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Things to Consider

Check in with Employer Members

Because employer members are the primary customer and source of input for your initiative, your initiative should regularly check to see if their needs are being met. This can happen in straightforward ways by asking: Are we still on track? Are we still talking about and addressing your needs? How have your needs changed? What is still the most persistent challenge for your industry? What is working about this initiative for you? What is not? Remember also that the advantage of the sector approach is that you can gauge the common needs and interests across firms in the industry because multiple employers are involved and giving their input. This should help the intermediary to know which pieces of feedback are the most valid or most urgent, and not just an outlying complaint, compliment or suggestion for changed direction.

Feedback can also come in more indirect ways. If the initiative does a good job at tracking engagement by and contributions from public and private members, it should be easy to determine if services or activities are meeting their needs. For example, if training for workers is a service of the initiative, a spreadsheet that tracks worker participation and pooled resources by employer members to support a worker training program can show over time how important that training is to employers.

Stay Hungry for Outcomes

Recall in Chapter 7: Metrics and Evaluation, we suggest three phases of evaluating your initiative's progress: 1) Evidence of progress; 2) Products and Services; and 3) Outcomes or impacts. Recall in Chapter 9: Early and Mid-term Products, we discuss how the early- and mid-term products, services and activities of your initiative should lead to the longer-term outcomes your public and private members agree is the change they want to see. In other words, mid-term products and services are the "pre-conditions" to longer-term outcomes. It is easy to misinterpret an initiative's product, service or activity (for example, a new training program) as an outcome. In fact, the outcome is what we see as a result of the new training program (for example, the number of program completers and/or number of skilled new hires). When tracking lessons learned, it will be important to regularly check to see if your initiative's products and services are in fact leading to the outcomes needed and named by the industry. This takes time and a good tracking system. Beware of complacency; don’t stop at products; push to outcomes.

Use Lessons Learned to Message and Market

Articulating lessons learned about what's working and what's not can often be turned into marketing tools. Short case studies about activities and scope of influence; synopses of what's been working over the lifetime of the initiative; and even references to what's been the most challenging can be effective ways to illustrate the value of the partnership.