One of the most valuable and effective tools at the behest of HR is an Employee Focus Group. These can help you gather qualitative information on any ongoing workplace issues, gather feedback and, in general, get a better understanding of your employees’ thoughts and opinions. They can also be used to gather the general feel of the workforce surrounding a particular new program or a major change in the organization. Focus groups can also be used to enrich the data gathered from employee surveys and help you understand the perspectives behind the numbers which can further help you introduce new policies that better suit your workforce.
What are Employee Focus Groups?
Focus groups, by and large, are nothing but moderated discussions among groups of individuals with the aim of gathering feedback regarding how they feel about a product, service, or issue. Traditionally, the format includes a round table discussion with the participants chosen from specific demographic groups and a moderator to coax the discussion along, ensure the discussion does not go off-topic, and gauge the general attitude and feelings of the participants.
However, gathering a group of people and having a discussion is quite easy. The difficult part is gathering useful and reliable data from that discussion which can actually be used as the basis for your future policies and plans. This article discusses 5 key ways which can help you host effective one-on-one meetings and ensure you end up with the most reliable data every time.
Have a clear statement of purpose
The first thing that needs to be done is the preparation of a statement of purpose. It is the key objective of the group and provides the participants with a clear rationale for the discussion, the “focus” of the focus group. Some examples of the same can be as follows:
To gauge the employees’ reaction and perception to the new structure of the organisation.
To discuss new ways which could increase employee motivation.
Evaluation of employee satisfaction regarding the new health care plan.
Having a clear statement of purpose will help your employees trust that this focus group will actually yield benefits for them. This trust can be further enhanced by obtaining the support and commitment from the executive to take the information from the discussion and actually use it to increase the welfare of the employees.
Develop a concise process guide and stick to it
The discussion in a focus group can quickly go off-topic and derail the focus from the main objective of the meeting. This can be avoided with a process guide which is an outline of the session to be held. It can include the statement of purpose, group questions, rules of discussion, and an opening activity. An opening activity can be a good icebreaker to get the conversation flowing and can be done in numerous ways. It can be a paired discussion or a simple game or anything which suits your workforce the best.
Also helpful in keeping the discussion on track is the development of specific group questions. Having very vague questions such as “What do you think about the new policy?” will yield no desired responses. Specific questions such as “What are the most noticeable changes in the policy according to you?” will yield much more pronounced reactions and answers. This will make your employees formulate thoughts and opinions and this sparks a real conversation.
Make sure the group size is not too big or too little
The general consensus about what the size of a focus group should be is anywhere between 6 to 12 individuals with 2 to 10 groups or sessions held overall. However, the size and nature of your organization will ultimately determine what the correct size of your focus groups should be. Even so, trying to make groups on a smaller scale would be a better bet as that would allow each individual appropriate time to voice their opinions and feelings. Further, this helps keep the meetings shorter and concise.
The composition of your group can vary depending on the matter at hand. Selecting individuals which represent the workforce as a whole, especially the demographic most affected by the topic of the focus group should be your main objective. Also keep in mind that, subject to the goal of your focus group, employees and their direct managers should not be in the same groups. It might lead to employees not being honest and not feeling comfortable to voice any issues they may be facing. A more honest exchange of thought will yield the best results and help you garner information that is ultimately useful.
Choose a qualified moderator
The moderator of the focus group plays the leading role in the whole meeting. They are responsible for the success or failure of the group and can provide you with a very meaningful result. You may already have an experienced moderator in your organization but if not, you can hire trained professionals for this purpose. Also to keep in mind while selecting a moderator, make sure not to pair managers with their direct reports as this can again lead to the problem of dishonesty and dismantle an environment of comfort you might’ve hoped to create.
Hiring a scribe to take notes on the meeting and take down specific comments can also prove to be a valuable source of information and give you a more complete result.
Analysis and report of the meeting
After the meeting is over, holding a brief discussion session with your moderator and scribe is essential. Doing it promptly is generally the best way to go about it as the whole meeting is still fresh in the minds of the moderator and the scribe. Take this time to discuss any special observations, comments, or anything else that may have been worth noting. Gauging the overall themes and tones of the meeting can help you draw conclusions and help you understand the trajectory of the employees’ opinions. Using these conclusions, you can draw up future policies or changes and plans according to your needs.
Conducting employee surveys is a good way to gain the numbers, but supplementing that data with focus group meetings can elevate that data’s quality, giving you a more comprehensive and accurate picture of your employees’ opinions on the new venture your organization has set on. An employee engagement software offers a platform for employees and employers to connect & collaborate for various activities like team building, survey, announcement, onboarding, much more.