Outcomes At Work
Application of outcome measures in employment settings has shown that the outcomes that assist people to find, secure and sustain a meaningful employment do not differ significantly from those used to measure success in other life areas. Since outcomes function by providing a framework for understanding the person, addressing the full range of issues that may be important to people is essential to ensuring that work supports compliment other activities in the person's life. Although supports provided by the employment organization may be limited to the work setting, the knowledge of the person in all areas enables staff to ensure that the person's work situation is compatible with other activities and priorities for the person.
Ensuring the person is successfully integrated into the work environment is the primary objective of employment support, but, the performance of activities at work that contribute to task and productivity is only one part of the work experience. The application of generic outcome measures to work emphasizes the view that work is a means to an end. People work to achieve individual outcomes. Work is not an end in itself. Traditional work preparation and work opportunities for people with disabilities have often treated work itself as the outcome. When work is viewed as the outcome, active engagement in any work activity can be judged as adequate. However, when providers of service look beyond work tasks to the direct and indirect outcomes that people expect from work, success and quality in employment service is defined by responsiveness to individual need.
The focus on outcomes challenges the employment service organization to look beyond professional practice and program guidelines. Whereas in the past, employment programs were designed according to professional criteria, an outcome approach dictates that professional expertise be used to facilitate the attainment of individual outcomes. Program design focused on models developed by professionals - work hardening, work activity, sheltered workshop, on the job training - reflects generalizations about the needs of people who would use them. People sought entry into the program that best approximated their needs. Programs accepted people into available "slots" instead of designing services around the needs of each person served.
In contrast, an outcome or person-centered approach replaces the program approach with one that is based on the discovery of specific outcomes that people expect from work and employment services. Rather than placing people in available openings or slots, organizations design supports and services that meet expectations of people seeking services. General resources such as assessment, therapies, and group learning and support activities are accessed as needed by the person served instead of routinely required as a part of program participation. More important, organizations recognize that the measure of quality is not the delivery of a service or support, but the results that service or supports produce for each person.
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