Step 3 - Evaluate the risks

The primary aim of this step in the 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 provide 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:

  • issues highlighted as important in Step 2 may not turn out to be the most important issues for your employees
  • even when the data appear to suggest clear hot spots, it is important to check this out with your employees
  • new issues often emerge during these group discussions - these may reflect more recent changes in working conditions, for example, as a result of organisational change. However, it can also be because focus groups allow employees to discuss, analyse and articulate issues in ways that they may not previously have had the opportunity to do

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:

  • they are often closest to the issues identified
  • they may know better what will work and what will not work in practice
  • they are more likely to help ensure the success of any agreed actions if they have taken an active part in developing and agreeing solutions

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 'states to be achieved' of the Management Standard, and whether this good practice is actually happening in your organisation. You may find that this can help provide structure to some of your discussions.

Further information on setting up and running focus groups

If you use your own approaches to consult with staff and their representatives rather than focus groups, it is important that all stakeholders (management, employees and their representatives) are represented in the process and 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 are likely to be a number of different preliminary action plans produced by different focus groups, it is likely that these will have to be reviewed and turned into an action plan for the organisation.

Communicate the results

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

Dealing with individual concerns

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

Further information on signs and symptoms and developing interventions

  • Spotting signs and symptoms
  • How to develop interventions

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:

  • trying to run the Analysis Tool from the HSENI website – it should be saved to your own system
  • when importing data from a third-party survey, users do not ensure the scoring of questions within the HSE Indicator Tool is correct. They assume that all questions are scored in the same direction. Some questions are asked in the negative and therefore are reverse scored
  • people fail to read the instructions: the opening page of the tool is an embedded instruction leaflet. If you double click it will open as a four page guide which describes how to use the tool properly
  • the work sheet is password protected: If you are entering a single year's data, you need access only the 'Raw Data' worksheet. All the information is entered on this one page and the rest is populated as the analysis is completed. You don't need a password
  • column B: Whether you use demographic questions or not, there must be an entry in column B for each row of data. This can be the date, the name of the organisation or anything else. This clarifies that the data entered in that row is valid and a record number is allocated to column A
  • too few responses: The tool is designed to work when there are 10 or more records, the analysis will not be done until there are 10 records - if you have fewer you can copy and paste all the records until the total exceeds 10
  • transfer of data from other tools: The analysis tool is an excel document that analyses numeric data. If you are creating a digital version of the questionnaire using some data gathering package, you need to ensure that the tool identifies the score (1 - 5) rather than the 'answer' (sometimes, often, never etc.)

Full guidance can be found:

Find out more about

For more information please contact a mental well-being at work advisor.