Researchers advocate that interventions should apply a participatory approach i.e. employee participation. It is also widely recognized that top management’s support is an important part of a successful intervention implementation. Lately there has been a request for multi-level intervention studies where the first line managers also participate in the intervention. In a recently completed intervention study we developed a multi-level participatory intervention model for use in small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). The hypothesis was that multi-level participation would secure process momentum and increase chances of successful implementation. Four SMEs participated in the study. The typical intervention construct was that top management initiated the intervention and first line managers had to manage the intervention on a daily basis together with two selected employees who acted as in-house facilitators. The involvement of both top management and first line management gave rise to review the differences in responsibilities and commitment between the two and the interaction between them. The study showed that a prerequisite for an optimal implementation was an initial matching of expectations between top management and first line management. The top manager’s most important responsibilities were to ensure that the first line manager understood the purpose of the intervention, and to support the first line manager’s dispositions through the intervention. The first line manager’s most important responsibilities were to continuously focus on the process and secure momentum. This was done by allocating the necessary resources, supporting the in-house facilitator by having regular meetings with them, continuously give feedback to the employees about the intervention, continuously evaluate the intervention and make the necessary adjustments, integrate the selected intervention activities in the daily operations, and make the value of the changes visible. In the companies with least implementation success we observed that the first line managers failed in committing to the project. These managers prioritized daily operations rather than the intervention despite allocated resources and top management’s attention. In two of the companies a handover of commitment and responsibility from top management to first line management succeeded and in the two other companies it failed. In the successful cases the first line managers embraced the responsibility and stayed loyal to the intervention model. Our findings suggest that both top management’s and first line management’s commitment to interventions is crucial, but first line managers are especially responsible for the daily implementation.
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11th European Academy of Occupational Health Psychology conference 2014