The Profile Planning Meeting: A Process for Assuring Customized Employment Outcomes
by Michael Callahan, Melinda Mast & Norciva Shumpert
Marc Gold & Associates &
Employment for All
The Profile planning meeting
Following Discovery, after the Vocational Profile has been completed and reviewed by the applicant, it is time to convene an employment planning meeting. During this meeting, the preferences and dreams of the applicant need to be considered in relation to the real life employment conditions they have and contributions to be offered. This serves as the basis for making an effective job match and presentation to employers. Of course, Discovery continues throughout one’s life — in school or in adult living situations — beyond the development of the Profile. The Profile’s discovery process and document serve as the basis for the planning to be held at the Profile meeting. Ideally, the Profile planning meeting should be held within two weeks of the completion of the Profile.
Who to invite
The applicant will want to help decide who should attend their Profile planning meeting. Those included might be parents or care givers, the VR counselor, neighbors, friends, other relatives, school personnel, provider agency staff, and anyone else who might be able to provide assistance in matching the applicant to potential employment opportunities. There should however, be a balance of professionals and non-professionals. In fact, we recommend that there be no more people invited to attend who are paid to be there than there are persons not paid to attend. It is important in that every attempt needs to be made to frame this meeting from the applicant’s perspective rather than from an agency or system perspective. Its important, however, not to invite too many people to a Profile planning meeting. It takes time to honor the input from a variety of persons
Where to hold the meeting
A Profile planning meeting is different than the initial visit to an applicant’s home during the Profile in that a group is convened to accomplish particular outcome. While it is appropriate to hold the meeting in the applicant’s home, it is usually more effective to hold the meeting in a space that can accommodate 8 – 12 persons around a table, with room for a flip chart and wall space to hang poster paper. A rehab counselor’s office, a conference room at a provider agency, a classroom, a meeting room in a library or community center all might be appropriate venues for holding Profile planning meetings. The selection of the meeting room should reflect transportation convenience for the non-paid persons who have been invited.
Meeting scheduling and length
The scheduling of a Profile planning meeting should be driven primarily by the needs of the applicant and the non-paid supporters who will be attending. It is likely that a minimum of a one week notice will be necessary to accommodate the needs of both paid and non-paid attendees. The time selected for a meeting will impact the opportunity for families and friends to attend. If a meeting can be conveniently scheduled during regular working hours, that is fine. However, it is likely that late afternoon, early evening or even weekend meetings might need to be scheduled to make it possible for critical, non-paid persons to attend.
The typical length of a Profile planning meeting is approximately 2 ½ hours. While it may be possible to lessen this time frame somewhat, it is a problem to try to “hot box” the meeting with too much efficiency. At the same time, it is important to remain focused. After 2 ½ hours, most persons attending will be less creative and optimistic than at the beginning. We do not recommend holding meetings that last beyond three hours. If additional time is needed to finalize the process, its best to set another time to meet.
If agencies find that attendance by non-paid persons is lower than hoped for, its likely that agency and system needs are being considered before applicant and family needs. It is also possible that insufficient time has been allowed between the time the Profile is completed and the planning meeting is held. Together with the shift towards a customer focus implied in the development of the Profile, the Profile planning meeting represents perhaps the clearest indication of our willingness to recast and redirect services from programs to people. Participation in the process by non-paid members is the litmus test for our success.
Who facilitates the Profile meeting?
We recommend that the person who developed the Profile, facilitate the Profile planning meeting. With all our focus on the applicant and his/her supporters, it may be assumed that we would recommend that the participant or family members manage the Profile planning meeting. However, this is not recommended in most instances. If the participant, or others who need to have opportunity for input, facilitate the meeting, their chance to speak up is actually compromised. The chore of assuring that all persons are heard and that the comments are captured visually for all to use reduces the opportunity for them to contribute. If an applicant or family member insists on facilitating their meeting, offer to assist with the activity of writing comments on a flip chart.
Who holds “trumps”?
Any planning process that uses public funds involves a subtle undercurrent of power — who has it. The power ingredient is evident whenever a plan becomes the basis for action by others. The real power in traditional plans has been held by members of the system, by professionals. We have planned on behalf of individuals, but not with their direction and control. The Profile planning meeting is a process owned and directed by the individual, with family support as appropriate. For this reason, it is necessary for the facilitator to establish who gets to decide whenever aspects of the plan are articulated. Our values indicate that the individual gets to determine whether each plan component is acceptable. To do this the facilitator must clarify with the participant and his/her supporters who will have the final approval. If applicants share a home with their family or if families are legal guardians for their children, determining who will get to decide, to have the final say, is critically important. Ideally, this is done before the meeting is held.
