Needs analysis in Group 2 with an improved HAT protocol

By NTNU team

From April to June 2021, the needs analyses for a second group (Group 2) of five intervention sites are carried out in the H-WORK project. For this purpose, WP3 with Marit Christensen, Siw Tone Innstrand, and Karoline Grødal (NTNU), has developed the H-WORK Assessment Tool (HAT) for needs analysis, relying on the principal pillars of H-WORK. The foundation is that bottom-up and participatory processes, focusing on both positive and negative aspects of the working environment (Job Demands-Resources Theory), should give the basis for deciding upon interventions to be implemented at multiple levels in the organization (individual, group, leader, organization; IGLO). In practice, stakeholders from different areas and levels within each organization are involved to get a picture of the needs for actions to improve mental health and well-being. Focus group interviews among employees and individual interviews among senior and middle managers, capture perceptions of demands and resources at different IGLO levels in the working environment, as well as needs for improvement. In addition, a context measure gives information on the policies, practices and programmes that are already in place in the organisation. The aggregated results of the needs analysis are presented in a stakeholder meeting to prioritise needs and decide upon concrete actions and interventions to be implemented. Further, an action plan is developed based on the results from the stakeholder meeting.

Revision of the HAT protocol

The HAT is under continuous development during the H-WORK project period, and the protocol for needs analysis has recently been revised before the starting point of Group 2. The revision was based on the H-WORK intervention partners’ experiences from the implementation in Group 1. Results from focus group interviews among the implementers (summed up in an internal meta process evaluation report by Carolyn Axtell, University of Sheffield), as well as “lessons learned” gathered in the needs analysis report, showed that the overall impression of the toolkit was that it was easy to use and well-designed. However, certain barriers and suggestions for improvements were also revealed and integrated in the protocol for Group 2.

Covid-19 challenges

A great deal of the challenges with the implementation in Group 1 was related to the Covid-19 pandemic. For example, the HAT protocol was originally developed with the idea of arranging physical interviews and meetings. This obviously became difficult to achieve, forcing the intervention partners to arrange digital solutions. This worked out relatively well – however not without challenge. The intervention partners experienced different kind of technical issues that took time, difficulties with determining participants reactions to questions and feedback, and challenges with obtaining an optimal climate for conversations concerning the personal and sensitive subject of mental health.

To account for this in Group 2, and for the future of an increasingly digitalised work life, the revised protocol includes sections with guidelines, hints, and tips for digital solutions for the focus groups, interviews and stakeholder meetings. These sections include software suggestions for relevant purposes, such as meeting platforms and tools for group work that could be used to a cognitive mapping exercise. Further, recommendations for the preparation of the sessions were included to ensure effective time use (e.g., distributing materials and consent forms to the participants and testing and logging in to digital tools in advance of the sessions). Establishment of ground rules for communication and suggestions for ice breaker exercises were included to promote a good conversation climate.

A second issue related to the pandemic was increased workload and pressures on the organisations, which reduces the motivation and time available for the H-WORK activities. This required great efforts of the intervention partners to recruit and anchor the activities within the organization. This, among other considerations, resulted in including a communication plan to the revised HAT protocol to give advice on communication strategies in different phases of the H-WORK process. Notes on why and how to run the stakeholder meeting were also added, to ensure a participatory approach, which is one of the pillars of the H-WORK project.

Different organisational contexts

Through the need analyses in Group 1, it became evident that the protocol needed suggestions on how to analyse and present data in different organisational contexts, and this was therefore added in the revised version. For example, in small organisations it can be a challenge to present useful information from the analyses and at the same time safeguard anonymity, while large and complex organisations may need to structure their analyses to be able to address specific needs within different units.

Among other changes in the revision were updated consent forms, adaptions of questions in the interview guides, removing some questions to spare time, as well as splitting up the context measure in two parts. In Group 1, the overall context measure was completed by a middle manager together with an employee representative. In Group 2, the first part, which includes open-ended questions about existing policies, programmes and practices within the organisation concerning mental health, should be answered by HR personnel or other personnel having this relevant knowledge. The second part, which includes survey questions about perceptions of these practices, as well as psychological safety climate, will now be answered by all participants in the focus groups and interviews, to ensure a better representation of the views in the organisation.