Getting in focus
- Try to get a representative sample of employees – it’s always best to choose employees at random, but try to work with HR to generate a list of employees that represent a broad range of levels, departments and tenures.
- Similarly, make sure you’re getting a representative geographic sample. Issues and concerns can vary widely between different office locations. This may require a bit of travel, but it's well worth the effort.
- It’s always best to do separate manager and employee focus groups. Employees will be less likely to open up and share if their manager or other senior staff members are present.
- Do everything you can to help employees feel safe and comfortable. We always recommend a third-party facilitator to ensure confidentiality, and HR should never be in the room. Facilitators should only ask for employees’ first names, and while taking notes of employees’ responses, no comments should be associated with individual employees.
- When facilitating, make sure you’re keeping the discussion on track. Depending on the topic, focus groups have a tendency to turn into therapy sessions. Once one employee starts complaining about something that’s bugging him/her, everyone starts to open up. Sharing concerns is important, but always try to redirect the conversation to productive topics, and stick to a pre-determined set of questions to ensure you cover all the areas you want to discuss.
And, perhaps most important of all, make sure you act on what you hear. Nothing is more frustrating for employees than when they share their concerns but see no action as a result. Report back to focus group participants on what you heard, and share your action plans in as much detail as possible.Thinking about doing focus groups in your organization? Give us a ring if you’d like to discuss!Â