Focus groups offer several opportunities to improve organizational effectiveness. In a previous post, we provided a basic introduction to purpose and process of leading a focus group. Before jumping ahead in this post, we highly recommend reviewing our introduction to focus groups.
Below, we address six great benefits and outcomes of leading focus groups within your organization.
1. Focus groups help improve employee engagement
Hosting focus groups sends a strong message to employees. It shows them that management cares enough to hear what they think. In a recent survey, 69% of employees said they would work harder if their efforts were recognized. Employees who feel their company is invested in them and what they have to say are going to reciprocate those behaviors and be more engaged at work.
2. Focus groups can help reduce turnover
Because employees are more likely to quit their jobs if they aren’t recognized and don’t feel valued, focus groups demonstrate to employees that they are being sought out to share their opinions. Knowing that the information they provide (anonymously) will be shared with upper management further reinforces the opportunity to be recognized and help the organization. When employees feel important, listened to, and valued, they are less likely to leave their employer. While it is important to recognize employees on a regular basis, conducting a focus group every so often sends an even stronger message to employees regarding the value of their voice within the organization.
3. Focus groups offer more accurate information
While utilizing surveys can be a very effective way to gather information, they do come with a host of obstacles. For example, surveys are often multiple choice questions with predetermined answers leading the survey participants to choose from only a few, very specific options. Focus groups allow for much more answers and feedback than a traditional survey. Often times, members of the group will report answers that someone creating a survey may never have considered to put on the survey.
Body language is also something that can be recorded in a focus group. A qualified facilitator can comment on the group’s body language and the overall mood of the group for each question. There may be instances where every single person in the session feels very strongly about something or instances where there were mixed reviews on a topic. Capturing the mood of the group and/or certain body cues can be invaluable when gathering feedback from a focus group.
4. Focus groups allow for clarification and immediate follow-up
Because focus groups are an open discussion, the facilitator has the opportunity to clarify responses. For example, if an employee says: “I think our reporting system is ineffective”, the facilitator can ask why and how the reporting system is ineffective. Surveys often gather opinions about certain topics, but struggle to ask the “why” and “how”. It is much more helpful to be able to gather the whole picture at once with a focus group.
5. Focus groups aren’t just a soapbox for employees – they uncover solutions
While it is important to understand the thoughts, opinions, concerns, and needs of employees, focus groups offer much more than that. Focus groups help to uncover problems and inefficiencies while also helping to uncover potential solutions. Management might think a new reporting tool is working great, but employees may be struggling with the new processes and procedures. Gathering suggestions to improve processes from the people who actually apply the process on a daily basis can tend to offer some of the best improvements and solutions.
When conducting focus groups, beware of the following:
- Getting off topic
- Focus groups are great because they are not highly scripted in structure. However, make sure to stay on topic in order to ensure the questions are being answered.
- One person “hijacking” the session
- Sometimes participants can get very involved and emotional during a focus group. Be sure everyone’s voice is heard and that it feels like a focus GROUP- not a one person show.
- Accurately report what was shared in the session
- When delivering the final report, it is extremely important to make sure all information accurately depicts what they group was conveying to the facilitator of the group. The facilitator must be unbiased and truthful when doing a write-up. Focus groups are about giving honest feedback even though this may contradict what some were hoping or expecting to see reported.
On the surface, focus groups may seem like an employee soapbox session, but don’t underestimate the valuable information a focus group can yield. Often times the cost of inaccurate or misleading information can be far costlier than hiring a professional. When done properly and professionally a focus group can provide instrumental information for an organization.
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