Annex C. Briefing note for country experts

This note provides detailed guidance for consultants for the OECD project Enterprise training strategies to manage skills needs. It sets out the aims and objectives of the research project, the tasks involved and expected outputs, as well as timeline and communication channels with the OECD. Further, it includes a glossary of some of the key terms related to this research.

Enterprises are a key provider of education and training for adults across OECD countries. Every year, 75% of enterprises with more than 10 employees provide training measures or activities to their employees, according to the OECD Dashboard on priorities for adult learning (OECD, 2019[15]). The training measures imply significant investments: In European OECD countries, close to 10% of all enterprises’ investments are made in training, according to the EIB Investment Survey. However, there are large differences in training provision across countries. While in Norway, 99% of enterprises provide such training; this is only the case for 22% in Greece. Similarly, gaps exist between differently sized companies: 65% of employees in larger enterprises take part in education and training in any given year, while only 50% in small and medium enterprises do, according to OECD PIAAC data.

We currently lack an in-depth understanding of why, how and for whom enterprises provide training and of what limits training provision. This study aims at complementing existing large-scale quantitative enterprise surveys on employee training, such as the Continuing Vocational Training Survey, and shedding light on these issues. In particular, the study will analyse:

  • What type of training enterprises provide, how they do so, and how they benefit. It will also investigate reasons for the under-provision of training. Special attention will be devoted to the decision-making processes regarding skills planning and training provision.

  • How economic context, enterprise characteristics and management practices affect if, why, how and what training is provided and to whom.

  • How businesses create opportunities for informal learning.

In doing so, this study aims to help increase the understanding of what policy interventions could support enterprises in providing more and better training to their employees.

The focus of this research is on enterprise-provided training for adults. In the context of this project, adult training is defined as training for individuals who have completed their initial education and entered working life. It thus excludes apprenticeship schemes.

Data collection for this research project will take place in the form of semi-structured interviews with 100 enterprises in five countries: Austria, Estonia, France, Ireland and Italy. 20 interviews will be conducted in each of these countries. Consultants will support the OECD in the implementation of these interviews. Specifically, tasks involve:

  • Selection of enterprises and interviewees within enterprises following a specified set of criteria,

  • Translation of the questionnaire, as relevant,

  • Conducting interviews,

  • Coding interviews in English.

Each consultant will select a sample of 20 enterprises, following a quota sampling strategy. This implies that consultants must ensure that their sample of interviewed enterprises meets a set of specified criteria. Quota sampling aims to secure the diversity of the sample and, by extension, the generalisability of study findings. Apart from following the quota sampling approach, consultants are free in how they select enterprises. They can use sample frames, such as company registers, where they exist. Consultants must submit their final sample selection to the OECD for sign-off before arranging interviews and therewith highlight how the criteria specified are met. At this point, consultants should be confident about the feasibility of interviewing the selected enterprises, for example by tentatively confirming their availability for the study. In the case of unavailability of an enterprise following sign-off by the OECD, consultants should consult with the OECD on replacement enterprises. The sample of enterprises selected should meet the following criteria:

Enterprise size: As highlighted above, the probability of providing training to employees varies by company size. This study will include medium and large enterprises. Small enterprises are to be excluded from the study, as they form a sub-group with specific training behaviours and strategies, which has been studied in-depth in a recent CEPS study on behalf of the European Commission (forthcoming). The definition of enterprise size follows that of the European Commission:

  • Medium-sized enterprises have 50-249 employees;

  • Large enterprises have 250 employees or more.

Consultants must select 10 medium-sized and 10 large enterprises for interviews.

Location: Enterprises’ location likely has an impact on training provision, as the presence of education and training providers will vary between different regions and between rural and urban areas. According to the European Degree of urbanisation classification (DEGURBA), local administrative units can be categorised into three types of areas:

  • Cities: densely populated areas;

  • Towns and suburbs: intermediate density areas;

  • Rural areas: thinly populated areas.

Consultants must select 10 enterprises based in cities, towns or suburbs and 10 based in rural areas. A correspondence table of how the classification applies to local areas in each country is provided alongside this note. The table is provided for information purposes and to facilitate the selection of enterprises. Consultants may deviate from this classification where appropriate, but must flag and explain any deviation. Consultants are also requested to ensure that the 10 enterprises selected in urban areas are not all clustered in the wider capital region (e.g. Tallinn in Estonia), but also sampled from other urban centres (e.g. Turku in Estonia).

Sectors: Training practices of enterprises vary vastly between different sectors of the economy and between more or less technology-oriented sub-sectors within them. To include enterprises in sufficiently diverse sectors of the economy, consultants must select:

  • 10 enterprises in the manufacturing sector;

  • 10 enterprises in the service sector.

