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Once again it is time to fill out the questionnaire on which the psychological workplace assessment (WPA) at AU is based. But in contrast to the previous psychological WPA from 2012, this time employees will not have the opportunity to expand on their answers with anonymous comments.

2016.03.09 | Marie Groth Andersen

As joint union representative for both academic and technical and administrative staff, Per Dahl was involved in deciding how the APV questionnaire should be designed. He explains that it was imperative for employee representatives to ensure the anonymity of the employees. Photo: Anders Trærup

There is no comments field in the WPA questionnaire which was sent to AU’s employees on Monday 29 February. This was decided at a meeting of the Main Liaison Committee (HSU) and the Main Occupational Health and Safety Committee (HAMU) last year.

The senior management team: Yes to comments, no to publication

The original proposal from the senior management team was for a model in which the employees would be able to make comments, following which the management along with all the occupational health and safety committees and the liaison committees (HSU and HAMU, FSU/ASU-FAMU/AAMU and LSU-LAMU) would receive the comments confidentially.

Facts about the psychological WPA

The questionnaire survey takes place between 29 February - 20 March 2016.

The reports are received by the senior management team, third level managers, the Main Liaison Committee and the Main Occupational Health and Safety Committee during the week beginning 9 May.

The workplace assessment reports will be published in the week beginning 16 May.

According to the minutes of the meeting, the senior management team’s grounds for selecting this model were: "...that it best meets the requirement to, on the one hand, ensure that the employees are heard without running the risk of being publically identified, while at the same time ensuring that the comments can be acted upon in the relevant forums to draw up action plans."

Employee representatives: No thank you to comments

However, a number of the employee representatives in the two committees did not feel comfortable with this model.

They were particularly concerned that anonymity and thus the protection of the individual employee would disappear, as such a large group of people would have access to the comments, explains Per Dahl, the joint union representative for academic and technical and administrative staff.

"Several hundred people would have access to the comments, so you can no longer guarantee anonymity, which has been the crucial factor for us. We therefore discussed whether we could do something else instead," he says.

New model: Focus group interviews and dialogue meetings

Discussions resulted in a model that both includes the opportunity for the faculties and units in the administration to supplement the questionnaire with specific questions, and the possibility of subsequent focus group interviews or dialogue meetings in the units, if this is deemed relevant, says Per Dahl.

"The model with focus group interviews was used in connection with the evaluation of the liaison committee structure at AU and worked well. It captured the issues very well. The results of these focus group interviews were objective, focused and precise," says Per Dahl.

Rector Brian Bech Nielsen has the following comments about the model:

"The most important thing is to deal with the issues and to so locally. The local results are therefore also those that lead to the fastest response and to the work of shedding more light on the issues and dealing with them being set in motion. It is crucial that the individual employee takes part in the follow-up in relation to the things that he or she would otherwise have commented on in the survey. If employees discover that the topic is not suitable for the planned group interviews or dialogue meetings in connection with the local follow-up, they can always go to their union representative or manager - depending on what they prefer," writes the rector in an email to Omnibus.

Comments field, minefield …

In connection with the previous psychological WPA at AU, several employees were critical of the management because the many thousand comments on the psychological WPA and reorganisation of AU were not published in the WPA reports.

The comments were only used by the analysis group working on the AVP assessment reports to understand patterns in the results. They were not published out of consideration for employee anonymity.

As AU had carried out an extensive survey among employees and students in 2013 in connection with the internal problem analysis, it was decided to leave it up to the individual employees and students to decide whether or not to have their comments published. A total of 2,146 employees (corresponding to 45 per cent of all employee responses) and 2,559 students (corresponding to 61 per cent of student responses) said yes to this. This led to a thick report that ran to 655 A4 pages.

The tone was also sometimes very sharp - particularly some of the criticism of the administration - and the rector felt obliged to urge a more sober and respectful tone between employees and students.

Reluctance to face the issues?

Rector Brian Bech Nielsen acknowledges that the experience of publishing the comments in connection with the internal problem analysis has played a role in the discussions of the design of the questionnaire for the WPA:

"The decision not to have comments fields was thoroughly discussed in the Main Occupational Health and Safety Committee (HAMU) and the Main Liaison Committee (HSU). Discussions also touched on the fact that the tone in the comments field in connection with the problem analysis was in certain cases too hard and targeted at specific employees. So it is correct to say that the experiences from the problem analysis carried a certain weight in the discussion," writes the rector in his reply to Omnibus.

Per Dahl denies that the decision is a sign of a reluctance to face the issues after the hard tone that was expressed in connection with the internal problem analysis.

"It would be wrong to say there is a reluctance to face the issues. However, it is an acknowledgement of the fact that dealing with comments is complex and that they can elicit reactions which are in reality not very useful. It’s more important to ensure that there is a constructive follow-up," says Dahl.

However, he is prepared for the fact that the decision not to incorporate a comments field can in itself lead to criticism from the employees.

"The decision will probably come as a surprise for some people, and both the management and the union representatives and their organisations will perhaps face criticism for it. But we will just have to try and explain why we believe this solution is best. That the crucial factor for us has been to ensure anonymity," he says.

In the spring the local management, liaison committees and occupational health and safety organisations will have the task of describing a process for how to follow-up on the WPA survey with in-depth dialogue or further surveys. In the weeks immediately following the publication of the WPA reports, local dialogue meetings or focus group interviews will be held where these are deemed necessary.

 

 

 

 

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