ICI Research Highlights Importance of Real-Time Support for Employment Consultants

Community Inclusion
3 min readApr 12, 2024


New research from the Institute for Community Inclusion analyzed how data-enabled feedback and micro-lessons embedded in the workflow can be an important part of organizational management and quality improvement for employment consultants.

In an article published in the academic journal Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, researchers detailed how they made a tool called ES-Coach (Employment Support Coach) available to employment consultants so they could visualize their implementation of supported and customized employment, reflect, set goals, and take action. The ICI staffers worked with 11 managers and 56 employment consultants from nine organizations over six months, asking them daily questions about their work activities and providing micro-lessons on best practices through videos, tips, data, and articles.

“It’s very helpful to discuss things and through that process, identifying things that we didn’t think we were doing well that we didn’t realize we were doing as well,” a manager told researchers.

The researchers found this helped assign hard numbers to goals and service delivery, making it easier for managers to quantify the relationship between staff time investments and outcomes and helping lead to improvements in organizational staffing and management. Results from the study didn’t show an observable change in employment consultant behaviors or outcomes, but researchers said both managers and employment providers found value in using data-enabled feedback to support planning and continuous quality improvement.

One manager told researchers, “It’s hard to quantify in this field what we’re doing, and to have this data to back it up is just fantastic!”

According to the researchers, this study extends a limited body of research on both the implementation of supported and customized employment, and the importance of investing in real-time implementation support rather than relying solely on training.

“Changes to our investments in training and implementation support are needed. Formal training is important, but it is not enough,” the researchers wrote. “These investments need to be reflected in provider qualifications and in state capacity building investments.”

This also has implications for funding, as rate structures need to account for the time invested in data-enabled coaching as a complement to training. The researchers said this will require state funding agencies and management information system vendors to work together to assist in document the implementation of supported and customized employment while reducing the administrative burden on programs.

Future research will also need to dig more into high-value activities and develop strategies for better embedding data-based feedback and coaching into organizations.

The researchers said that although the recommendations may take time to implement, employment programs can take steps now to improve the implementation of best practices by setting goals like what participants in the pilot identified. This include getting to know job seekers through observation and activities; finding jobs through networking, informational interviews, business tours, and job negotiation; facilitating natural support; and streamlining administrative tasks.

According to the research, the next step is to scale up adoption of ES-Coach or similar data-enabled feedback interventions among service delivery systems for continuous quality improvement.

“This pilot highlighted the importance of data-enabled feedback in the workflow as a tool for supporting employment consultants implementing supported and customized employment,” the researchers wrote.

Authors of the journal article include John Butterworth, Alberto Migliore, Oliver Lyons, Jill Eastman, Britni Miles, Paul Foos, and Agnieszka Zalewska, as well as Danielle C. Mahoehney of the Institute on Community Integration at the University of Minnesota.

To learn more about this research, check out the full journal article on the Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities website or visit https://www.es-coach.org/.



Community Inclusion

The Institute for Community Inclusion (ICI) promotes the inclusion of people with disabilities in school, work, health care and community activities.