Differentiating the selection by technology intensity, enterprises in the manufacturing sector should include:

  • 5 enterprises in sub-sectors of the economy considered high or medium-high technology (e.g. manufacturing of computers, pharmaceuticals or motor vehicles);

  • 5 enterprises in sub-sectors of the economy considered medium-low or low technology (e.g. manufacturing of plastic products, food products or textiles);

Differentiating the selection by knowledge-intensity, enterprises in the service sector should include:

  • 5 enterprises in sub-sectors of the service industry considered knowledge-intensive (e.g. financial and insurance activities, scientific research and development or telecommunications)

  • 5 enterprises in sub-sectors of the service industry that are considered less knowledge intensive (e.g. wholesale and retail trade, accommodation and food services, or warehousing)

To facilitate the selection, a classification of manufacturing sub-sectors by technology or knowledge intensity can be found here.

Multi-establishment enterprises: The final sample of enterprises will likely include single and multi-establishment enterprises. In the case of multi-establishment enterprises, a decision must be made if interviews should be conducted with staff at the head-office or staff at one specific establishment. All interviews for one enterprise should however be conducted at the same location. Consultants should base this decision on their own assessment of where HR and training decisions are most likely to take place. This decision may be different for different multi-establishment enterprises. In the data collection template, it must be clearly indicated at what level the interview took place.

Within each company, consultants should request interviews with three different stakeholders:

  • Management representative, i.e. a representative of the enterprise’s leadership team. This could be individuals with the title Chief Executive Officer, Chief Operating Officer, (Vice) President, Director or General Manager amongst others. In the case of owner-operated businesses, this may also be the business owner. Crucially, a management representative should be able to answer questions about the enterprise, its strategic orientations and general HR practices.

  • HR representative, i.e. a representative of the enterprise’s human resources team. Where they exist, consultants should speak to an HR representative responsible for training and development in the enterprise. In cases where no HR function exists, for example in smaller companies, consultants should request to speak to the individual who most frequently deals with HR related questions from the management team.

  • Employee representative, i.e. an employee who represents employee interests in the enterprise. This ideally includes someone who has been formally chosen by other employees to represent them in negotiations or consultations with employers. Exact title and function of these representatives will vary between country contexts, but they include members of works councils, staff councils, union representatives or employee delegates. The type and denomination of employee representation existing in the different countries covered by the study is provided to facilitate the identification of interviewees. In cases where no formal employee representatives exist, consultants should request to speak to an employee in a leadership role, who does not belong to the company’s management team (e.g. a forman or shop floor manager).

Stakeholders should be interviewed independently of each other in a one-to-one setting.

In smaller companies, it is possible that the same person exercises management and HR functions. In this case, consultants are requested to conduct one interview that combines questions for both target groups (see also conducting interviews below).

Mode: When the study was conceived in late 2019/ early 2020, the OECD anticipated that all interviews would be conducted face-to-face. Given the ongoing uncertainties and travel restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, interviews should now take-place virtually as video conference, or if not otherwise possible, via phone. Depending on the situation in their specific country, consultants are invited to conduct some interviews in person, as necessary and appropriate. Face-to-face interviews may be necessary, where the enterprise’s access to video or phone conferencing technology is limited or the consultant believes that the interview can be held more effectively in a face-to-face setting.

Duration and schedule: Each interview is expected to have a duration of 1-1.5 hours. When interviews are conducted as video-conference, the three interviews per enterprise do not have to be conducted on the same day. Consultants are encouraged to design their own interviewing schedule as they see fit. However, it is recommended to start interviews at each company with the management, followed by the HR representative and then the employee representative. This allows the consultant to gain an understanding of the enterprise’s training policies and practices, before investigating the role of employees in shaping these.

Format and topic guides: Interviews will follow a semi-structured format. Alongside this note, consultants receive three semi-structured topic guides, which include a series of open-ended questions, as well as additional prompts and probes for follow-up:

  • Management topic guide;

  • HR topic guide;

  • Employee representative topic guide.

In companies, where management and HR representatives are equivalent, consultants are requested to draw on both topic guides. More generally, the semi-structured interview format allows consultants to use the topic guides flexibly to gather the relevant information for the study. It is expected that interviews will be free flowing and not rigidly follow the chronological order outlined. Consultants should however ensure to collect information on all relevant study themes (see also data recording template).

Language: Interviews should be conducted in the local language. Consultants are requested to translate the questionnaires accordingly.

Piloting: Interviews with the first two enterprises in each country will be used for the purpose of piloting the methodology and topic guides. During this piloting phase, OECD staff will be present during the interviews. Following the interviews, consultants and OECD staff will enter a discussion about possible improvements of the topic guides, both individually and together with the group of all consultants in different countries.

Note taking and recording: Consultants must take comprehensive notes during the interview. These will later form the basis for the data entered into the recording template (see below). Consultants should also seek informed consent for the interview to be recorded for quality-assurance purposes, either in the video-conferencing software used or with a manual recording device.

