Conducting a focus group interview can be a useful method to get in-depth and spontaneous reponse from a group of employees regarding the use of Colibo. Both qualitative interviews and focus groups give a greater insight into why certain issues are important, and not only the fact that they are important. You will get the participants' reactions to each other's statements, which will enable them to discuss the topic even more.
However, there are a number of things you have to consider before conducting the interviews. A focus group interview is usually rather long, from 2 hours and up. For this reason, it is a good idea to arrange different activities for the participants during the session.
A focus group usually consists of at least 6 people. Their backgrounds should neither be too homogenous nor too mixed. They should give the interviewer different point of views, but should also be able to trust each other. Therefore, it is not a good idea to interview employees with the managers present, as the employees might not want to be too critical. For this reason, it might be necessary to conduct different focus group interviews, in order to get opinions from different places in the organisation.
In focus group interviews, it is preferable to have two people in charge of the interview. One should be interviewing, while the other should observe the participants' reactions. These persons should be as objective as possible, and thus we don't recommend intranet managers to lead the interviews. It is advisable to choose an external partner, eg. Colibo.
In order to 'recruit' participants to the focus group, it is important that they are motivated. This means that they should know what the purpose is and what they could gain from participating. Therefore, it is important to make it clear that it is their opportunity to express their opinion on Colibo and their responses will be used for the further development of the organisations's use of the platform. If you recruit participants randomly, it is important that you make sure that you have as much information on your participants beforehand as possible, as this can enable you to ask better questions. Of course, you need to interview employees who actually use Colibo regularly, but you can also include a few people who don't use Colibo as much, as this can provide you with another point of view.
The interview should start by a presentation of each participant. This both gives information to the interviewer, but also functions as an ice-breaker as the participants might not know each other beforehand.
Start with an opening question
Afterwards, the interviewer should ask an opening question to start the conversation. This question is important, as it lays the foundation for the rest of the interview. It should be easy to answer, but lead to different answers so different perspectives emerge. Everyone should feel that they can contribute with something. As there can be many participants in a focus group, one idea could be to make everyone write down their answer on a post it, so they won't be influenced by the other participants' answers. An example of an opening question could be: How do you use Colibo at the moment and why?
A focus group, as an alternative to qualitative interviews, is a relatively open conversation within a specific topic. The result is dependent on the interviewer's ability to make the interviewees add to each other's comments and elaborate further, and avoid putting words into one's mouth. The interviewer should be as objective as possible, and quickly analyse the responses in order to ask elaborating questions. The participants should have the feeling that it is not a traditional interview, but their opportunity to talk more freely and dig deep into the issue.
The questions should be very open in the beginning, and end up being quite specific. It is important to note that the questions you ask in a traditional interview and in a focus group might differ, although the topic is the same. You have to take into consideration that it is not advisable to ask sensitive questions in groups.
When you have conducted the interviews, it is important that you spend some time processing your data. This could be done by dividing your questions into themes and write down similarities and differences in people's responses. When you get an overview of the responses, try to see if there is a correlation between your intranet goals and your evaluation.
If there is, then it is great for you - and you can start considering how to bring it to the next level by formulating new goals. If there is a gap, then try to find out where something is missing, and discuss with the intranet group (and Colibo) how you can change this.
- Make the purpose of the focus group clear in order to recruit people
- Consider who should be part of the group
- Consider carefully your opening question, which sets the scene
- Arrange 1-2 activities during the interview to keep the spirit high, eg. by using post its to brainstorm
- Follow up on the result afterwards, so the employees feel it is worth their time participating