Additionally, those paid to attend a Profile planning meeting need to understand the ground rules of the meeting. Rehab counselors, agency staff members, case managers and other paid personnel are welcome to provide input, but the final decisions must be made by the individual. It is the facilitator’s responsibility to assure that all those attending the meeting understand this shift. To the degree that gatekeeping rules and regulations need to be considered and approval needs to be obtained, these system requirements should be held separate from the Profile planning meeting.
Establishing the mood and direction of the meeting
It is critically important that the Profile planning meeting be focused on developing a blueprint for subsequent job development efforts and not on determining whether someone should work or whether employment is feasible. If these issues arise during the development of the Profile, they should be addressed prior to or outside of the Profile planning meeting. Profile meetings should begin — literally — with a blank page. Even though it is appropriate for facilitators to organize information and to consider possible input, it is critical that the actual plan be a product of the meeting and not of prior work by human service personnel or teachers. Meeting facilitators should consider ways to welcome non-professional members to participate. We suggest the use of a “What Works/What Doesn’t Work” activity as a tool to welcome input from all those attending. Job developers should refrain from developing “packaged jobs” before the meeting and offering those jobs to applicants at the meeting. This would be analogous to a home builder trying to sell a pre-built tract house in a sub-division to a family who wants to build a custom home. The blueprint of the Profile meeting becomes the applicant’s plans for a customized job.
The components of the Profile planning meeting
The meeting begins with efforts to welcome participation. A straightforward and useful process is to start by encouraging group input to identify “What Works” and “What Doesn’t Work” for the participant. Members can decide the life dimension referenced and the facilitator can use the suggestions to establish the “trumps” issue, identified above.
A fundamental purpose of the Profile meeting is to identify ideal employment conditions, preferences and applicant contributions that are then used to negotiate a match that meets unmet needs of various local employers. This activity creates a blueprint that directs subsequent job development efforts.
With the help of everyone at the meeting, a listing of types of job tasks that the applicant currently or potentially can perform should be identified. All suggestions must be consistent with the information contained in the Profile as well as in the Ideal Characteristics section of the Profile meeting. Specific employers should then be identified and targeted for specific calls regarding employment for the applicant. Please note that this process avoids asking the participant to verbally state the preference of a job title. Rather, component tasks are identified so as to be used in negotiating a personalized, restructured job description within a business.
During the meeting suggestions are made to identify potential employment that may have tasks such as those identified in Types of Job Tasks. The resulting list will identify specific employers in the community who have jobs that are consistent with the applicant’s conditions, preferences and potential contribution. To assist in matching the applicant with specific employers, each employer is considered in relation to the Types of Job Tasks that the applicant can perform.
Finally, the list needs to be prioritized, indicating the order in which employers will be contacted for possible employment for the applicant. The participants of the meeting are asked for information about the employers and personal contacts and references are identified for the targeted employment sites. This process results in a clear list of prospects for the job developer to use in beginning the job development phase, prospects that are specific to the applicant. The applicant needs to continue to be involved in each step beyond this point.
The flow of the Profile planning meeting
- Identify, with the applicant’s assistance, who is to be invited to attend the Profile meeting. Consider all of the people involved with the applicant—friends, family, the mail man, the bus driver, VR counselor, who ever the applicant indicates. The majority of the people attending should favor family, friends, and other non-paid people, rather than staff who are paid to interact with the applicant.
- Discuss the Profile meeting with the applicant and set a date and time. Ask the applicant to send a letter inviting the people to the meeting. Provide whatever assistance the applicant might need to contact these people. State the purpose of the meeting and provide each invited person with a completed Profile to read before the meeting. The sole purpose for this meeting is to identify employment possibilities. Employability for the applicant is already assumed. Now it is time to identify the position. Peripheral issues, especially those related to assumptions about employability, benefits, transportation, or “readiness” should be discussed at another time. The Profile meeting should focus only on identifying employment possibilities and employment sites.
- Hold the meeting in a room large enough for everyone to be comfortable. If the applicant is willing, hold the meeting in his/her home. This continues to reinforce the message that the applicant is in charge of this process. But this meeting has a very serious goal and needs to be conducted from that standpoint.
- The meeting is best facilitated by the person who has completed the Profile process and will be doing the job development with the direction and guidance from the applicant. This allows the facilitator to keep the meeting focused on the task. Use a flip chart or blackboard to record information visually for the group.
- Assure that all those attending have copies of the Profile (with permission from the applicant) and ask the individual and family members if there are any changes that need to be made to the document.
