Overview – Focus groups
Focus groups are a qualitative research tool in which a group of employees is asked about their attitude to, and opinions of, an issue, product, service, initiative, event or idea. Focus group discussions are led by a facilitator. This person is skilled in asking questions in an interactive group setting. Effective facilitators foster an environment conducive to getting open and honest feedback from employees.
This tactic is useful for:
✓ Sourcing employee feedback on important organisational issues.
✓ Uncovering employee opinions about specific topics, products, services, etc.
✓ Honing the proposed messages, content and agenda for conferences, town hall meetings, roadshows etc. by asking employees about the relevancy of topics, use of terminology, meaning of messages, and information gaps.
✓ Asking employees their preferred communication tactics for receiving specific types of information.
✓ Testing new ideas and initiatives to gain valuable information about employees’ potential for take-up and support.
✓ Conducting scenario planning, e.g. the proposed steps to relocate employees to a new workplace.
Things to consider:
⇒ Determine the desired outcomes of the focus group.
⇒ Appoint a facilitator skilled in eliciting employee responses to ensure relevant data is gathered.
⇒ Select focus group participants who represent the interested and affected employees of a particular issue.
⇒ Commence the meeting by explaining the purpose and format of the focus group.
⇒ Make participants feel comfortable, stress that open discussion is welcomed, and assure confidentiality of any opinions expressed.
⇒ Encourage participants to build upon what others have said rather than simply agreeing or reiterating key points.
⇒ Allow for spontaneity within the proceedings to tap into ‘off-the-wall’ ideas and suggestions.
⇒ Conduct virtual focus groups for a fast and effective way of including geographically dispersed participants.
⇒ Record key points and follow up at a later stage with one-on-one sessions to delve deeper into unusual or unexpected feedback.
What is the optimum size of a focus group? Canvassing the opinions of a large group of employees, e.g. 12 participants, can provide a broad spectrum of input and generate diverse feedback. However, a smaller number of participants, e.g. six, is preferable if the intent is to drill down beneath the surface to identify the causal influences of an issue.
Category: Face to Face