Every organisation strives to engage and retain employees for as long as possible. The achievement of this goal requires HR professionals to be more proactive in leveraging various tools to boost employee engagement. One beneficial employee engagement method that organisations can use is focus groups. Let’s talk about it in detail here.
What are employee focus groups?
Employee focus groups are planned activities where employees are chosen specifically to take part in a discussion. The topic of discussion could be specific to a niche or could be anything that allows employees to communicate with others freely. The ultimate goal of the discussion is to derive valuable insights from employees’ conversation and gauge their feelings towards certain subjects.
There many ways in which HR professionals can use employee focus groups. They are an excellent way businesses to value their employees and create a two-communication flow throughout the organization. They play an instrumental role in providing an in-depth view of the organization’s employee engagement strategy and the sentiments of employees when it comes to specific challenges or aspects.
HR professionals can use employee focus groups to collect feedback on various programs. They allow them to have their fingers on the pulse of employees, especially after undergoing reorganization or implementing a major change. HR professionals can supplement their employee surveys with employee focus groups to effectively engage and retain employees.
Employee surveys are effective when HR professionals look for quantifiable data. Employee focus groups combine with employee surveys provide reliable data for proper decision-making.
One of the key advantages of employee focus groups is that they make employees of the organization an integral part of the operational process. It gives both management and employees ways to collaborate and discuss new ideas to improve the business and the overall work environment. These sessions are crucial for organizations to understand employees’ standpoint, feedback, and advice.
Employee focus groups help HR professionals to act on the results. These sessions are followed by effectively addressing and resolving grievances identified during the session. These discussions provide employees the opportunity to express their thoughts with the company and provide constructive feedback. Using the data collected from employee focus groups, HR professionals can spot out the areas that require their focus and improvement initiatives.
Conducting employee focus group sessions become important when any issue arises in the organization. HR professionals are required to quickly and accurately process the results of the survey. They will need to review results and share them with participants, collaborate and figure out a plan of action, and circulate reports among groups and teams.
Employee focus group sessions prove effective when all participants are fully aware of their respective roles and responsibilities. Ideally, these sessions involve the following participants:
- Moderator: Someone who is considered a respectful leader by employees. It’s not necessary that the lead manager acts as the moderator of the session. He or she should be the bridge between the management and employees. His or her role is to talk to employees, figure out the next steps, and report to the top management.
- Coordinator: The coordinator of a focus group session is responsible for taking notes during the employee focus group session. They deliver these notes to the moderator post the session. He or she is responsible for scheduling, managing logistics, and communicating with participants.
- Employees: The employees form the core of focus group sessions. All employees of the organization should get a chance to be a part of focus groups. Ultimately, employees are the ones who will provide necessary feedback and inputs to bring about organizational change.
How to develop questions for an employee focus group?
A productive, well-designed employee focus group goes far beyond a casual, one-on-one conversation. It’s important to know that employee focus groups can backfire if not conducted properly. They can create negativity and often disillusion HR professionals. The key to conducting effective employee focus group sessions lies in crafting relevant employee focus group questions, and knowing who exactly to involve, how to deal with difficult personalities, and what subjects to avoid.
Let’s talk about forming the right employee engagement focus group questions. While conducting employee focus group sessions, it’s important to craft well-defined questions. Management should ask the same set of questions every year to track the progress of the company. They can decide to add new questions every year, but the focus should be on gauging how employees feel working in the organization and interacting with their peers.
Here are a few key points to note while crafting focus group questions for employees:
- Setting a focus: First and foremost, it’s important for employee focus group questions to have a clear focus. That’s when the session proves productive. The purpose of the employee focus group session will dictate the type of questions to create. So, it’s important for HR professionals to first articulate the objective of the session to everyone to avoid any confusion later.
- Being specific: While creating focus group questions for employees, it’s important to be specific. Employee engagement focus group questions should be created in such a way that they elicit the views of employees on specific topics and issues. General employee focus group questions will most likely make employees give general responses. Asking a specific question will make them give a specific answer and will help HR professionals to define issues more effectively.
- Avoiding short-answer questions: Experts who are experienced in conducting employee focus group sessions recommend that HR professionals avoid direct yes/no employee focus group questions. Any set of questions that require short answers will not lead to a meaningful discussion. Also, HR professionals should know that an average employee focus group session should have five to ten open-ended questions to be able to get a holistic view of the workforce.
- Focusing on the flow of questions: Employee focus group sessions aren’t chat sessions. They have a specific purpose of achieving by driving management action. As such, employee focus group questions should have a logical flow. The questionnaire should open with a relaxed tone, asking all participants to introduce themselves and the role they are playing in the organization. It could then proceed to a set of general questions on the internal communication structure of the company. After this, the session can go into business-related issues where HR professionals can elicit views and feedback from employees.
- Creating wrap-up questions: An employee focus group session needs to end after HR professionals have gained some valuable insights. Expert facilitators end the sessions with a question that seeks to know how employees feel about the organization’s communications and what they would like to change. This wraps up the session inclusively and highlights issues that are significant to employees who matter the most.
Designing focus group questions for employee engagement is a critical step to conducting productive focus group sessions. Here are a few focus group questions for employees to help HR professionals get an idea of the kind of questions they should be formulating:
- Do you understand the broader strategic goals of the organisation?
- Are you aware of your role in contributing towards the goal achievement?
- Are you able to connect your work with the organisation’s objectives?
- What aspect of your work brought you to the focus group session?
- How do you like working with your team members?
- Does your team bring out your best qualities?
- How engaged do you feel working in the organisation?
- Are you able to be productive at work?
- Do you feel you have the right amount of information to make correct work-related decisions?
- Is there any issue that’s hindering your growth in the organisation?
- How do you feel about the way the company defines “success.”?
- Do you completely understand the internal processes and structures of the organisation?
- Do you find help when you encounter something unexpected at work?
- How would you recommend the organisation to your social circles?
- How would you describe the company’s products and services to people?
- How do you feel about the flow of feedback in the organisation?
- How do you feel about the new employee benefits plan?
- What are the most positive aspects of working in the organisation?
- Is there any specific way you would like to receive communication from the company?
- Is there anything you would like to see in improving the company’s internal communication?
Conducting employee focus group sessions is a crucial HR function that drives a positive workplace culture and brings about organisational transformation. These sessions should definitely be coupled with talent management strategies.