Employment and Jobs

Centering Worker Voice in Employer Engagement and Program Design: A Guide for Workforce Organizations

September 23, 2021  • Jenny Weissbourd, Vivian Vázquez, Ranita Jain, Yoorie Chang & Amy Blair

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The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened appreciation for the critical role frontline workers play in keeping businesses running and communities safe. Business leaders increasingly recognize that listening to workers isn’t just an equity imperative; workers hold unique expertise that can improve business performance. Engaging workers and creating the conditions for them to fully contribute not only unleashes productivity, but reveals that the high cost of turnover need not be tolerated as a cost of doing business.  Workforce organizations can serve as a key catalyst in unlocking worker expertise and engagement in ways that strengthen job quality, equity, and the business bottom line.

Our team at the Workforce Strategies Initiative frequently conducts focus groups and interviews with frontline workers to learn about their experiences at work and listen to their ideas about workforce practices that can help employees and businesses thrive. In recent years, many workforce leaders have expressed interest in learning how to conduct their own worker-focused research and have asked for tools to help them build worker input into the design and delivery of programs and business services.

In response, we have developed two beta tools: a guide to conducting worker focus groups and a tool for conducting worker surveys.

We are currently conducting pilots with workforce organizations and businesses across the country, where workforce professionals are testing these tools and supporting employers to make job quality improvements. We will continue updating these tools as we learn — but, given the many requests we have received, we are publishing them in beta form so that other organizations around the country can test and learn along with us. We encourage you to tell us how you’re using these resources and share your input to make them better.

We hope that these tools are helpful to workforce organizations and business leaders seeking to tap into worker knowledge and to listen and respond to the ideas, needs, and aspirations of frontline workers.


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#wkdev orgs can unlock worker expertise in ways that strengthen #jobquality, #equity, and the bottom line. That’s why @AspenWorkforce developed a focus group guide (as.pn/focusgroups) and survey tool (as.pn/surveys). And they need your feedback!

Frontline workers play a critical role in businesses and communities, and these tools can help employers and #wkdev organizations listen to their ideas. Check them out here (as.pn/focusgroups) and here (as.pn/surveys). Feedback @AspenWorkforce.

Centering #workervoice is critical to improving work and helping businesses thrive. @AspenWorkforce built tools to do just that. They’re eager to hear input from #wkdev orgs and employers who are willing to test them out: as.pn/focusgroups and as.pn/surveys.

Open to review: “Centering #WorkerVoice in Employer Engagement and Program Design: A Guide for Workforce Organizations” by @jennyweissbourd, Vivian Vázquez, @RanitaJain1, @yooriechang, and @amyblair63. Send feedback to @AspenWorkforce.


About Reimagine Retail

Reimagine Retail, an initiative of the Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program and supported by Walmart, explores ways to enhance job quality and improve mobility for workers in the retail and service sectors. As part of this initiative, we are partnering with workforce organizations and employers across the country to gather input from frontline workers to inform job quality improvements. We’re grateful to our local partners, and excited to share valuable lessons from their work on the ground.


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The Economic Opportunities Program advances strategies, policies, and ideas to help low- and moderate-income people thrive in a changing economy. Follow us on social media and join our mailing list to stay up-to-date on publications, blog posts, events, and other announcements.