The Workforce Benchmarking Network
The Workforce Benchmarking Network (WBN) connects community-based organizations providing workforce development services around the country—along with public and private funders and other intermediaries—to support better results for job seekers, employers and communities. Housed at Corporation for a Skilled Workforce (CSW), the WBN ensures that quality data about program services and outcomes is available, and builds the field’s capacity to use that data to create more effective programs and policies through the five tenets below.
Most recently, CSW and WBN released Learning to Thrive: How data can fuel better workforce development results – Lessons from the Twin Cities Benchmarking Initiative, which describes a multi-year Benchmarking Initiative in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota: its design and approach to capacity building with community-based workforce development providers, the role of funders in nurturing culture change, and the results achieved. It also highlights important lessons for workforce development organizations and funders in other communities to consider.
Guiding principles of the work in the Twin Cities include:
- Doing more with less. As resources for workforce development programs grow tighter, it’s even more important to discern with more real-time data what’s working well (and for whom) so that limited resources can be most effectively used.
- Building a culture of learning and innovation. This is key to quickly adapting to a changing environment and to customers with changing needs.
- Promoting “professional excellence” and “high performance.” This work supports organizations in the workforce development field as they focus more on results, through the use of continuous improvement and innovation approaches that have been applied in other fields for many years.
- Applying customer-focused design principles. The program improvement processes used in the Twin Cities incorporated “system” level perspectives, including insights from multiple levels of staff, job seekers, employers and community partners.
1. Survey and Data on Benchmarks of “Good Performance”
Since 2008, the WBN has collected aggregate data from more than 500 programs on participant demographics, services received, job placement and retention rates and other outcomes, resulting in the country’s largest national dataset of community-based workforce outcomes. This data supports the development of field-wide performance benchmarks that illuminate which program characteristics matter for participant success and that support better “apples to apples” performance comparisons. Click here to read the Apples to Apples report from May 2013 and the 2016 Apples to Apples Data Update.
2. Individualized, Confidential Comparative Reports
Organizations that submit program data on a one-year cohort of participants to the WBN survey receive online, confidential reports comparing their job placement and job retention outcomes to other programs with similar characteristics. Organizations use these reports to identify program strengths as well as areas for improvement.
3. Guidelines for Effective Practice
To support program improvement, the WBN developed a set of practice guidelines—called “Success Drivers”—informed by research and input from higher-performing practitioners. These guidelines, along with resources and tools to support their implementation, can be found here on the Benchmarking website.
4. Workshops and Peer Forums on Using Data to Improve Results
The WBN provides a series of workshops and peer learning forums combined with individualized technical assistance to help organizations strengthen their use of data and other evidence to improve program effectiveness. These events – which have taken place in Chicago, New York City, and the Twin Cities, MN – help build a stronger organizational culture around using data to drive ongoing management and improvement. Click to read the related WBN report Nurturing Inquiry and Innovation for more on building a performance improvement culture.
5. Policy and System Change Initiatives
The WBN also focuses on policy or system changes that will support better use of data by community-based organizations, funders and policy makers. Initiatives include work in New York City on a shared reporting tool for foundations, creation of a set of shared outcome measures among various funders in the Twin Cities, and catalyzing work on a new integrated data system across workforce funding sources in Chicago. All efforts aim to reduce duplicative provider reporting and provide a more comprehensive picture of workforce outcomes across fragmented funding streams.