Employee Focus Groups:
A Critical Tool for your Employee Retention Toolbox
Developing an Employee Retention Strategy has many components and frequently includes employee surveys and/or employee focus groups. Both require planning, well-designed execution, and C-Suite commitment. Let’s take a look at the process associated with incorporating Employee Focus Groups into your Human Capital Strategy.
Step 1: Determine the Purpose
Employee Focus Groups are excellent for gaining ideas on how to solve a problem or to share a concept and to get reactions. Being clear on the purpose and starting with a written objective are the cornerstones to a successful Employee Focus Group approach.
Step 2: Discuss the Process
Employee Focus Groups are not data driven and can be used in conjunction with an employee survey. Next, you will need to decide if the Focus Groups will be held, 1) Before a quantitative survey to test questions 2) After a survey to find out the “why” behind the numbers or 3) As a stand-alone effort to get employee reaction to a new concept.
Step 3: Develop Questions
Even the most experienced at leading a focus group meeting knows the importance of creating a discussion guide to structure the flow of dialogue, ensuring you stay on track and cover all bases. The best focus groups put participants at ease first, then charge them up. Start with easy questions that are not emotional. Finish with the hard stuff: topics that are more complex, personal and/or “negative.”
After you´ve developed your questions, test them to consider:
Do questions seem awkward when asked out loud? Could they be misinterpreted?
Do responses provide insight on the topic being examined?
Step 4: Select the Team Facilitator or Moderator
A critical success factor in any focus group is how well the discussion is led. The moderator must create a comfortable environment, manage expectations, keep the discussion on track, make sure everyone has a chance to talk, and listen carefully to what´s being said.
Step 5: Select and Invite Employee Participants
Having the right mix of participants is key. You always have the option to select by department, by position, multiple departments, or even a mix from across the organization.
Step 6: Conduct the Meeting
Technique is everything, and some of the most effective focus groups include a meal. Ensuring employees are at ease and in a good mood always seems to help.
Step 7: Analyze Data and Report Findings
Focus groups produce large quantities of information that must be organized and summarized. Here are some ways to manage the process:
- Engage others to help analyze results. You´ll get better conclusions by collaborating, and you´ll be able to divide and conquer the work.
- Hold a debriefing session after each focus group. Record key points raised, findings that met your assumptions and any surprises.
- Hold a team-brainstorming meeting to develop conclusions. Remember to let your original objectives guide your conclusions.
What the findings report will look like depends on what is customary in your organization. Whatever format you choose, you´ll want to include:
- Introduction – the situation and objectives
- Research methodology – how participants were recruited, when and where groups took place
- Key findings – an “executive summary” of what you learned
- Recommendations – what you´d like to do about what you learned
- Sample discussion guide
- Verbatim comments
Step 8: Implementation
As you have surmised, a productive focus group is far more than a discussion or chat session with employees. It is easy to gather a group of employees, ask a few questions and have a “discussion.” It takes care, however, to ensure that the discussion yields reliable data that can serve as a basis for decision-making.
In summary, the components of your Human Capital Strategy should be tied and measured to your organization’s strategy and goals. With the increased competition to target your employees, a well-designed and executed employee focus group approach can garner greater support and loyalty with your employees.