Importance of the AI interview protocol

In the last three months, Appreciating People has been working with a third sector organisation exploring changes to working practices and new pay differential systems  The organisation is aiming to embed a strength-based culture and utilise Appreciative inquiry tools and mindset, as a core part of its organisation culture and operating systems.

Like many voluntary organisations, the pandemic had a significant detrimental impact on staff and organisation viability, resulting in major staff redundancies and loss of programme delivery. Historically, the organisation had had a difficult experience creating staff-supported remuneration arrangements, and needed to make significant changes to working practice to be a quality 21st century organisation. 

From a cultural perspective, the organisation also had a challenge of a large group decision-making process that often fostered the ‘wisdom of the loud’ rather than the ‘wisdom of the crowd’.

The leadership wanted to explore a different process, to address these challenging topics. It asked Appreciating People to see if an AI approach would ensure all the voices could be heard,” and the leadership team and trustees could gain a wide staff perspective. A small project team was assembled, meeting weekly to provide advice, ensure focus and delivery to a tight timescale. 


The process followed five stages: 

1. Questions and format were agreed by the project team 

2. Draft protocols were tested with a small group of staff, drawn from all staff levels in the organisation. A protocol is set of standard questions used in the interview process and testing them is way of ensuring the topics are the right ones These were then refined…

3. 60 x one-hour interviews were held with staff and trustees, either on Zoom or face-to-face. Up to five interviews a day were held and written up

4. All the data was then summarised into two reports – on remuneration and on working practices

5. Each report was then presented to the internal staff conference with a Q&A session and opportunity for small group conversations to identify priorities and next steps

Underpinning the process was the importance of confidentiality of the interviews  –information would only be shared with participant agreement, or where there was significant common agreement. At the end of each day, the information from each feedback sheet was uploaded and added to one core document. Whenever a similar comment was identified, the font size was increased. This was an easy way to identify the most dominant themes and priorities.

Remuneration policy example questions: 

1. Based on your experience, what would be the organisational benefits of a remuneration policy that more significantly recognised experience and expertise? 

2. If we were having this conversation in autumn 2023 and reflecting on our remuneration journey, what is different? Describe it in detail…

3. If you had to make the decision, what would be the most important remuneration decision?

Working practices example questions:

1. Share a successful example of good working practices such as leadership, collaboration, or devolved decision making…

2. What are the biggest challenges to bringing in different working practices?

3. What existing behaviours hold back the organisation from flourishing?

4. What would be your advice and guidance about bringing in more collaborative and shared decision making?

5. What ideas and suggestions could you bring that would contribute to the organisation being recognised as an exemplar organisation with innovative working practices?

AI learning from the process 

Although the interview process, data write up and final report was time consuming, the majority of staff feedback affirmed the value of designated time for reflection with pertinent questions and confidentiality. 

Other learnings included:

      • • By using an Appreciative Inquiry lens, the staff dialogue was less emotive than on previous occasions when these matters had been discussed
      • • Interview approach combined with staff conference feedback and workshops gave leadership team an informed position that ‘heard all the voices’ 
      • • The process enabled challenging and difficult issues to be presented and reframed from a negative focus to a generative one
      • • A need was noticed to reinforce the understanding that the use of the word ‘appreciative’ meant giving or receiving appreciation and also ‘to appreciate – to gain in value’ 


What happens next?

Following on from the presentations – and parallel to this interview process – AI will be embedded in the organisation by:

      • • Over 40% of the staff team will have completed a two-day AI training course. 
      • • AI tools and approaches will be used on the next steps of remuneration policy development and engagement process 
      • • Using a co-design approach, working practice changes (staff reviews, project planning, supervision) were identified and implemented


For more information about the project, contact Tim Slack –