Behavioural insights in employment services

Evidence review

Subosa M, Mansour J, Wilson T |   | Institute for Employment Studies / ReAct  | Jul 2022

cover image

The ReAct Partnership is a new, industry-led, active collaboration to support a continuous improvement community in the Restart programme through action research, shared and iterative learning, and the development of applied, evidence-based resources.

The Partnership is co-funded by six of the ‘prime providers’ for the Restart programme — FedCap Employment, G4S, Ingeus, Maximus, Reed, and Serco — and is being managed by the Institute of Employment Studies (IES), working alongside the Institute for Employability Professionals (IEP) and the Employment Related Services Association (ERSA).

For the past decade or so, there has been growing interest in how we can use models of behaviour change to improve service delivery and outcomes across various sectors. In many respects, these models have codified and made more systematic many of the techniques and practices that have been used in employment services for decades. But the focus on understanding the ‘what’, ‘how’ and ‘why’ of behaviour change has helped services to innovate, test incremental improvements, and to understand what works.

Within the Restart Scheme, there has been significant interest in how these insights could be used to support higher engagement, build positive relationships, and improve employment outcomes. So, for this research project, the ReAct Partnership has reviewed a range of evidence on how behaviour change techniques have been used in different contexts in order to improve outcomes and make services work better. This report sets out the findings from that research and identifies how these can be implemented in the delivery of Restart.

The report is in two sections. The first section provides an overview of behavioural insights as an approach to policy and programme design and implementation. It begins by exploring the underlying principles of behavioural insights. Then it discusses existing behavioural science frameworks used in the development and implementation of behaviourally informed interventions. This section also lays out a process that can guide the application of Behavioural Insights in public policies and programmes.

The second section then explores the application of behavioural insights specifically to employment support services. It presents concrete insights from relevant literature on employment services across different countries. Given time constraints, a rapid evidence review was done. After screening through 1,073 results, a total of 24 studies were included in the final list, from which this report draws its primary insights. The insights emerging from the relevant literature informed the recommendations set forth in this report.