Implementing the Empowerment Lever

The empowerment lever is focused on how government agencies can ensure workers, partners and customers voice is valued, they are appropriately represented and there are meaningful opportunities to influence how a workforce or economic development agency operates. This could be related to budget priorities, strategic planning, program design, implementation, policy development, and even certain aspects of agency operations.  

Government agencies may play the role of educator, sharing information about a process, body or service, implementer, incorporating formal or informal opportunities for voice in their own work, or monitor/evaluator, making sure existing structures and regulations are being used.

Methods for validating empowerment should be fit-for-purpose -relevant and specific to content and target groups. Consider:

  • Existence of Choice - Is choice both available and accessible?

  • Use of Choice - It choice consistently and equitably used?

  • Achievement of Choice - Is the existence and use of choice accomplishing the desired result?

Worker Centers

What: Community-based organizations that provide support, education, and advocacy for workers, often focusing on low-wage or non-unionized workers.

How: Governments can work in coordination with such organizations for worker referrals, to inform strategic enforcement activities support other information sharing. Government agencies might also provide space for centers to deliver education to workers.

Worker Boards / Councils

What: Employee-elected boards with decision-making authority on specific workplace issues, such as training, safety, or scheduling. Sometimes called industry or standards boards.

How: Government agencies can establish such boards to inform policymaking. Agencies can also incorporate such board functions into their sector strategies.


What: Employee organizations that collectively bargain with employers to negotiate wages, benefits, and working conditions.

How: Government agencies can partner with unions on training programs, create space for presentations on union programs and include union representatives on boards to represent workers.

Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)

What: Voluntary, employee-led groups based on shared backgrounds or interests that provide a platform for communication, advocacy, and support within an organization.

How: Government agencies can create ERGs within their agency for public sector staff. Agencies can also provide training or information to companies and job seekers around the role of such groups within an employment relationship.

Joint Labor-Management Committees (JLMCs)

What: Formal committees with representatives from both management and workers that collaborate on issues like safety, productivity, and workplace policies.

How: Government agencies can provide training or information to employers and workers around the role and impact of such committees within an organization.

Employee Ownership

What: Granting employees ownership stakes in the company can foster a sense of shared responsibility and encourage worker engagement.

How: Government agencies can provide support companies looking to explore employee ownership transitions, such through a business resource hub or the application of WIOA rapid response/layoff aversion funds to feasibility studies.

Employee Suggestion Programs

What: Structured programs with defined channels for submission, evaluation, and implementation of employee ideas, encouraging employee participation.

How: Government agencies can implement such suggestion programs within their own HR operations or can utilize similar models to solicit input from program participants.

Profit-sharing or Gain-sharing Plans

What: Plans that tie worker compensation to the company's profitability, incentivizing collaboration and shared goals.

How: Government agencies can provide support through business-focused programs to employer looking to transition their pay structure.

Code of Conduct Committees

Committees with worker participation that help shape and enforce workplace norms related to conduct, harassment, and discrimination.

Employee Ombuds Offices

What: Independent and confidential offices within an organization where employees can raise concerns, seek advice, and report issues without fear of retaliation.

How: Common within government agencies or large organizations as a resource for workers. Agencies can provide educational materials and other communications to ensure employees understand the resources that are available to them.

Peer Review Committees

What: Committees in certain industries or professions with elected employee representatives who participate in reviewing professional conduct and potential disciplinary actions.

How: Common within large organizations as a resource for workers. Agencies can provide educational materials and other communications to ensure employees understand the resources available to them.

Empowerment is often fostered through a variety of formal structures including but not limited to those below. It may also be fostered through processes such as surveys, focus groups, mentoring conversations, or other feedback channel.

Human Centered Design

One important way that economic and workforce agencies can empower workers is to thoughtfully design policies and practices centered on local workers’ experiences and perspectives. A helpful starting point in user design is to develop personas who are fictitious yet realistic representations of target beneficiaries of your programs and policies. They are used to identify the individuals a) you seek to improve job quality with b) would like to hear input and perspectives from, and c) are the focus of policy and practice change efforts.

Human Centered Design: A problem-solving technique that puts real people at the center of the development process, enabling agencies and teams to create programs, services, and policies that resonate and are tailored to the needs of the intended beneficiary, or end-user.

It is important that the individuals developing personas have lived experience similar to those of the target beneficiaries. Agencies can work with individuals from the communities most impacted by low job quality to further develop and sharpen user personas on a regular basis.

After developing one or more personas, the next step is to map the journey of the user to strengthen your understanding of the key opportunities and challenges your target beneficiaries may face moving toward your intended outcome. Ask "How Might We...." questions to think expansively about how each step in the process meets the needs of those who will experience it. Explore whether choice exists and is being consistently and equitably used. This can include everything from who operates each aspect of the program to how success is defined, data is collected, and results are disaggregated.

Once the mapping is complete, make sure to allocate necessary funding to not only carry out the revised process but also build in routine monitoring and evaluation to ensure the changes are having the desired impact. Take time to assess whether the existence and use of choice that you built into the process is accomplishing the desired result.

Tips for Human Centered Design

  • Consider who is at the table
  • Take time to hear from users/participants directly
  • Design personas who provide realistic representations of target beneficiaries of your programs and policies
  • Strengthen your understanding of the key opportunities and challenges your target beneficiaries may face moving toward your intended outcome through journey maps


Selected your lever(s)? Now move on to documenting your goals.