How to Conduct Successful Focus Groups - Novacrea Research
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How to Conduct Successful Focus Groups

Photo by tamburix, Flickr creative common

Focus group is a qualitative research method that complements your quantitative survey results. Here are key points to keep in mind when you plan for your focus groups.

The Contents

Define your research goals. Will you be using focus groups to help design employee engagement survey questionnaires, assess your employer brand, test communication concepts, or follow up with issues identified in your recent employee survey? What decisions will be made as a result of the information and insight gathered from focus groups? Your research goals will inform the design of the focus group discussion guide.

Identify research questions. What specific questions do you need answered? Do you have any materials or concept boards that you want to test with your target audience? Are you looking for employee ideas or solutions for identified organizational challenges? The more your questions are linked to your research goals, the more focused your focus group discussions will be (no pun intended!)

Determine sample size and composition of focus groups. Since focus group is a qualitative research method and the results are descriptive rather than prescriptive, you dont need to have a very big sample size. However, it is important to determine the number, composition, and location of focus groups to ensure you get feedback from representative employees. Ideally, you’ll have between 8 and 12 participants per group.

The Process

The success of your focus groups depends on how well you manage the focus group process. Here are best practices for managing your employee focus group process:

Manage group composition. We recommend that you separate employee groups from supervisor/manager groups so that employees can provide more open and candid feedback. If you cannot have separate groups for employees and supervisors/managers, you need to ensure that employees and their immediate supervisor are not participating in the same group.

Coordinate focus group logistics. Identify a focus group coordinator who will coordinate all the logistics of conducting focus groups. The coordinator is responsible for sending out pre-focus group communication materials, inviting employees and supervisors/managers, and ensuring that the meeting rooms are set up appropriately. Having light snacks and drinks for your focus group participants never hurts!

Create discussion guide. A discussion guide ensures that all critical topics are covered. The discussion guide should contain ground rules for group participants, open-ended questions that would get answers to your research objectives, and follow-up probing questions that could elicit insights from focus group participants and discover the why’s behind their answers.

Use effective moderators. An effective moderator is one who is a good listener, who knows how to probe for insights or clarifications, and who is sensitive to the dynamics of the group. Having experienced moderators to moderate your focus groups will ensure that discussions are on track and insights are identified.

Analyze results. After the focus groups, your moderator should review focus group notes and prepare a summary report of findings by key themes. If appropriate, these findings can be integrated with your quantitative survey results to provide an integrated picture of your organization’s challenges, root causes, and ways to address these challenges.

Present results and follow-up recommendations. Your consultant or moderator will present the focus group findings, result implications, and how the results can be turned into feasible action at your organization. Your management team and individual managers will need to create action plans that are appropriate for their groups or departments.

Continual improvement and communication. Once you start to implement action plans based on your focus group results and/or survey results, you need to keep your employees informed and let them know their feedback has been incorporated into the action plans. You’ll continue to build trust with employees and ensure even greater success.

Photo Credit: tamburix, Flickr creative common

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