- Introduce everyone and review the goals and guidelines for the meeting:
a. employment is the goal,
b. the focus will be on employment possibilities that fit the person,
c. other, non-related issues will be discussed at another time, and,
d. the meeting belongs to the participant.
Example: “It will take everyone here to assist in locating the best employment situation. We want to look at possibilities, not talk about impossibilities or limitations. We want to focus on identifying employers — other non-employment concerns can be dealt with at another time. This meeting is about identifying job tasks and potential employers.”
- Begin with the What Works/What Doesn’t Work activity, charting responses from the group.
- Ask the applicant to describe characteristics of his/her ideal job. Write on the flip chart, the key information that is given. Define the ideal job in terms of the applicant’s preferences, contributions, and conditions. Open this discussion to others in the room, realizing that the definitions by the applicant are the guidelines for the job and discussion should expand or enhance those criteria.
- Once the job characteristics are identified and defined, begin to identify the types of job tasks, available in the local area, that meet those criteria. List these on the flip chart. Make sure that everyone is participating.
1. data entry of a store’s inventory
2. transcribing files to a data base
3. copying insurance forms
4. stocking CD’s at record store
- When the job types have been identified, specifically identify employers in the area who utilize those types of jobs. Be specific, naming businesses in the area. Be sure all of these businesses meet the key information identified in the applicant’s ideal job description.
1. Memorial Medical Center Tasks: 2, 3
2. SIU School of Medicine Tasks: 2, 3
3. Virgin Records Tasks: 1, 4
- Ask if anyone in the room has a contact in that place, a name, or a friend who knows someone there. The more specific information that is available, the easier it is to make a good contact.
“Who knows someone at Memorial?”
“I have a friend who works in the x-ray department that might be of help.”
“Will you contact your friend?”
“Will you contact them within the next week?”
Write down on the flip chart the name of the person who will make the contact and when they agreed to make the contact.
- Prioritize the list by asking the applicant and family to identify the places that are preferences, which ones should be contacted first and the order for subsequent calls.
- Record the information from the meeting on the Profile planning meeting worksheets and, when the meeting is over, type up all of the information and mail it out to the meeting participants.
- Begin to contact employers from the list.
- Talk to the applicant as you call employers. Keep the applicant as a vital part of the process. Maintain a “call-list” of employers to indicate the goodness of fit to the Specific Employer list from the Profile meeting.
- When an employer indicates interest, fill out the Blueprint form indicating how closely the position is to that which was desired by the applicant. Schedule a meeting with the applicant and family to discuss the possibility.
A checklist for holding a good Profile planning meeting
- Try to make sure that there is a balance between “professionals” and non-professionals. The applicant should be encouraged to invite his/her parents (again, as appropriate), friends and advocates.
- If the applicant indicates a desire to have the Profile meeting conducted in a much more personal, informal manner, adjust the membership accordingly. It is possible to hold a Profile meeting with just the employment specialist and the applicant.
- The Profile meeting forms must not be filled out before the Profile meeting — literally or conceptually. While it is helpful for persons attending the meeting to have ideas concerning possible employment, the nature of the meeting is to be flexible and formative — not to act as an approval for agency generated goals.
- Occasionally the employment goals of applicants and their parents might seem unrealistic. When this is the case, the employment specialist must strive to identify potential employment opportunities as close as possible to the applicant’s wishes.
- The person completing the Profile form is typically the best person to lead the Profile meeting. In this way individuals with disabilities and family members are free to participate without the responsibility of facilitation and recording.
- In describing the “Ideal Employment Situation” the applicant and/or the parents might be asked to relate their “vision” of an ideal work situation. The group can then work from that basis to formulate an ideal job. We recommend breaking the ideal job into the “Conditions”, “Preferences” and “Contributions” which comprise the applicant’s perspective of how job development should proceed.
- All suggestions by members attending the Profile meeting must be consistent with the information contained in the Profile. The facilitator should monitor suggestions for consistency and guard against negativism by any member.
- The Profile meeting can be improved by using a flip chart to capture the information which is developed. The pages can then be placed on the walls for visual feedback.
- It may be necessary to call another Profile meeting if the list of specific employers is exhausted through job development efforts. In some instances, it is possible to hold a meeting via the telephone but it is usually preferable to schedule another regular meeting.
- When compiling the list of specific employers, it is best to prioritize the list so that “cold calls” are made after the easier, and potentially more lucrative, referred calls are made.
- The initial Profile meeting takes approximately 2 – 3 hours to conduct. Make sure sufficient time is available.