Success in the world of work depends on more than having the capacity to perform technical tasks required for jobs that employers need to fill. Success is also influenced by the strength of one’s “executive function” or “executive skills” — the mental skills used to execute tasks — including emotional control, stress tolerance, time management, organization, mental flexibility, persistence, and others. A growing body of research in neuroscience and cognitive behavioral psychology finds that the stress and chaos of poverty can impair one’s executive skills and thereby may impede a person’s success in navigating the labor market, acquiring occupational credentials, performing well at a job, and advancing at work.
This report introduces the MyGoals for Employment Success demonstration. MyGoals is an employment coaching program that helps participants set and achieve goals. It seeks to do so by explicitly focusing attention on participants’ executive skills.
The focus on executive skills means, for example, that coaches help participants understand their own executive skills so that participants can decide whether certain types of jobs are a good “fit” for them. And if executive skills challenges are impeding participants’ success in achieving their goals, coaches help participants learn behavioral strategies to address those problems. MyGoals also offers participants a set of financial incentives to encourage, facilitate, and reward their engagement in the program and progress in achieving employment goals. Although employment is the program’s central focus, the coaches also help participants set and achieve goals in other relevant domains: education and training, financial management, and personal and family well-being. Coaches make referrals to other services in the community as appropriate given participants’ goals.
Two public housing agencies — one in Baltimore, Maryland, and one in Houston, Texas — are piloting the program and evaluating its effectiveness with a randomized controlled trial. This report describes the origins of the MyGoals model, its core features, the rationale behind those features, the contexts in which the program is being operated, and how the program is being evaluated.