They are also useful later in the travel planning process, to monitor and review the success of particular measures and/or policies. Focus Groups can help you to understand current travel patterns and changes in behaviour as a result of any travel planning measures and/or policies that have been implemented.
Focus Group findings do not replace an Employee Travel Survey, but rather add more detail and insight which is always helpful. They also help to keep your employees engaged with the travel planning process.
You can look to make the Focus Groups mode specific, setting them up as user groups to discuss mode specific measures/issues.
Focus Groups can help to inform Travel Plan development by revealing useful information such as:
- Strong views for or against particular measures.
- Identifying any issues with particular measures and/or policies in place.
- Additional measures that might make employees change mode.
- Additional barriers to use of a particular mode.
Setting up a Focus Group
Considerations when setting up a Focus Group:
- Each Focus Group should have a maximum of 8-10 participants.
- You should hold the discussion in a quiet room where there will be no disturbances. Ideally, participants should be seated around a large table.
- The facilitator should not attempt to make detailed notes whilst leading a group - they will need to listen and be ready to intervene if necessary. Instead, have someone else sit in on a Focus Group to take notes or alternatively record the group and write up notes later.
- