By Angela Rapp Kennedy, CQL Vice President of Special Projects
The Personal Outcome Measures® (POM) is all about person-centered discovery. It’s a tool to learn about people’s lives and what they want for the future. A POM interview is really just a conversation with people receiving services about a wide range quality of life areas exploring topics like respect, rights, relationships, choices, safety, health, social roles, goals, dreams, and so much more. Then there’s a conversation with a staff member who knows the person well, to find out what the supporting organization knows about a person’s desired outcomes, what supports are in place, and what supports are needed, to help people experience the life they want to live.
For people receiving services, the information gathered through a POM interview is valuable in informing their person-centered plans and providing direction about how best to provide supports. For organizations, data collected from multiple POM interviews can be analyzed to assess the effectiveness of supports across the organization, identifying areas of strength as well as areas where additional focus and an investment of time and resources may be needed.
When having conversations with people receiving services and the staff who know them well, it’s a ‘must’ to have solid interviewing skills, if you are to collect high-quality, in-depth, and accurate information. Only by collecting that quality information will you be equipped to work with the person to develop individualized supports that truly reflect what people want out of their life.
In this Capstone, we’re unpacking the skills required to be an effective POM interviewer. Read on to gain deeper insight into what it takes to prepare, set the stage, engage in a conversation, and collect the information needed to make decisions about the presence of outcomes and supports. From preparing for the interview to asking the right questions and using all of your senses, we offer tips, techniques, and guidance for fruitful, respectful, enlightening conversations.
The benefits of an effective POM interview can be quite literally, life changing. We’ve collected a myriad stories over the years about how the POM has been essential in supporting people to achieve their goals, hopes, and dreams. From person-centered discovery through the conversation, Stephanie has identified ways to connect with others during the pandemic. By sharing his goals, Robert has been working towards purchasing a condominium so he can live on his own. After participating in an interview, Nefertiti was able to embrace her passion for dance, which helped her shed her shyness.
Your journey in person-centered discovery, and ultimately the ability to provide person-centered, person-directed supports to help people live out their dreams, all starts with a quality conversation.
Essential POM Skills
To equip you with best practices for Personal Outcome Measures® interviews, we turned to our own CQL experts. After surveying dozens of CQL staff, who have conducted a total of roughly 11,000 POM interviews over their careers, we pulled together the following insight and advice to help build your skills.
Before the conversation ever occurs there’s work to be done. To begin with you’ll want to ensure that you yourself understand the POM, the process, materials, and factors that weigh into effectively gathering information and then decision-making with the POM.
It’s your responsibility to ensure the person to be interviewed has been given information about the POM, knows what to expect, what is involved, their rights as it pertains to participation in the conversation, and that they have been supported to provide fully informed consent. CQL’s POM Consent Form and Companion Guide is an excellent tool to accomplish that. It walks through the reason for the interview, what the actual interview experience will be like, and how the information gathered will be used – making sure the person understands everything before agreeing to be interviewed and completing the form.
After receiving consent, next you begin working through logistics. This includes what type of interview it will be (in-person vs. virtual), when and where the interview will take place, what accessibility and/or communication support needs the person may have and identifying who will be the person for the portion of the interview exploring the organizational supports. It’s also essential to make sure you know the person’s preferences for the setting and ensure those arrangements are made. The person receiving services should directly inform all these decisions. Of course, they should – it’s their interview!
During the process of obtaining informed consent, you will have shared information about the POM. In the days/weeks leading up to the interview, you might send along resources such as the Outcomes Overview Guide and the POM Factors & Indicators Listing.
Start The Conversation And Ensure People Are Comfortable
You will start off the conversation with introductions and once again go over what the POM is, how the interview process will flow, and what will happen as a follow-up. You will ask the person if they have any questions, etc.
A number of topics will be covered throughout the interview, some that can be very personal. You will want to take steps to ensure privacy in whatever space you are in. Along with protecting privacy, it’s also essential to make sure you know and have honored the person’s preferences for the setting such as providing a comfortable chair, assisting with technology, making adjustments to the physical location, etc. Offering drinks or snacks is often a good way to make people feel comfortable.
During the interview, you will want to be attuned to the person’s non-verbal cues – check in with them frequently to make sure they’re doing okay and offer breaks throughout.
When having this type of deep conversation with someone, success really hinges on making a connection. The most effective POM interviewers are friendly, open, and engaging with the person leading up to and during the conversation. After you become more experienced, you will also get a sense for the ‘order’ of asking questions, so that the person feels more secure in opening up to you as the interview progresses. Another helpful suggestion is to both begin and end the conversation on a positive note!
When you’re looking for a conversation-starter, observations can come in handy. You should look around the room. You may see a concert poster on a wall, a family picture on a desk, or a tennis racket in the corner of a room. You can use these observations to spark discussion about a relevant outcome. In addition, these can be used as overall evidence in your decision-making about the presence of outcomes in a person’s life.
