How to balance focus group advantages and disadvantages

20 Oct 21 | Blog

Feedback. It’s a scary word. Often preceded by words like ‘constructive’, it’s often associated with negativity – the psychological equivalent to the screaming noise a microphone makes when it’s too near a speaker.

When we think about collecting employee feedback, that can feel even more daunting. What if you uncover a big problem you didn’t know was there, or they criticise something you’re doing?! Well, ironically, that means you’re probably doing something right.

Don’t underestimate the importance of employee feedback

What’s the point of asking your employees for feedback? If it’s just so they feel heard, that’s not a bad start. After all, companies who listen are 14.4x more likely to have high customer satisfaction, and 4.6x more likely to have high growth levels.

It’s also the key to driving positive change, finding your people power, and understanding how to tackle any challenges your organisation faces – from how to adapt to a hybrid working model, to adapt to a major event like a merger or acquisition.

Employee feedback: choosing a method

There’s a lot of ways to gather employee feedback, so your first task is choosing which methods are going to work – which is easier said than done. We’ve talked about the disadvantages of 121 meetings in certain settings, and we believe strongly in the power of surveys – but there’s no reason you can’t combine methods to get the richest spread of quantitative, qualitative, and anecdotal feedback. After all, we do!

The advantages of focus groups for employees:

The disadvantages of focus groups for employees:

    • They rely on a skilled facilitator who can both control the conversation, and stay aware of their own bias when asking questions

    • They aren’t easy to translate into reliable, usable data – which means it’s hard to draw conclusions and take next steps

    • They might provide incorrect findings, due to ‘groupthink’ or people feeling pressured to answer dishonestly

    • They can be dominated by a few employees who are happy to speak up, meaning you don’t hear from everyone

Our advice? Get the benefits of focus groups and the benefits of surveys for business

We know that surveys are the best method of gathering employee feedback – and with our powerful tech, you can get richer insights from open-text responses too.

But there’s nothing to say you can’t follow-up your surveys with employee focus groups. In fact, it’s a combination of methods we’ve used ourselves – and one that other industry experts advocate for. Here’s how it worked:

1. Run a full organisational scan

Sometimes, it’s hard to know where to start. To understand the needs of your employees, and what’s affecting their productivity, you need to identify any challenging areas. That’s why we’d run a full organisational scan, looking at 16 key areas that relate to performance.

2. Choose a follow-up survey

When you get the results of the first survey, things get easier. Our platform clearly colour-codes scores, red for negative and green for positive, so any weak points are easily identified. When you see lower scores for one area, like ‘leadership’ or ‘tools’, you can narrow your focus.

3. Share results with the company

Remember the value of making your employees feel heard? It’s a crucial, but simple, step – all you need to do is openly share high-level results, identify the areas of strength and where you need to improve, and explain what will happen next.

4. Get line managers to run focus groups

Once you’ve run your survey(s), you can dig even deeper with a series of focus groups. Share team-level insights with your line managers, and guide them to have a structured discussion with their reportees. This allows people a more comfortable setting to open up and add more detail to the initial findings.

5. Gather all feedback and define actions

If you’ve made sure the focus groups are facilitated appropriately – with structured questions, guided discussion, and unbiased note-taking – you can combine those insights with the first two survey results, to understand the bigger picture. That will make your next steps clear – whether it’s introducing a wellbeing policy, or offering training opportunities.

6. Communicate the next steps

Again, this exercise isn’t for show – but it doesn’t mean you should make a point of demonstrating that it really matters. Send communications summarising the findings, explaining next steps, and setting clear timelines and expectations.

Qlearsite Employee Feedback Platform: the employee feedback platform you need

While you can combine methods of gathering feedback, you don’t always need to… especially with Qlearsite Platform. We’ve built a fast, simple way of gathering quantitative and qualitative data, identifying the top three things people talk about – and showing you what surveys to run next.

Click to view the demo

Our powerful language analysis can replicate focus group questions by allowing you to collect freely written, honest answers and see common themes emerge naturally – without people influencing each other’s answers. Not to mention that the benefit of an anonymous employee feedback tool is that it strips away biases.

Photo by Antenna on Unsplash

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