Step 3: Evaluate the risks – explore problems and develop solutions

The main aim of this step in HSE's Management Standards approach is to take the data collection and analysis from the previous step, and talk the conclusions through with a representative sample of employees and work with them to develop solutions.

Data analysis can only give a broad indication of the underlying issues affecting the health of employees. If you want to know what is affecting employees, you have to ask them.

How you choose to evaluate the risks will be dictated by your organisational structure and the way you have chosen to follow the Management Standards approach.

Focus Groups

Why focus groups are helpful

Focus groups can be helpful because:

Use focus groups to link problems to solutions

Focus groups, or similar discussion groups, also allow you to explore possible solutions to problems.

It is critical that your employees and their representatives participate in this process as:

Groups of between 6 and 10 people work best, but the numbers of your employees involved in this stage will depend on the size of your organisation and local circumstances.

During the focus group or discussion group, you may find it useful to consider the good practice detailed in the Management Standards, and whether this is actually happening in your organisation. This can help provide structure to some of your discussions.

For further information on setting up and running focus groups see How to organise and run focus groups

If you use your own approach to consult with staff and their representatives rather than focus groups, it is important that you ensure all stakeholders (management, employees and their representatives) are either represented in the process or have a route into any forum used.

Develop focus group action plans

A key output from the focus group would be a proposed or preliminary action plan, containing suggestions and recommendations for action at different levels of the organisation.

Since there may be a number of preliminary action plans produced by different focus groups, these will have to be reviewed and turned into a single action plan for the organisation. Step 4 – Developing an action plan gives more information on this.

Communicate the results

You should keep managers, employees and their representatives updated as you go through this process. For example, it is a good idea to share the outcome of the focus groups with group participants soon afterwards.

Deal with individual concerns

Each of the six Management Standards requires that you have systems in place to deal with individual concerns.

Further information

'Peer support showed as a problem on the staff survey but not in focus groups!'
NHS Trust

This quotation highlights a potential issue. A survey such as the HSE Indicator Tool questionnaires and its analysis will provide data to indicate possible issues.

In the current example, peer support was indicated as a possible issue for discussion at the focus group. However, the focus group did not agree that this was an issue. This situation is not uncommon and demonstrates that one of the functions of running focus groups is to validate the data analysis. The reason behind this apparent error could be simply that for the employees attending the focus groups, peer support was not the primary issue. This situation also reinforces the need to use more than one source of data, only a survey was used in this example.

HSE Indicator Tool

The Indicator Tool is a 35-item questionnaire developed by HSE for use with the Management Standards approach. The questions map across to the six Management Standards: demand, control, support, role, relationships and change.  Indicator Tool, as its name suggests, provides a broad indication of your organisation's performance in these six areas. It should not be used as the only data source, but should be used with other relevant data to provide a more accurate and holistic picture of your organisation's performance.

The 'Indicator Tool User Manual' provides advice and guidance on how to use the Indicator Tool as a stand-alone measuring device or as part of an existing staff survey device.

Analysis Tool

The Analysis Tool was developed by HSE specifically to process completed Indicator Tool questionnaires. The analysis tool was first launched in 2004 and has continued to develop in response to feedback from users.

Since the Analysis Tool was published we have had a number of complaints that the tool 'isn't working'. When checking with the complainants there are the some recurrent themes:

How to develop interventions

Interventions are the steps you will take to address the causes of work-related stress; their development is the key output from the Management Standards approach. Interventions will be focused on closing the gap between the organisation's current level of performance and that described by the Management Standards.

Those who will be asked to implement an intervention should be involved in its design (bottom-up approach) by involving employees in focus or other groups.

A key output from each focus group, or other discussion group, should be a preliminary action plan. In developing an action or intervention it is worthwhile considering the following factors.

Intervention type

Level of the organisation

Time period

We have provided, in appendix 6 of the Management Standards workbook some suggestions for interventions for each of the Management Standards. They are not meant to offer pre-packaged, off-the-shelf interventions, but as a resource to use to when considering your own interventions.

Step 4: Record your findings gives guidance on the next stage of the approach.

Updated 2021-05-11