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Focus Groups: 7 Steps to Defining your Unique Employment Brand

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Focus Groups: 7 Steps to Defining your Unique Employment BrandTo determine the parameters of a distinctive employment brand, it’s necessary to undergo a comprehensive evaluation process. This includes analyzing previous results, setting goals, defining a possible employment brand, substantiating the employment brand proposition and, possibly, conducting a focus group.

Focus groups, a popular way to learn about the opinions of a targeted segment of the population, can best be described as qualitative interviews with a controlled number of respondents brought together to discuss a topic of interest. This type of qualitative research is useful in investigating subjects/behaviors too sensitive to survey quantitatively.

Used by marketing firms to determine how a customer will respond to a new product, focus groups can also explore less tangible matters such as the development of a successful employment brand.

How to set up a focus group:
1. Recruitment of participants. Recruit members based on demographics, work similarities or shared experiences. Setting up separate groups to get differing views is a common approach. Most participants are first contacted by phone and asked a series of questions that determine their eligibility. If selected, they are paid from $50 to $300 (depending on their professional level) to cover travel, time and associated expenses. The interaction should take place at a neutral location that is comfortable and easily accessible. Depending on the time of day, either snacks or a meal should be served.

2. Who leads the focus groups? Generally, outside moderators are best. Trained professionals with first-hand knowledge about employment branding would be ideal. Focus groups should last between 90 minutes to two hours with opportunity for feedback at the end of the session. The moderator should open each session with an ice breaker that gives the participants the opportunity to introduce themselves to the group. Moderators can use this initial dialogue to probe for more information.

3. Formulating the questions. Always use open-ended questions and avoid using leading questions. Moderators should work hard to avoid using questions that may influence or suggest their own bias.

4. Determining how many participants. The best number is generally between six and 12 people. If the group is too small, it can be dominated by over-opinionated respondents; if it’s too large, it can be difficult to keep focused.

5. Location. A professional focus group facility with a comfortable room large enough to hold all respondents is highly recommended. The room should be soundproof and equipped with two-way mirrors. Make sure AV equipment is available for video taping.

6. Capturing information. Most often, information is captured by video or audio tapes. Video helps with both verbal and non-verbal information. Audio is used to capture the information exchange verbatim. Manual note-taking is not recommended.

7. Wrap-up. The final report should include the objective of the focus group, profiles of the participants, descriptions of the exercises used and a record of the participants’ responses. Video portions will be especially helpful in determining results.

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