ORC Sightlines

December 2008

In this issue:

Cognitive Interviewing Techniques Improve Workplace Investigations

Reviews of workplace incidents are often hampered by the investigators’ lack of training in effective interviewing techniques, making it difficult for the organization to get a complete picture of what caused the problem and how to prevent it from recurring. No wonder, then, that members of ORC’s Occupational Safety & Health Group rated Dr. Ronald Fisher’s discussion of cognitive interviewing techniques as the most useful presentation of the November meeting.

Dr. Fisher proposed a number of techniques for eliciting full and accurate information from witnesses:

Engage the witness: Witnesses will be more forthcoming if they are allowed to narrate events in their own way. Rather than ask a long series of questions that may disrupt the witness’s memory-retrieval process and elicit only short answers, the interviewer may get more useful responses by just letting the witness talk. The interviewer’s role is to motivate the witness to share information, facilitate the memory-retrieval process, and take notes.

Assuage apprehension: Some witnesses may be afraid to provide information if they think they have something to lose. Investigators should emphasize that their only interest is reducing the risk of future incidents. Witnesses should be reassured that they are not being blamed, but that, on the contrary, the organization regards them as heroes for helping to resolve a serious problem.

Facilitate recall: Witnesses’ memories may not always operate verbally. Encouraging the interviewee to draw pictures may elicit memories that don’t come out in oral discussion. It can also be helpful to conduct the interview at the accident site and help the witness recall the cognitive, physical, and emotional state the employee was in when the incident took place.

Very often workplace incidents are investigated by supervisors rather than professional investigators. Dr. Fisher noted that the techniques he described can be useful in other aspects of a supervisor’s work and interactions with employees.

For more information on ORC’s networks for Occupational Safety, Health, and Environmental professionals in the U.S., Europe, and Asia, contact Linda Haney, +1-202-822-3681.

Senior HR Leaders Debate Impact of New Administration with NPR Editor

The President-elect and his administration face a number of “profound” challenges, according to Ron Elving, Senior Washington Editor of National Public Radio, who spoke with members of ORC’s senior HR leader networks just after Election Day. No surprise about what number one on the list is:

The others include:

Interestingly, Obama’s priorities and those of the electorate are not in perfect congruence, although there is certainly some overlap between the list above and the top five priorities for voters as indicated by an AP/Diageo poll:

The question of how much an Obama administration will be able to satisfy the demands of voters while dealing with the crises of the current global economic and political climate led to some fascinating discussion. HR leaders from Fortune 300 companies speculated on the likelihood of various scenarios and talked confidentially among themselves about the impact the administration’s public policy decisions might have on their corporations and their HR strategies.

ORC’s Senior HR Officer Networks combine the brain power of HR leaders of Fortune 300 companies in a forum unlike any other. In confidential discussions, members share innovative responses to the concerns faced by large publicly held corporations in a complex, global business environment. For more information, contact Karen Kachadoorian, +1-212-852-0312.

International Experience of Leaders Lags Behind Needs of Business

Out of approximately 100 companies surveyed by ORC, 55% said that international experience is very important or critical to the success of senior leaders. However, among these companies, the average percent of senior leaders who have lived and worked outside their home countries is only 29%. The proportion of high potentials with international work experience is also just 29%.

Surveyed companies are taking some action to improve the international acumen of their senior leadership teams. On average, participants expect 27% of their corporate leadership positions will be recruited globally next year. Nearly half have structured their expatriate management programs as part of the overall talent management process, allowing them to better align developmental needs of managers with business demands. In addition, 57% believe culture plays a very important role in the company’s success, and 69% provide cultural training for managers (although more than a third are less than satisfied with how well the available training meets their needs).

More findings from the survey on “The Importance of Cultural Skills in Senior Managers” are noted in this press release. The full report may be purchased online. For more information, contact Ed Hannibal, +1-773-272-0630. To discuss how ORC’s talent management consulting services can help your organization better identify, assess, develop, and deploy critical talent around the world, contact Jodi Starkman, +1-212-852-0394.

National Summit Urges Action to Improve Workforce Health and Productivity

Senior ORC consultant Ann Brockhaus was among a group of more than 30 national experts in workforce health and productivity who issued a call for action to U.S. employers, urging them to adopt health-prevention measures for their employees to avert the “dire consequences” of chronic disease and changing demographic trends in the workplace.

As a follow-up to its first-ever Workforce Health and Productivity Summit, held earlier this month in Santa Ana Pueblo, New Mexico, the group has issued 10 consensus statements, accompanied by a list of recommendations intended to enhance worker health, strengthen the health care system, and benefit the nation’s economy by focusing attention on the unique relationship between workforce health and productivity.

Among the group’s conclusions: Not enough employers are familiar with the fundamental linkage between health and productivity, nor are they utilizing the many resources and tools already available to help build a healthier workforce. A more consistent system of workforce health measurement is needed and the nation’s employees must be engaged with employers as partners in a system-wide effort to improve health.

The group called for a number of action steps, such as an effort to include workforce health policy as a fundamental part of the health care system reform debate. At the individual employer level, Brockhaus said, “The most innovative are taking a ‘big picture’ view of the total health of their employees by addressing both on and off the job causes of ill health.”

The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM) and the Integrated Benefits Institute (IBI) organized the event, with funding by Sanofi-Aventis. ACOEM and IBI cite the aging American workforce and the rise of chronic health conditions among all workers as key factors driving the need for adoption of health and productivity strategies aimed at the workforce. Some studies suggest that more than 80% of medical spending goes toward care for chronic conditions, such as diabetes, depression, and cancer. The impact of these conditions on costs in U.S. companies is estimated to average nearly $13,000 per employee annually.

For more information about the consensus statements or to discuss workplace health issues, contact Ann Brockhaus, +1-202-293-2980.

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