CQL talks about respect a lot and these principles apply to POM interviews. Here are some useful tips to make sure you show respect for people throughout the process:
- Speak directly to the person
- Encourage the person being interviewed to take the lead and then follow their lead
- Explain that the person can choose not to answer any questions and that there are no wrong answers
- Engage directly with the person supported even if there is someone else present for communication support
- Make it clear that they can end the conversation at any time and then end the conversation if they indicate that they want to end it
- Move on if there are any signs the person doesn’t want to talk about a certain subject
- Ask the person if they have any questions
- Take note of the person’s cues as to whether the conversation is going too long
- Thank the person for their time
Excellent communication is key. Demonstrating effective listening skills, having good eye contact, and showing patience and empathy, are essential.
Using open-ended questions, such as “Tell me about what you like to do and when you do it.” instead of saying “Do you get to do what you want to?” allows you to gather more information. Avoid leading questions like “Staff members treat you well, don’t they?” You need to be aware of and support each person’s individual communication style and adapt to that. This might include using plain language and/or avoiding overly complex sentences.
After asking a question, be sure to give the person enough time to answer. When listening closely to their answer, use your intuition to know if there is more to learn and if you need to follow up on something. “Would you tell me more about that?” is a great question.
A question we get quite often is. “Can the Personal Outcome Measures® be used with people who don’t use words to communicate?” The answer is yes! There are so many ways we communicate beyond just words – facial expressions, body language, laughing, crying, making noises, moving around, etc. There are also different types of assistive technologies that support people to communicate.
As you might expect, conducting a POM interview with someone who doesn’t use words to communicate can require additional skills of the interviewer. We have some resources to assist you including a webinar recording of the presentation The Art of Purposeful Conversation Using the POM and the Capstone article “Listening” When People Communicate Without Words, which both share numerous methods for gathering information from people who don’t use words to communicate.
Capture The Right Information
We’ve shouted it from the rooftops… “Use the book!” Your Personal Outcome Measures® Manual will guide you through the interview, information-gathering, and decision-making. That being said, don’t simply read the questions found in the manual. They are called “suggested questions” for a reason. You should use words and phrasing that are comfortable for you and customize your questions based on the person you are interviewing.
Personal Outcome Measures® Manual for Adults
Inside the Personal Outcome Measures® manual:
- View descriptions about the POM factors and indicators
- Receive guidance about the entire process
- Learn how to gather information and make decisions
- Discover techniques for interviewing and measurement
It can be challenging, especially as a new POM interviewer, to make sure you cover all of the outcomes. There is no need to cover the outcomes in the order found in the manual. Often, it’s best to start off with something as simple as, “Tell me what you like to do for fun.” Good time-management skills are required as with so many topics to go over, you’ll want to make sure the interview isn’t lasting too long. Ask enough questions and the right questions, being alert not to repeat questions or ask a question just because it’s next in the book even if the person has already shared information with you that provides you with what you need for decision-making.
Make sure you are well versed in the decision-making questions found in the POM manual as ultimately the goal is to gather enough information to make well-informed decisions later, about whether outcomes and supports are present or whether there are opportunities.
Admittedly, listening intently while gathering information and taking notes isn’t easy. The POM Information Gathering Worksheet helps with room for notes and prompts for questions to ask. As you’re going through the outcomes, be sure to flag when you should be learning about type and frequency. For example, finding out if someone is participating in their community how they want to, and if it’s as often as they would like.
Towards the end of the interview, consider if more detail is needed in a particular area for decision-making. This also includes having enough information so that it’s useful for the person’s support team. Finally, the perfect way to wrap up the conversation is asking the person if there is anything else they would like to talk about or add. And of course, thank them for taking the time to talk with you.
Remember, the POM interview is the discovery part of the process. You’re not trying to ‘fix’ anything at this stage.
After your conversation with the person receiving services, it’s time to talk with a person, usually a support staff, who knows them well. The staff member for this follow-up interview cannot be the same person who may have been providing communication support during the POM interview with the person receiving services. When conducting the follow-up interview, the goal is to discover what the organization knows about the person’s desired outcomes and what supports are in place so it is important that you not disclose information from your conversation with the person receiving services.
Make sure the person being interviewed regarding supports has been provided information about the POM, and if not take time to review before starting the interview. Work to reassure the person being interviewed that this is not a test, there are no right or wrong answers, rather just an opportunity for discovery.
Next Steps In Building Your Interview Skills
CQL has produced an abundance of free resources about the Personal Outcome Measures®, which are all available on our website. There are guides and reports that will support you in better understanding the POM, numerous webinars which offer insight into decision-making and interviewing, and various Capstone Newsletters that cover a number of POM-related topics.
Beyond our extensive library of free resources, we offer Virtual POM Workshops as well as e-learning courses through Relias. Many organizations also decide to have employees pursue CQL Certification, with provides for increased quality and reliability in the use of the Personal Outcome Measures®.
We hope that this article along with all of the linked resources and information will help you in expanding your interviewing skills. As we shared earlier, your person-centered discovery through the Personal Outcome Measures® can be the first step to supporting people to live out their dreams. And it all starts with the interview!
Featured Capstone Article
Leveraging The Power Of The POM
We reached out to several organizations to discover how they use the information gathered from POM conversations. In this Capstone, we hear from organizations about the unique ways they utilize the Personal Outcome Measures®, after the interview ends.Continue Reading