Miller, C., Martin, V., Hamilton, G., Cates, L., and Deitch, V. (2008). The Employment Retention and Advancement project: Findings for the Cleveland Achieve model: Implementation and early impacts of an employer-based approach to encourage employment retention among low-wage workers. Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
- The study’s objective was to determine the impact of a program designed to increase employment retention among low-wage workers in the long-term nursing care industry in Cleveland, Ohio. Cleveland was one of 16 sites nationwide to participate in the Employment Retention and Advancement (ERA) project.
- The authors randomly assigned 44 firms to either a treatment group, whose employees could receive employment retention services through Cleveland Achieve, or a control group. The authors collected data on employee turnover directly from firms and employment and earnings data from state Unemployment Insurance (UI) records.
- Two years after random assignment, the study did not find statistically significant differences in the turnover rates, employment rates, or earnings of employees in Achieve firms compared with employees in firms that did not have access to Achieve services.
- The quality of causal evidence provided in this study is high because it was based on a well-implemented randomized controlled trial. This means we are confident that any estimated effects would be attributable to the Achieve program, and not to other factors. However, the study found no statistically significant impacts.
The Employment Retention and Advancement project, Cleveland
Features of the Intervention
The ERA project was introduced in 1999 as a nationwide exploration of factors that helped welfare recipients not only find employment but retain their positions and advance in their careers. Cleveland was one of 16 sites across the United States to receive funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to implement a program intended to improve welfare recipients’ employment outcomes.
The Achieve program was designed to help low-wage employees retain jobs. Run by a community-based social service organization, the program delivered services in the workplace and consisted of three components: case management, weekly life-skills learning sessions, and training for supervisors. Staff met individually with clients to discuss workplace and housing problems as well as transportation and child care concerns. Weekly sessions and workshops addressed topics such as time management, goal-setting, budgeting, and credit repair. The program also trained the supervisors of low-wage workers.
Features of the Study
Given the high probability of service spillover to other employees, the firm was the unit of random assignment in this study. The evaluation randomly assigned 44 employers/firms (as opposed to employees), half to the treatment and half to the control condition. Employers/firms in the nursing sector were targeted because of the high turnover rates in the long-term nursing industry. To be eligible for random assignment, employers/firms needed to have employed at least 15 workers earning less than $13 per hour and hired within the past six months.
The authors estimated program impacts on employee retention with the same employer using data from the randomly assigned firms over the 180 days following random assignment. After firms were identified (but before random assignment), the authors conducted research information sessions at each employer to invite employees to participate. A total of 697 employees consented to participate and provided baseline data. Across the 22 treatment condition firms, there were 381 employees, and across the 22 control condition firms there were 316 employees. Authors estimated impacts on employees’ employment and earnings using UI administrative wage records for two years after random assignment.
- The study found no statistically significant differences between employees whose firms were assigned to either the treatment or control group on retention, employment, or earnings over the follow-up period examined.
Considerations for Interpreting the Findings
The authors noted that among firms in the treatment group, the participation of employees in Achieve services was less intensive than had been hoped. Although about three-quarters of employees attended at least one case management session, more than a quarter of those attended only one. The authors reported that standard errors were adjusted for within-employer or within-firm clustering.
Causal Evidence Rating
The quality of causal evidence provided in this study is high because it was based on a well-implemented randomized controlled trial. This means we are confident that any estimated effects would be attributable to the Achieve program, and not to other factors. However, the study found no statistically significant impacts.