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Making it Happen: Using Behavioral Science to Simplify Unemployment Insurance

Jessica Johnson - Department of Labor & Training

When people call into the Department of Labor and Training’s (DLT) unemployment insurance call center, they’re usually not calling to actually file their unemployment insurance claim. Instead, explains Jessica Johnson, 80 percent of the calls are related to troubleshooting problems encountered during the filing process. Jessica clearly saw an issue there, and throughout her time in the Innovation League, committed herself to solving it. Now, her office is working with a behavior science consultancy to look at how they communicate about their automatic payment system. This process includes redesigning brochures on the process and tracking whether they were successful in reducing the number of questions their applicants have and generally making the process easier for them.

“If we don’t [reduce the number of issues],” explains Jessica, “we’re going to continue to work together to say ‘what can we do to make additional changes?’ so that they better understand the process… Being in the Innovation League, pushes you to re-ask the question… It’s still a struggle and it takes a really long time, but when you’re getting the right people involved and continuing to ask these questions you can get different responses.” She also highlighted the benefits of getting perspectives from other government leaders. “Another big aspect of the Innovation League was being able to be in this space with other agencies and hearing about the technology that they’re using or different strategies they’re using to help them with issues.” She was able to bring those suggestions back to her team in the DLT and use them to inform their work moving forward.

Her biggest takeaway from the Innovation League? The importance of re-approaching problems from a new angle. “Maybe what you thought couldn’t be accomplished can be accomplished. It might not necessarily be in the exact way that you had in mind, but there are ways to make it happen.”