For the OECD to conduct a comparative analysis on the data collected through the interviews, these need to be codified in a standardised format and in English language.

Consultants are provided with two standardised data-recording template alongside this briefing note. For each company both of the following documents must be filled in:

  • Excel document, where firmographics should be codified. Consultants will use drop-down menus with pre-defined categories, e.g. Economic activity of enterprise using NACE codes, to codify a small number of enterprise and interviewee characteristics.

  • Word document, where consultants are asked to provide a synthesised account of all three interviews. The template is organised thematically and should be completed based on the extensive notes taken during the interview. Where diverging views exist between different interviewees, these should be highlighted in the template.

Both files should be named using a standardised format, stating the country, unique identifier and company name. For example EST-1-Eesti Energia or AUT-15-Strabag.

A simplified timeline for consultants’ involvement in the research project is shown below. The data collection/ fieldwork phase that consultants will be involved in will stretch from August to November 2020. This will be followed by an analysis phase, led by the OECD in December 2020 to February 2021. The final report will likely be launched in Q2 2021.

Consultants are encouraged to stay in close contact with the OECD team throughout the research project. Key contact points from OECD side are:

There will be several opportunities to discuss methodological issues and research findings with the entire group of contractors, including: i) the initial briefing, ii) a discussion following the piloting of questionnaires, iii) the final debrief.

Consultants are further encouraged to submit any comments or questions they might have to the OECD team through the project. The OECD team will share this information with all other consultants, as relevant, to ensure standardisation of data collection across all five countries.

Skill: ability to apply knowledge and use know-how to complete tasks and solve problems.

Formal education and training: Education and training that are institutionalised, intentional, planned through public organisations and recognised private bodies, lead to qualifications that are recognised as formal or equivalent to formal qualifications by the relevant national or sub-national education authorities, and – in their totality – constitute the formal education system of a country. Formal education programmes are thus recognised as such by the relevant national education or equivalent authorities, e.g. any other institution in co-operation with the national or sub-national education authorities. Formal education consists mostly of initial education […]. Vocational education, special needs education and some parts of adult education are often recognised as being part of the formal education system. Qualifications from formal education are by definition recognised and, therefore, are within the scope of ISCED.

Non-formal education and training: Education and training that are institutionalised, intentional and planned by an education provider. The defining characteristic of non-formal education is that it is an addition, alternative and/or complement to formal education within the process of lifelong learning of individuals. Non-formal education mostly leads to qualifications that are not recognised as formal or equivalent to formal qualifications by the relevant national or sub-national education authorities or to no qualifications at all. It caters to people of all ages but does not necessarily apply a continuous pathway structure; it may be short in duration and/or low intensity; and it is typically provided in the form of short courses, workshops or seminars.

Informal learning: Contrary to formal and non-formal learning, informal learning is not institutionalised, in the sense that there is no organisation responsible for setting the teaching and learning method, the learning schedule, the admission requirements and the venue of the learning/teaching activity. Compared with formal and non-formal learning, it is also less organised and less structured though still intentional, and may include learning activities that occur in the family, in the workplace, and in the daily life of every person, on a self-directed, family-directed or socially-directed basis. Examples include non-institutionalised coaching activities, learning groups, quality circles, discussions with colleagues about work matters with the explicit aim of learning, and self-directed learning using, for instance, internet searches.

Institutionalised learning: Learning activities that occur when there is an organisation which provides structured educational arrangements, such as student-teacher relationships and/or interactions, that are specially designed for education and learning.

Employer-provided training: Any training that is provided by and/or paid for by employers. It refers both to specific training tailored to the needs of a given enterprise or industry and to general training developed for the acquisition of skills that are useful across enterprises and industries.

On-the-job-training: This type of training is characterised by planned periods of training, instruction or practical experience, using normal regular workplace tools and equipment, either at the immediate place of work or in a work-situation, with the presence of a tutor.

Training provider: Organisation that provides education/training, either as a main or ancillary objective. This can be a public educational institution as well as a private enterprise, non-governmental organisation or non-educational public body.

Establishment: Business or industrial unit at a single, physical location that produces or distributes goods or performs services (e.g. store, factory, farm, etc.).

Enterprise: It may consist of more than one establishment, performing the same or different types of economic activities.

Performance assessment system: Also known as performance appraisal system, it is a method by which the job performance of an employee is documented and evaluated. It consists of regular reviews of employee performance.

Workforce strategy: A plan for hiring, developing and motivating staff, as well as how to best utilise their skills.

Trade union: An association of employees forming a legal unit which acts as a bargaining agent and legal representative. Trade unions are not only active in one company, but in one or more entire sectors. Trade unions are collective bargaining parties and negotiate collective agreements with individual employers or the employers association of an industry.

Works council: A shop-floor organisation representing the employees of a company, composed of representatives elected by their colleagues. It acts as a complement to trade unions but in several countries is independent of these. It negotiates works agreements.

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