What are the most common mistakes organisations make in implementing one-page profiles, and how can I avoid them?

Here are the 7 most common mistakes that we see when organisations start to introduce one-page profiles.

1) Creativity over information

Some people think you can’t possibly produce person-centred profiles if they all look the same, or without including graphics, because people think that’s the antithesis of what person-centred means. One senior management team thought that using a standard template for one-page profiles wasn’t creative enough, and wasn’t person-centred enough. They wanted people to be able to choose what every one-page profile should look like. I asked the senior management team to come back the next month and bring with them their one-page profiles presented in the way that they wanted to.

And that’s what people did, and we had a vast, colourful and creative, different one-page profiles that people shared with me. As we got talking a bit about it, people later confessed that actually they’d spent 80% of their time wondering how to make it look good and how to make it look creative, and only 20% of the time on the content, the text of the one-page profile. And if you looked at the one-page profile, because people had been so creative and put clip-art and photos on it, there was very little space for it to have the text in it, and you lost the detailed information that told you who people were. As a result, that particular senior management team decided that they wanted to create five different templates, that all had the maximum space for text, but people could still choose the template that they thought best represented them.

2) The tick box exercise for ‘person-centred organisations’

Here’s the second mistake that we’re seeing: the danger of people seeing this as a new fad, a new thing to do, to claim you’re a person-centred organisation and just make it a box-ticking exercise, that staff do their one-page profiles and then they get filed away and lost in filing cabinets. The solution is to be really clear about the purpose of doing one-page profiles for staff, why it’s a good strategy and how you’re going to use them, so it doesn’t just become an exercise and they don’t get filed away.

3) The ‘Maslow’s hierarchy of Needs’ one-page profiles

Here is the third problem and challenge that we’re seeing. If you have a good one-page profile in front of you, and if you have the one-page profiles of your team, you should be able to take the photos off and the names off and still really know exactly who everybody is – because they’re so detailed that you feel like you know the person just by reading it. A poor one-page profile reads like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. The ‘important to me’ might be something like “have a home, have food, have a bed to sleep in at night”, but they don’t tell you anything that’s particular and important to that individual as an individual.

The solution to that is to have good training and support so that people understand the level of detail they will need to make a good one-page profile, to make it vibrant and to mean something. It is helpful for an organisation to create top tips, standards or guidance, so that people know the expected level of detail.

4) Where’s the new form?

Here’s another new challenge: “where’s the new form?” One-page profiles are not a form at all; it’s simply a way of recording different conversations that you have with people as you’re learning about each other in different ways. And the solution is to make sure people really understand that, and it’s not about presenting an email to people saying, “Please, put in here a list of what’s important to you and how best to support you”. You can guarantee that you’re much more likely to get Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, rather than the rich detail that makes one-page profiles powerful.

5) New, improved one-page profiles

The next problem that we’re seeing is reinventing one-page profiles. I’m hearing a lot of, “oh, we’ve already got one of these, we just need different headings”, or people saying “oh, that’s great, we could just add in another two or three headings and then they’ll be even better”. If you want to do that, that’s fine, but the more headings you add in, the less space there is to capture rich information – and if you are determined to do that, don’t call it a one-page profile. A one-page profile fundamentally has those three headings.

6) The great one-page profile mystery

When we first started introducing one-page profiles to a particular team, they were very hesitant and reluctant, and we got very vague one-page profiles. Later on, when we talked to them about why that was, they confessed that they were very suspicious about why the organisation was introducing them, and they were a bit concerned about how the information might be used. Particularly at times when people are experiencing changes to their work conditions and their terms of employment, it’s natural for people to wonder whether this is connected to that at all.

The solution to this is to be really clear about the purpose, about why an organisation is doing them and how people are going to be using them – so that there is no room for mysteriousness or ambiguity, and people know exactly what’s going to happen to them.

7) The optional one-page profile

What messages are you giving to staff if you say that one-page profiles are optional? You’re saying that it’s not an important part of your strategy, and it’s more likely to give the impression that it’s just a fad that you’re now following. It also might say that you’re not serious about wanting to learn about what matters to every staff member, but just a few who might be interested in doing it.

So I think the solution to this is to be really clear about how one-page profiles fit in with strategy, and once you’re doing that, it does mean moving forward. You will want to do this for every single staff member, whatever role they have in their organisation – as they have been in Bruce Lodge, where all staff members, whether it’s catering staff, housekeeping, support staff and nursing staff or managers, all have one-page profiles themselves.

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