Findings for the Cleveland Achieve Model

Implementation and Early Impacts of an Employer-Based Approach to Encourage Employment Retention Among Low-Wage Workers

By Cynthia Miller, Vanessa Martin, Gayle Hamilton

This report presents results from an evaluation of the Achieve program in Cleveland. Run by the organization Towards Employment, Achieve provided on-site services in the workplace to increase retention among low-wage workers. It is among 16 models being tested by MDRC in the national Employment Retention and Advancement (ERA) project under contract to the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), with additional support from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL).

A common challenge for programs providing retention and advancement services is the difficulty of engaging clients, whose work and family responsibilities often leave little time to visit program staff. The key idea behind Achieve’s employer-based model was to take the program to the workers, making it easier and more convenient for them to take advantage of services. The Achieve program consisted of on-site delivery of case management services, where staff met individually with clients to discuss a wide variety of issues, ranging from workplace and housing problems to transportation and child care; weekly information sessions covering such topics as time and stress management, goal-setting, budgeting, and credit repair; and trainings for the supervisors of low-wage workers.

Achieve is being evaluated using a random assignment research design, in which 44 employers were randomly assigned to either a program group, eligible to receive Achieve’s services for their low-wage workers, or a control group, not eligible for these services. Because of traditionally high turnover rates in the long-term nursing care industry, Towards Employment recruited employers primarily from that sector.

Key Findings

  • Workers at the Achieve firms were more likely than those at the control firms to receive job retention services, but sustained engagement was difficult to achieve. About three-quarters of the low-wage employees in the Achieve firms had some contact with the program, and employees in the Achieve firms were much more likely than those in the control firms to have received retention services. However, even with the program’s on-site location, participation as a whole was less intensive than hoped for. Reasons for this include rapid turnover among low-wage workers, the difficult job demands placed on nursing home staff, and limited interest among some low-wage employees.

  • Achieve had little effect overall on low-wage employee’s retention at their original firms, aside from a small increase in retention in the short term. Within six months of random assignment, only 60 percent of employees starting out in the study firms were still at those firms. Achieve had no effect on the proportion of workers still at their original firms after six months or after one year, although it did lead to a small increase in the number of days worked during the first three months. Achieve did have positive effects on retention for two subgroups of employees who exhibited relatively high rates of turnover during the follow-up period — those earning very low wages and younger employees — and for the subgroup of firms with relatively high turnover rates prior to entering the study.

  • Achieve had no effect on firmwide turnover rates. Achieve services were available to all employees at the firm, although the low-wage workers in the research sample were given top priority for services. Data for all workers at the firms indicate no effects on firmwide retention in the year following random assignment.

A future report in the ERA evaluation will present longer-term results for Cleveland’s Achieve program.

Document Details

Publication Type
December 2008
Miller, Cynthia, Vanessa Martin, and Gayle Hamilton. 2008. Findings for the Cleveland Achieve Model. New York: MDRC.