Workforce development programs give individuals an opportunity to climb the economic ladder while supporting overall economic growth. To understand programs’ effectiveness, it is essential to track the progress of participants over time to see whether a given program has helped them advance their careers and boost their incomes. This measurement can help individual programs and the field as whole improve over time. However, measuring the impact of workforce development programs has proven difficult because of low response rates to participant update requests.
In partnership with the Walmart Foundation, my colleagues and I investigated possible “behavioral barriers” that may be standing in the way of gathering information about participant progress. We aimed to understand the contextual features affecting human choices so that we can use insights from behavioral science to understand what may be happening. This allowed us to develop solutions that address the psychological issues at play. In addition to a thorough review of the relevant academic literature, our investigation involved conversations with program participants, administrators, funders, and others who helped us develop a textured understanding of the context.