Performance measurement uses indicators to track progress toward and achievement of specific objectives to manage the implementation of a program or policy. The purpose of performance measurement in government programs is accountability—to ensure the programs and strategies are accomplishing what is intended. A second purpose is to create organizational learning and improvement. Performance measures can be especially important for accountability in federal programs implemented within a multitiered system, like the public workforce system, which has had a performance measurement system in place since the 1970s.
In local workforce systems, funders and workforce organizations take different approaches to performance management. One tool for workforce organizations is performance-based funding, where receipt of funding partially or wholly depends on meeting performance targets. Key performance indicators in workforce programs include process measures, such as enrollment and program completion, and outcome measures, such as employment, job retention, earnings, or receipt of a license or occupational credential. More recently, the public workforce system has measured effectiveness by how well employers are served.
To simplify performance reporting for organizations using different public funding streams, there have been some efforts in the public workforce system to implement “common measures” across different programs. For example, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (which includes key federal funding streams for workforce activities) requires common performance measures across its six core programs. These include
- percentage of participants in unsubsidized employment in second and fourth quarter after exit;
- median earnings;
- percentage of participants who obtain a postsecondary credential or diploma during participation or within one year of exit;
- measure of participants achieving measurable skill gains; and
- measure of effectiveness in serving employers.