Claire Treloar


July 23, 2021


Employee Focus Groups and Candidate Research

Conducting focus groups and other types of employee or candidate research is an essential aspect of the employer branding process. It is the difference between a good looking-and-sounding identity and one that actually resonates with—and engages—your target audience. Let’s explore why candidate research is so valuable.


What are employee focus groups?

An employee focus group is a structured discussion within which employees are invited to give their honest opinion of what it’s like to work for their employer. It is used to inform all aspects of the employer branding process—from tone of voice development to touchpoint identification.

A focus group will be comprised of between 5% and 10%of a company’s total workforce to give a reliable cross-section of opinions. Attendees will also come from across all divisions of the organisation in order to allow for departmental fluctuations in opinion.

Employee focus group sessions should be held with no fewer than five people (in order to spark conversation) and no more than fifteen (which can be too unruly and result in ‘hive mind’ responses). They should also be conducted without the employer present to ensure integrity of data.

To that end, the organisation’s employer marketing agency will craft the questions and conduct the group on its behalf, as well as collating, analysing and reporting back on the data.


How is target audience research incorporated into employer branding?

What happens with the research data collected during an employee focus group? Well, simply put, it is used to shape your every last decision about how the employer brand is developed.

First, the audience data will be used to develop a set of candidate or employee personas—semi-fictional characters that represent your ideal recruits. These characters give an overview of the wants, needs, frustrations, fears and aspirations of your best people. They are also used as templates from which to recruit persona champions to represent your brand to the world.

Additionally, focus group data will be used to identify your employer brand touch points. In other words, all the various possible places on the candidate journey that your target audience might come into contact with you—from the social media they use to Glassdoor reviews to interruption marketing(advertising) and beyond. It’s about learning where they hang out so you can hang out in the same spaces.

One of the most important uses of focus group findings is in developing your employer brand message. By learning what your employees do and don’t like about working for you in great detail, your agency will be able to craft content that addresses those findings. This will help you to overcome your barriers to recruitment and retention and improve your reputation as an employer.

Another key output of focus groups is the development your employer brand’s design guidelines and tone of voice. Think about other employer brands that catch your own attention. Well, they have been crafted very carefully to do so, almost certainly as a result of focus grouping people who have a similar profile to your own. Focus groups show you how your employees like to speak and be spoken to and will inform the way your employer brand looks, too.


Other types of employee and candidate research

Focus groups are not the only types of research you can conduct in order to gain greater insight into your people’s opinions. They certainly offer some of the most reliable data because attendees retain their anonymity and, thus, feel at ease to speak freely about their experiences. However, here are some other types of research employers may conduct.

Competitor analysis—Your employer marketing agency will be able to show you which social media platforms your competitors’ candidates prefer, where else they come into contact with competitor employer brands and what their overall profile is.


Employee satisfaction surveys—An employee satisfaction survey is an anonymous survey with multiple-choice answers aimed at measuring the quality of your people’s experience of working for you. It will help you to understand your strengths and weaknesses as an employer.


Employee culture surveys—Broader in scope than an employee satisfaction survey, the questions in an employer culture survey aim to identify ways in which workplace culture can be improved so that it will attract and retain the best employees.


Employee engagement surveys—This type of survey is designed to understand what motivates people to engage with your employer brand when they come into contact with it. It helps you to measure the emotional commitment your existing people have to you as an employer.


What are the benefits of conducting employee research?

Focus groups and other types of employee and candidate research put you at a distinct advantage in terms of talent attraction and retention. They highlight your selling points to potential candidates as well as the areas in which you could develop your Employer Value Proposition (EVP), arming you with knowledge that will shape your employer brand.

By conducting research, you will not only learn what type of content your existing and future employees are most likely to engage with, but where they will be most likely to do so and in what tone of voice. This gives you everything you need to start to craft campaigns that will cut straight through the noise and directly to the emotional centre of your target audience.

Finally, the data that candidate and employee research provides you with will enable you to gauge the changing shape of your reputation as an employer as you develop. When you start to see improvements in feedback, you know that your employer brand is effective and doing what it’s supposed to—which is to make your organisation an employer of choice.


To find out more about how Employee Focus Groups could help you leverage your Employer Brand, please get in touch today




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