Employment Coaching: What Do Participants Say?

Employment Coaching: What Do Participants Say?

OPRE Report #2021-172
Published: Jul 30, 2021
Publisher: Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
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Associated Project

Evaluation of Employment Coaching for TANF and Related Populations

Time frame: 2016-2021

Prepared for:

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation

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Key Findings
  • Overall, participants reported developing strong relationships with their coaches as they worked toward achieving their goals.
  • Participants thought coaching was helpful and valued the social support and the connection to resources they received.
  • For improvements to the interventions, participants suggested offering additional resources and more concrete employment supports.

Employment coaching involves a trained staff person or coach working collaboratively with a participant to set personalized goals, as well as supporting, motivating, and providing feedback to participants as they pursue goals. Coaches aim to help participants use and strengthen the self-regulation skills—sometimes referred to as soft skills or executive functioning skills—that are needed to get, keep, and advance in a job (Cavadel et al. 2017).

To explore the potential of employment coaching for individuals with low incomes to help them get and retain jobs, the Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, within the Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is sponsoring the Evaluation of Employment Coaching for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Related Populations. The evaluation assesses the implementation of four coaching interventions and their impacts on study participants’ self-regulation, employment, earnings, self-sufficiency, and other measures of well-being.

As part of the evaluation, we talked with participants to get a more complete picture of the interventions than we could get through speaking with program leaders and coaches alone. Listening to participants enabled us to better understand how they viewed the coaching, what they liked and did not like, and whether they thought it was effective. These conversations were held through in-person, in-depth interviews with 44 participants enrolled in the study who received coaching services from the studied interventions.

This brief summarizes what we learned from the interviewed participants. Because the sample of interviewees is small, our findings might not represent the experience of all participants served by the interventions participating in the Evaluation of Employment Coaching. Instead, the findings provide a more detailed description of a select group of participants’ experiences with coaching, based on their own stories and accounts of their time in the interventions.

This brief is intended to inform program developers, providers, and policymakers about how employment coaching is implemented from the participant perspective and to share lessons for how to improve coaching interventions.

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