Annex F. Topic guide HR management

  • Outline the aims of the study and purpose of the interview.

  • Inform the interviewee of the likely duration.

  • Provide a brief overview of the scope of the issues the discussion will be looking to explore.

  • Request permission to record the interview.

  • Outline the treatment of data gathered and the approach to confidentiality.

  • Gain explicit consent for the interview and its recording based on this.

  • Check if the interviewee has any questions prior to commencing the discussion.

  • Ensure that the interview is tailored to the interviewee and firm type.

  • Feel free to change the order of the questions, as long as all questions are covered.

I would like to start with asking a few questions about yourself.

  1. 1. Could you please describe your current role in [Enterprise]?


    • time in post, time in enterprise

    • current remit, area of responsibility

    • previous roles

  2. 2. If you are happy to share, could you please tell me which year and month you were born in?

  3. 3. What is the highest qualification that you have obtained?

  4. 4. What is your own attitude towards learning throughout your life?


    • Why do you think it is important to keep you skills up-to-date?

    • How do you keep your skills up-to-date?

    • Do you take part in courses, seminars or workshops for learning purposes? When was the last time you took part in any of them?

  5. 5. [For interviewer only: Is the respondent male or female?]

I would now like to get a better understanding of how training is organised in your [enterprise/establishment].

  1. 6. To what extent does your enterprise provide training opportunities to its employees?


    • What share of employees take part in training in a given year?

    • How many days does a typical employee take part in training?

    • What groups of employees train more?

    • Are these people in specific jobs?

      Do these people have specific personal characteristics (age, time in enterprise, level of education)?

    • Does the [enterprise/establishment] offer specific training for employees in a disadvantaged position on the labour market, for example those in jobs at risk of automation or those with low skills?

  2. 7. Does your [enterprise/establishment] have a workforce strategy, i.e. a plan for hiring, developing and motivating staff, as well utilising their skills?


    • What is the time horizon of this strategy?

    • How do you assess which skills your workforce currently has? What information do you use?

    • How do you assess which skills your enterprise need in the future? What information do you use?

[If Q07=no].

  1. 8. If you do not have a workforce strategy, what guides your approach to training employees?


    • How are HR decisions around training co-ordinated with the decisions in other departments?

[Continue with all interviewees].

  1. 9. Consider a hypothetical employee in your [enterprise/establishment]. Can you describe how they would access training?


    • How do you assess if the employee needs or wants training?

    • How does the employee finds out about the different training opportunities on offer?

    • Who decides if the employee is being offered training?

    • Is training participation voluntary for the employee?

  2. 10. Has the economic uncertainty induced by the COVID-19 epidemic affected your decision to provide or not provide training in recent months?

    Probe if yes:

    • How so?

    • Do you think these changes will be permanent? If not, how long will these changes to your approach to training persist?

Thinking about your overall training offer:

  1. 11. Do you deliver most of your training through in-house staff or using external providers?


    • Why did you make this choice?

    • If you provide training externally, how do you select the training provider?

    • If you provide training externally, do you get input from employees or employees’ representatives on the selection of the training providers?

[If Q12=in house staff].

  1. 12. Can you describe how you develop training programmes in your [enterprise/establishment]?


    • Do you get still get some input from training providers, for example when it comes to curricula, teaching methods or skills assessments?

    • Do you get input from employees or employees’ representatives?

[Continue with all interviewees]

  1. 13. Do you get support, for example from government bodies, employer associations or sectoral funds, in the planning, provision or financing of training?


    • How and where do you get information on available training options or training-related support for [enterprises/establishments]?

    • What external resources are available to HR department or management to identify training needs and for training planning?

    • How many employees participate in training programmes funded (at least partly) by government, employer associations, sectoral funds, etc?

    • Has this changed in the context of COVID-19?

I would now like to ask some questions around why your [enterprise/establishment] is providing training and how it is hoping to benefit from it.

  1. 14. What are the main reasons your [enterprise/establishment] provides training to its employees?


    • Productivity gains

    • Staying competitive

    • Adapting to change (i.e. technical, organisational, or demographic change)

    • Employee satisfaction and retention

    • Lack of skilled personnel, skills shortages

    • Regulation or legal requirements

    • Common practice amongst companies in the sector or beyond

    • Government incentives

  2. 15. Would your [enterprise/establishment] benefit from providing more training to its employees? If yes, what are the main obstacles to providing more training?


