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Improving government communications with behavioral insights

Innovative applications of plain language

  • Blog
  • 12th Mar 2024

Governments across the U.S. are responsive to residents’ needs every day. But what happens when a state can be proactive, and focus on an initiative to support people long term?

This is what the state of Nevada was able to do with their Unemployment Insurance (UI) program, a social safety net for those who have lost their jobs and are currently seeking employment. Our team was excited to get to partner alongside them. 

The COVID-19 pandemic put enormous strain on state workforce agencies as they supported unemployed residents. From March to December 2020, 52 million people (1 in 5 Americans) applied for UI benefits—a sharp increase from previous years. This pressure brought existing challenges to light within the UI application process.

Increasing access to support in Nevada 

In 2023, Nevada’s Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation (DETR) partnered with BIT in a project supported by the National Association for State Workforce Agencies (NASWA) to strengthen their UI program. 

Together, we applied a deep understanding of human behavior to address barriers in the claims filing process and improve communications to give the public a better understanding of the program. Specifically, we focused on enhancing eligibility letters (often referred to as “determination letters”) and the State’s UI homepage with a combination of plain language, behavioral insights, and human-centered design.

More people understood what they needed to do

Not only did the revised letters we evaluated increase comprehension, people who used the newly designed homepages were also 4-5x faster at finding key information, thus reducing the administrative burden faced by potential claimants. Read the full case study to learn more.

We tested two behaviorally-informed homepage redesigns. Participants who interacted with this modern version were 5x more efficient at finding information compared to the original version.

What could results like this mean when put into practice? Claimants are able to find the information they need faster and thus are less likely to try to reach the call center. When they do call, they are likely to ask fewer and potentially “better,” more targeted questions, which take less time for staff to answer. Plus, claimants may be less frustrated, resulting in more positive interactions for both claimants and DETR staff.

Model for good governance

The DETR team proved themselves to be role models for good governance. Throughout our work together, they brought their own expertise to bear while embracing creativity, experimentation, and the voices of residents in order to create more accessible program materials. 

The State used every step of the process to build their own research skills. Our team led trainings on conducting interviews and focus groups, user testing, data analysis, and more. The DETR team then implemented their learnings in real time during this project, talking to residents about their challenges with the UI program and co-designing solutions. We encourage other state workforce agencies to use this project as a blueprint to approach improvements in their own UI systems.

Read the full case study

To learn more about how we helped the state of Nevada gain deeper insight into residents’ obstacles and design and test behaviorally-informed communications, read and download the full case study here.