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Employment social enterprises exist to provide employment opportunities, professional skills, and work experience to people who face barriers to work to reenter the mainstream workforce. It is this combination of skills that the social enterprise aims to develop through a combination of a job and employee supports programming.

Transitional employment social enterprises, in particular, want to pay close mind to providing their workers with the appropriate skills in order to transition to mainstream employment outside of the social enterprise – in other words, the participant 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 this deep dive we will explore all three areas of what it means to be job ready.

Soft Skills

Soft skills refer to the attributes that allow a worker to succeed in a professional environment, beyond the technical requirements of the job (known as hard skills, which we cover later in this article). These attributes include things such as attendance and punctuality, workplace appearance, communication and attitude, and general workplace performance. Below, we outline some key aspects of each of these categories and what is required of somebody in order to be considered job ready.

Attendance and Punctuality

  • Attendance – Understanding work expectations in accordance with organization’s policies for attendance and adhering to them, notifying supervisor in case of absence, and completing any required paperwork.
  • Punctuality – Understanding work expectations for punctuality and adhering to them, arriving on time for work, taking and returning from breaks and meals on time, and calling supervisor prior to being late.

Workplace Performance

  • Performance – Completes tasks accurately and on time; quality and quantity of work product meets or exceeds expectations.
  • Effort & Productivity – Pursues work with energy, drive, and intent to accomplish tasks; fulfills or exceeds expectations around timely completion of tasks.
  • Alignment – Behavior and attitude are in alignment with company policies and procedures and reflect company values, including those related to health and safety. Following written and verbal instructions.
  • Responsibility – Demonstrating dependability and reliability. Fulfilling obligations, completing assignments, and meeting deadlines. Acting with integrity and honesty.
  • Initiative – Engaging in task or activity from commencement to completion. Asking appropriate questions. Identifying, or seeking out assignment of, new task upon completion of prior one.
  • Skill Development – Demonstrating a willingness to learn and consider new ways of doing things. Proactively seeking out opportunities for the development of new skills.
  • Critical Thinking – Identifying and defining a problem, using knowledge and information to generate possible solutions. Effectively managing time to complete tasks.

Workplace Appearance

  • Attire – Dressing appropriately for position and duties. If relevant, all components of uniform are clean and being worn appropriately.
  • Self Care – Practicing personal hygiene appropriate for position and duties.

Communication & Attitude

  • With Peers – Communicating effectively – verbally and non-verbally. Using language appropriate for work environment. Maintaining respectful and trustworthy relationships.
  • With Supervisors – Respecting authority. Accepting instruction and constructive criticism. Speaking clearly and communicating effectively and appropriately for the work environment, both verbally and non-verbally .
  • With Public / Customers – (If relevant) Communicating and behaving appropriately as a representative of employer. Recognizing and prioritizing customer needs.
  • Teamwork & Cooperation – Relating positively with co-workers. Encouraging others. Working productively with individuals and teams.
  • Conflict Mitigation – Using appropriate strategies and solutions for dealing with or diffusing workplace differences. Ensuring that they don’t affect productivity or work quality.
  • Positivity – Conveying a positive, pleasant, and “can-do” attitude.
  • Motivation – Trying to continuously improve performance.

Hard Skills

Hard skills, on the other hand, are tangible, job-specific skills that are learned while on-the-job. For example, a social enterprise running a culinary business could expect its workers to gain hard skills in baking techniques, knife skills, heat control, and food presentation. Hard skills vary from industry-to-industry, so your social enterprise will need to determine the essential components of the job requirements for your business.

Personal Readiness

Finally, in order for someone to be considered job ready they must also have stability in their personal life. This includes stable housing and health, stable legal status, childcare (if applicable), and reliable transportation. If participants are not meeting a sufficient level of personal readiness, it is an opportunity for case managers to help mitigate or remove these barriers.

Stable Housing

Ideally, the worker is in permanent and stable housing, paying for housing through income, not a subsidy. Alternatively, the worker could be in permanent supportive housing, an evidence-based housing intervention that combines non-time-limited affordable housing assistance with wrap-around supportive services for people experiencing homelessness, as well as other people with disabilities.

If the worker is in subsidized or transitional housing with an end date, such as a treatment program, halfway house, or sober living center, they can still be considered job ready, but it is recommended that your social enterprise develop an action plan to help the worker achieve more stable housing.

A worker is not considered job ready if they are homeless or unstably housed. This includes couch surfing, sleeping in a vehicle, or staying with family members on temporary basis.

Stable Health

The worker’s current health status should be such that it does not impede employment or performance, with no medical procedures planned in near term. Ideally, they are enrolled with health coverage, have a primary care provider and/or have access to low-cost medical providers. If they have chronic health problems, they should have a plan to manage and access resources in a way that doesn’t inhibit them from going to work.

Legal Status

The worker should have the right work documentation necessary for employment in your organization. They should also have no warrants out for arrest and no near term court dates that would inhibit them from going to work or require them to miss multiple days of work. Appointments with legal representatives or parole/probation officers is common, and in of itself do not preclude someone from being job ready; it only becomes an issue if such meetings result in missing work on a constant basis..


If the worker has dependent children, they should have stable childcare available to them. This could be provided through a daycare, a community based organization, or school etc. Alternatively, if a relative, friend, or neighbor is available to provide reliable and consistent childcare.


The worker should be able to have access to reliable transportation to get to work. Depending on the area the worker lives, this may mean being reliant on public transit for their daily commute or, for areas with less public transit options, having a driver’s license and access to a car for daily commute. When assessing the worker’s access to transportation, it is worth keeping in mind the public transportation options available in the area in which they live, your social enterprise operates, and where potential employers may be located. The worker may also be in need of assistance paying for transportation passes and/or with setting up a long-term plan to help save for their daily commute.

Having outstanding tickets and/or an invalid driver’s license does not necessarily make someone not work ready, but they will likely benefit from a legal consultation to help pay off outstanding tickets.

Job Readiness Assessment

Using the above framework, your social enterprise can develop its own criteria to assess whether or not your workers are advancing towards job readiness and transition into competitive employment.

Social enterprises use job readiness assessments as a:

  • Performance based assessment
  • Case management tool
  • Trigger for transition to employment outside the social enterprise

While determining job and performance readiness is critical to running an effective social enterprise, the specific methods can vary among social enterprises. Check out our job readiness assessment learning guide that covers some of the key components to implementing an effective job readiness assessment process, as well as shares a tool that can help you do so.