduct an assessment.
As with all of the above components, each social enterprise will implement the job readiness assessment (JRA) process differently, depending on the unique aspects of the organization. Below we outline a sample process that outlines the timing of the process, along with roles and responsibilities.
It is important to establish clear communication with transitional workers throughout the job readiness assessment process. It is a good practice to share and discuss the assessment categories and standards with workers shortly after hire (during orientation is ideal), explaining how it is used for assessment. Each social enterprise needs to decide when this will happen and who is responsible for the communication.
Social enterprises should hold face-to-face meetings to walk through the assessment and opportunities for improvement. The employment specialist and the worker should be mandatory participants, whereas the supervisor’s participation is preferred, but not required. While the supervisor may share information related to the worker’s performance with the full assessment team, sensitive information regarding the worker’s personal situation should not be shared with supervisors.
Whenever your social enterprises implements a new process, it is a best practice to build in time for a process evaluation. For a job readiness assessment process, it is important to evaluate not just the clients’ scores, but the process itself. You should want to learn where you can improve the program and how you can improve the process to assess and give feedback to clients.
Your social enterprise should decide when you will pause to evaluate how the job readiness assessment process is going. This could be done after the first cohort has been assessed or one year after implementation, for example. Based on the analysis and feedback, make the appropriate adjustments and continue to test your updated assessment process. This should not be a one-time endeavor, but rather a continuous dialogue between the implementation of the process and the feedback you receive.
Job Readiness Assessment Tool
REDF has developed a Job Readiness Assessment Tool for your use. It is based on a tool that was first developed for the Los Angeles Regional Initiative for Social Enterprise (LA:RISE) and that has proven successful in ensuring consistent and quality referrals to employers.
The tool establishes a threshold for essential skills and personal readiness for social enterprise employees ready to move into competitive employment. The standards are compelling because they are designed to measure workers’ on-the-job performance, rather than a measurement of inputs or test-based performance.
Your social enterprise is encouraged to use the tool as-is, or to modify it to fit your program.