The TANF and workforce development division of Cygnet Associates has conducted more than 45 national and local technical assistance projects to improve program performance
Cygnet has helped workforce development and welfare-to-work programs nationwide achieve a wide range of practical performance goals, such as:
Improving TANF Work Activity Participation Rates
In recent years, Cygnet has developed particular expertise improving the work activity participation rate of TANF welfare-to-work programs.
Many regions are struggling to meet the federally mandated work activity participation rate for recipients of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.
No region is alone. Across the nation, fewer than half of all states are achieving the federally mandated minimum participation rate of 50 percent. The reasons are many --reflecting the complexity of the TANF legislation, the strict and prescriptive nature of the implementing regulations, and the many barriers to self-sufficiency faced by TANF recipients.
Just as there is no single reason for the shortfall in performance, there is no single solution. Yet federal law sets fairly severe penalties for sub-par performance.
Cygnet Services to Solve the Problem
For serious performance problems, training is often not enough. The issues are not single in nature, but a collection of issues that may be embedded in the system and contribute to low participation rates. To effectively increase performance, Cygnet Associates offers a variety of services.
The scope of the engagement may be as much or as little as the client chooses. The greatest likelihood of achieving higher participation is by combining several of the services. The more expansive the scope of the project is the greater the likelihood of higher performance.
Technical Assistance and Training
Technical assistance and training can be provided at one or more sites in a region to assist them in making changes in their procedures or services that increase the engagement and work activity participation rate.
The most thorough strategy starts by uncovering and identifying hidden issues at every level of program implementation and administration that impede performance. Practical recommendations are then made that will increase participation. Staff training is then customized based on the recommendations.
Depending on the size of the system and the number of sites, Cygnet Associates can send a team of up to three professionals to analyze the current system at the ground level to identify the major causes of low participation. Often staff believes that the problem is with the motivation of the client. However, Cygnet Associates principals have found that the program design, the message, the client-staff interactions all contribute to lack of participation.
For example, often the first appointment is form driven sapping motivation and missing an opportunity to get the recipient excited about the possibilities. This is a missed opportunity for relationship building and motivation. Then the customer is referred to Job Search as a first activity even if the customer has cycled through it before and is not job ready. This further drains motivation. Letters and correspondence sent by agencies are often negative and describe something the recipient has not done leading to another draw down of motivation. These are just examples of the type of factors often found that result in poor participation.
The Cygnet Associates site visit is used to reveal all the systems, procedures, policies, materials and information, and implementation practices that may be directly and negatively impacting participation.
Ms. Kelly and her team will explore the factors identified by national experts as influential in TANF work activity participation rates. These include:
The final range of issues is decided upon prior to the beginning of the site visit.
The visit may include vendors, interviews with administrators and staff, analysis of case files and written procedures, observing case manager/customer interviews (where possible), attending initial orientation sessions geared to the participant, analyzing program description materials distributed to the customers, examining the flow of customers through the system, reviewing contacts with participants (including frequency and content), observing job search classes and reading any prior reports that would shed light on the issue.
Findings and Recommendations
Recommendations are developed based on the findings during analysis. The recommendations may be made verbally to selected parties and/or in writing shortly following the visit. Recommendations consider the allowable state/federal requirements and include strategies and tools for maximizing participation targeted around specific local activities, client flow, program design and staff-participant interaction.
Following analysis, training is developed to share the issues, solutions, and strategies for implementation. The client chooses the duration of the training and target audience for participation, with recommendations by Cygnet Associates. Participating staff have the opportunity to learn first-hand about findings, specific examples, and discuss recommendations and strategies for improvement. Staff training will also include specific tools and strategies for increasing the participation and motivation of recipients.
One option for training is to model for staff a workshop designed for TANF recipients. Cygnet Associates president, Jodie Sue Kelly conducts all training to selected audiences.
Written Report & Tools for Follow up
Findings and recommendations can be presented in a written report. The scope of the report would be practical recommendations that impact participation. The written report would service as a reference and resource. It would be particularly useful in guiding and ensuring implementation of the full scope of recommendations. It can also be used as a reference for managers and supervisors as they implement strategies and manage their staff.
Targeted Follow up
Follow up provides an opportunity to ensure strategies are deployed as intended, that the results address problem areas, and to tweak and refine strategies to maximize results. It also provides an opportunity to provide support and feedback to those who are implementing the recommendations.
Follow up focuses on only the problem areas uncovered during initial analysis and for which solutions were recommended. During the six months following training, Cygnet Associates is available to staff by phone and e-mail to guide and counsel on implementation issues and strategies.
Contact Cygnet Associates to Discuss Your Program or System Needs