Site Visit Interviews

Women conducting interview

Site visit interviews provide the opportunity to meet face to face with managers and employees at the workplace to gain personal insights about the corporate culture, key decision makers, perceived sources of health and safety threat, if any, from the work environment, and what may be of interest and feasible at the worksite in terms of workplace health. The important steps in conducting site visit interviews are:

  1. Determining which employees to interview
  2. Determining the types of information the assessment team wishes to learn during the interview; and
  3. Developing structured interview questions [PDF – 234K] to guide the conversation

Interviewing employees

During the site visit, meet with employees who are key to making decisions about and then implementing employee health promotion activities. These types of employees include representatives of:

  • Senior Management (e.g., Chief Executive Officer, President, Vice-Presidents, Chief Financial Officer, Chief Operations Officer, Operations Manager, Department or Division Managers, Shift Managers if worksite operates on multiple shifts)
  • Human Resources (e.g., HR Manager or Director, Benefits Officer, Medical Director)
  • Wellness Coordinator(s) and staff (if applicable)
  • Environmental Health and Safety Manager, Occupational Health Clinic staff (if applicable)
  • Employee workplace health or wellness committee members (if applicable)
  • Other relevant employee committees (e.g., safety, employee recognition, community involvement)
  • Data/Systems managers (e.g., time and attendance, payroll, health vendor reports)
  • Employees representing different functional groups (e.g., administrative/clerical, productions, management, sales/marketing, engineering, facilities/building/grounds, customer service, maintenance, operations, employees from different shifts if worksite operates on multiple shifts)
  • Union or Employee Association representatives (if applicable)
  • Any current partners engaged in supporting employee health (e.g., community-based non-profits, hospitals, health care systems, or vendors)

Although it may not be possible to speak with all employees in each of the above categories, it is important to try to get representatives from each of these groups so that all viewpoints and perspectives can be captured. If necessary, conduct interviews over the telephone if individuals are not available to meet in person during the day(s) the team is at the worksite. While there is no firm rule for the number of individuals who need to be included, the goal should be to gain a diverse representative sample of managers and employees that reflects the company’s demographics and operations (e.g., interviewing managers and employees from across all shifts if the worksite operates on multiple shifts).

Some considerations when conducting interviews

  • Use a combination of individual and group interviews to maximize the time allotted
  • When conducting a group interview, make sure the employees are all representing the same group or function. Discussions often flow more freely if group interviews are conducted with between three to seven employees
  • Reserve a conference room or private area to conduct the interview to ensure employees’ confidentiality and their comfort with speaking openly. Be sure to obtain the participants written consent to take part in the interview before proceeding
  • If the team wants to audiotape the conversations for accuracy, make sure to ask and receive approval from the employees in the interview to do so. Also, let the employees know how the tapes will be used. In workplace settings, it is often common that employees or management would prefer not to have discussions audio-taped
  • Before beginning, introduce the assessment team members, inform the group about the purpose of the interview and generally describe the types of topics to be discussed and the ground rules. If anyone from the group is not comfortable with the ground rules, they may be allowed to leave

Key topic areas to discuss during interviews

Employee interviews can provide valuable insights into the types of health promotion strategies that may be feasible at the workplace and what policies, procedures, and staff can help to implement new activities and/or improve existing ones. How much the team learns during the employee interviews depends upon the types of questions asked. Below are examples of key topic areas to consider discussing with employees:

  • Workplace Health Governance
    • Employee roles and responsibilities at the workplace
    • Benefits and goals of a workplace health program
    • Perceived commitment by senior leaders to employee health and safety (e.g., through review of employment contracts, strategic plans, health improvement plans, shareholder reports)
    • Program eligibility (e.g., who could participate in the workplace health program – employees, spouses, dependents, retirees)
    • Perceived champions for implementing a workplace health program
    • Presence of employee representation (formal/informal) and their role in the workplace health program
    • Effective forms of communication to reach employees and its impact on health.
      • For example, results from the prospective cohort WOLF study in Sweden suggest that managerial leadership behaviors and manner of communication such as consideration for individual employees (My boss shows that he/she cares how things are for me and how I feel), provision of clarity in goals and role expectations (I have a clear picture of what my boss expects of me), supplying information and feedback (My boss gives me the information I need), and promotion of employee participation and control (My boss encourages my participation in the scheduling of my work) decrease the risk of employee ischemic heart disease
    • Potential barriers and facilitators to implementing a workplace health program
    • Identifying the resources, financial and non-financial, necessary to implement the workplace health program
    • Identifying the sources of data or information to develop an employee health profile that are currently available or will need to be collected
    • General corporate culture, business objectives, and attitudes towards health promotion
  • Workplace Programs, Policies, Benefits, and Environmental Support
    • Perceived common health issues among employees
    • Perceived health or safety risk from the work environment
    • Potential sources of stress at work
    • Current workplace health activities
    • Health promotion activities of interest
    • Policies supporting employee health (e.g., tobacco, nutrition, physical activity)
    • Health benefits supporting employee health (e.g., preventive care coverage, health insurance premium discounts, other incentives)

It is important to consider which topic areas may be best addressed with different types of employees. Depending on how much time is available to talk with each type of employee, topics may need to be prioritized.

Interview questions

Structured interview questions are guides to help facilitate conversations with employees. They are designed to include a number of questions to address specific topic areas such as those listed above.

Key things to think about with interview questions are:

  • Begin with an introduction that explains who the assessment team is and what the team hopes to learn from the interviews
  • Interviews with individuals can often be conducted within 30 minutes; discussions with groups of workers are often useful to limit to 1 hour. It may, however, be important to allow 1.5 to 2 hours for discussions with a workplace health program coordinator or director. Develop the protocols keeping time limits in mind
  • Avoid closed-ended questions that lead to yes/no responses and instead use open-ended questions to gather more detail. Include probing and follow up questions if necessary
  • Prepare a Participant Fact Sheet/Consent Form to explain and ensure interviewees’ confidentiality and privacy, obtain consent to participate, as well as to provide contact information for any questions they may have following the interview
  • Consider sharing interview questions with interviewees before meeting, so they can prepare thoughtful responses
Tools & Resources

The CDC Division for Heart Disease and Stroke has developed Heart-Healthy and Stroke-Free: A Social Environment Handbook as a resource for communities, however, it is useful for other settings. Chapter seven deals with key informant interviews.

The National Science Foundation has developed a User-Friendly Handbook for Project Evaluation that provides information on common qualitative methods including key informant interviews.