A few points on workplace needs assessments

Posted by Andrew McGiffert |03 Jun 11 | 0 comments

How to use use a workplace needs assessment to help guide a health promotion program,

In order to conduct an effective needs assessment it is important to first understand what needs are,  (Hawe, Degeling, & Hall, 1990, p.210) defines needs as “those states, conditions or factors in the community that, if absent, will prevent people from achieving complete physical, mental and social health”. In 1943 psychologist Abraham Maslow proposed a hierarchy of human needs in his paper ‘A Theory of Human Motivation’ (Maslow, 1943), the needs he described were self actualization, esteem, love/belonging, safety and physiological.

For most workers one third of their day is taken up by work, more than one-fifth of Australians spend 48 hours or more at work each week, and 60 per cent do not take regular holidays (ABC News, 2010). Therefore, when considering basic human needs it is fair to say that work plays a significant role in developing and meeting those needs.

When proposing health promotion programs in the workplace it is important to understand the needs of workers as well as other influencing factors.

To conduct an effective workplace needs assessment for health promotion I believe a range of areas and factors must be considered. A good starting point would be the use of a survey tool, such as the Work Ability Index (Morshhauser & Sochert, 2006). This tool is used to help identify health risks to employees in the early stages of risk. By using this simple 10-15 minute survey tool the workplace could better understand any immediate health issues of their individual workers.

Individual assessments can be a very honest and useful tool for gaining direct feedback from individual workers, it allows the organization to see how the company is helping fulfill the basic needs of their workers an important factor in a health promotion needs assessment.

When conducting any form of assessment and prior to implementing a program it is extremely important to consult with workers, a survey like the above is a great tool to identify issues but may not necessarily engage the workers to openly discuss their concerns, questions or issues. Consultation is an important factor in OHS legislation and in any health promotion needs assessment.

In order to engage workers and open a dialog the workplace could make use of focus groups, this could be completed in conjunction with an initial survey. For example workers could complete a generic survey about health issues and attend a detailed forum/focus group to discuss the company’s position and possible initiatives/controls. A focus group gives workers the opportunity to speak directly with management about their issues and explain concerns first hand.

Once data becomes available from the focus groups it could be analysed and dissected to identify themes and categories for health promotion, e.g. fatigue, rostering, management, unsafe equipment, exposure to chemicals. This type of assessment was used successfully by Devine, Muller and Carter in their exploratory descriptive study of OHS at a fly in/fly out mine in north-west Queensland (Devine, Muller, & Carter, 2008).

An initial health promotion needs assessment should not just be confined to one particular issue or concern, the goal of the needs assessment is to work out what is ‘needed’. In every workplace there are many different needs, such as individual needs, financial needs and resourcing needs to name a few, a workplace needs assessment can assist in identifying the needs of all parties and helping to guide the business to a concern which will provide the most benefit and satisfy the most needs. (Hawe, Degeling, & Hall, 1990) classified needs under four headings felt, expressed, comparative and normative – their model of assessment provided for a greater understanding of needs across the business rather than being confined to just the ‘felt’ needs of an individual or group.

A well used model of needs assessment that looks at many factors is the Precede/Proceed model developed by (Green & Kreuter, 1999).The model is used to assess numerous factors on a micro level including social, epidemiological, behavior, environmental and others.


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