New resources funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation offer insights on an approach to workforce development that seeks to strengthen people’s executive skills — the cognitive abilities needed to set goals, develop plans and follow through on them.
The resources — a case study, tool kit and video — draw on the nonprofit New Moms’s efforts to incorporate executive-skills building into its programs that help young mothers in the Chicago area gain job skills, support a family and find quality housing. Watch this video about New Mom's approach.
To help adult educators and workforce staff blend executive-skills building into their work, the Executive Skills Implementation Toolkit includes various items, such as surveys, checklists and other resources meant to jumpstart the process.
Research suggests that executive skills, such as organization, time management and emotional control, can be improved with practice in that time. The case study, Implementing an Executive Skills Approach: Insights for the Field, starts with a summary of the key components of New Moms’s work, which includes:
- introducing environmental modifications, or changes to work-related materials, physical spaces, procedures, policies or processes to make tasks easier to complete;
- building executive-skills knowledge by asking employees to explore their strengths and weaknesses in accomplishing goals, planning and organization, among other things;
- coaching participants to help ensure they meet their objectives;
- tracking goals so that progress is made on both short- and long-term objectives; and
- using incentives to entice participants to improve performance and gain new skills.
The document then provides examples for how New Moms has integrated these elements into its work. For instance, through workshops and assessments, New Moms has asked participants to gauge their strengths and weaknesses in executive skills and build plans to improve. Coaches have then worked to hold them accountable.