    • Limited time for certain staff to participate in training

    • Difficult to assess skill needs of different employees

    • Difficult to find time to organise training internally

    • Training is too expensive

    • Difficult to find suitable courses offered by external providers

  3. 16. Have your reasons for providing training changed in recent months due to the economic uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic?

    Probe if yes:

    • Do you expect this to be a long-term change in your [enterprise’s/establishment] approach to training?

  4. 17. Do you check if the expected benefits of providing training – both for the enterprise and employees – materialise in practice? If so, how?


    • Certification of skills and/or knowledge after written or practical test

    • Assessment if skills and/or knowledge acquired is used at work

    • Assessment of employee behaviour or performance with regards to training objectives

    • Assessment of impact of training on performance of relevant departments or the whole enterprise

    • Assessment of satisfaction of employees

    • Assessment of wage or career progression

I will now ask some questions to understand your training offer a bit better.

  1. 18. Looking across all training provided by your [enterprise/establishment], what would you say the three trainings are that are most frequently taken up by your employees?

  2. 19. Can you describe the content and format of [training 1 mentioned] a bit more?


    • Why do you offer this kind of training?

    • What do employees learn in this training?

    • Who typically takes part in this training?

    • How many days or hours is this training course?

    • Who delivers the training? (in-house trainer, versus external)

    • How is training being delivered? (class-room setting in or off the premises, work-based setting, online)

    • Can people obtain a qualification through this training? Or is the training certified?

  3. 20. Can you describe the content and format of [training 2 mentioned] a bit more?


    • Why do you offer this kind of training?

    • What do employees learn in this training?

    • Who typically takes part in this training?

    • How many days or hours is this training course?

    • Who delivers the training? (in-house trainer, versus external)

    • How is training being delivered? (class-room setting, work-based setting, online)

    • Can people obtain a qualification through this training? Or is the training certified?

  4. 21. Looking across your entire training offer, what is the balance between different formats and modes of delivery? Which are used more and which used less frequently?


    • Use of classes and courses in and off the premises, including online learning

    • On-the-job training

    • Training through quality circles, job-rotation

    • Learning from colleagues

I will now ask some questions to understand how other organisational features of your [enterprise/ establishment] help or incentivise employees to learn in their day-to-day work.

  1. 22. In your view, what share of your employees plan their work autonomously and flexibly?


    • What share can decide how or when to best fulfil their tasks?

    • What share works together in autonomous teams, i.e. teams in which members decide on the allocation of tasks and can choose a team leader?

  2. 23. In your [enterprise/establishment], what happens if an employee makes a mistake?


    • Mistakes should be avoided at all costs;

    • Mistakes are discussed with the supervisor and corrected;

    • Employees are encouraged to find their own way of executing tasks, mistakes happen and are used as an opportunity to learn.


    • Does your approach to dealing with mistakes differ for different groups of employees?

  3. 24. How do you assess the performance of your employees?


    • Do you have a formal performance management system?

    • Can you describe it in more details (frequency, format)?

    • Does the performance assessment directly affect

      • employee level of pay,

      • prospects for promotion and/or

      • training opportunities?

  4. 25. In what other ways do your employees have opportunities to learn in their day-to-day work besides training?


    • Frequent assignment of new tasks or formal job-rotation

    • Exposure to unfamiliar problems

    • Pairing with more experienced employees

    • Opportunities for learning by observing colleagues

    • Opportunities for information sharing amongst colleagues


    • How formalised are these opportunities?

  5. 26. How are employees encouraged to keep up to date with new products and services, new processes or other recent developments in the industry?

  1. 27. Are there any further comments you would like to make?

Thank the interviewee for their time and briefly discuss next steps.

Metadata, Legal and Rights

This document, as well as any data and map included herein, are without prejudice to the status of or sovereignty over any territory, to the delimitation of international frontiers and boundaries and to the name of any territory, city or area. Extracts from publications may be subject to additional disclaimers, which are set out in the complete version of the publication, available at the link provided.

© OECD 2021

The use of this work, whether digital or print, is governed by the Terms and Conditions to be found at