Think of a focus group and you might imagine a group of children or adults in a room where they taste food, listen to music, watch a television program or movie, or any other activity where the end result is to gather consumer feedback on a product. In theory, the results of a focus group should tell the producers what may need changing or what was accepted well by the people doing the critiquing. Focus groups can also be used in a business setting to gather feedback from employees on the effectiveness of company processes, like performance appraisals, benefits or training. The idea of using focus groups to discuss company processes is not new, but the term is not widely associated for use in the business arena, great post to read.
Example of a Focus Group-worthy Business Process
Let’s use company-provided training as an example where the company surveyed upper management about what types of training they felt was needed to enhance employees’ skills to keep the company competitive. It should be noted that there may be mandatory training, like sexual harassment awareness. Voluntary participation in training that might improve employee job skills and knowledge is what perpetuated the survey and subsequent new training program, yet response to the training program has been limited.
Focus groups comprised of employees may provide insight into the less-than-successful launch of the new training program. The objective could be to gather feedback on why members of the focus group would or would not participate in company-provided training.
How Focus Group Members may be Selected
The results of a focus group are only as good as the people participating in the groups. When it comes to business practices, the group should include all levels of employees to which the process would apply and may include their managers. In our training example, the program of course offerings is directed to entry level to mid-management.
For a small organization, like less than 50 employees, you may want to bring all of them together. In larger organizations, particularly those with thousands of employees, it’s not feasible for them all to participate in focus groups. In this situation, the focus group organizers, possibly Human Resources, would work with mid-management to pull specific career levels or job positions from their departments to create a good cross representation.
What Might Happen with Focus Groups
With lack of participation in a training program as the theme, the focus group facilitator with a small team of advisors can draw up questions to present to the focus groups for discussion (there may be multiple facilitators and multiple focus groups at different office locations). Questions might include things such as: is the location of the training or the time it is being offered suitable, are the training sessions too long/short, or did the time of the training coincide with other job-critical events? The facilitator can start the discussion with prepared questions but should also be open to comments from the focus group that are outside the scope of the questions.
Participants can also be presented with the option to provide private input to the facilitator, like via email or phone call, because some participants may feel uneasy about commenting in a group. This can happen if the employee is intimidated by a manager or fellow employees, dissuading or belittling them for wanting to participate in company-provided training.