Purpose – Many studies look at the effects of human resource (HR) initiatives. Yet very few consider why organisations adopt them in the first place. Health and wellbeing interventions offer a critical case because they offer apparent benefits for all. Assessing the process of engagement reveals variations in managerial commitment, which has implications for studies of “effects”. This paper seeks to address these issues.
Design/methodology/approach – The study offered a free health intervention to organisations; this was separate from the research study, which aimed to assess the effects. A total of 86 organisations were approached, of which 53 indicated some interest in involvement. After further withdrawals and selection against criteria of size and sector, nine remained. The paper assesses the degree of engagement with the study, looking in detail at three organisations. The methods utilised included structured telephone interviews, qualitative interviews and observation.
Findings – The organisations underwent a rigorous selection procedure to ensure their full commitment to the study. On this basis it is expected that the participating organisations would be highly engaged. However, it became clear that there were considerable variations in how they engaged. This reflected the favourability of the organisational context, but also the enthusiasm and commitment of key actors.
Originality/value – Engaged organisations were a highly self-selected group. Studies of effects of interventions may thus be systematically biased. The interventions studies here were also shaped by how they were put into practice; they were not fixed things whose effects could be understood independently of their implementation. The study was also able to make predictions of the subsequent effects of the interventions based on the process of implementation. The results of a follow-up study to test these predictions will be reported in a further paper.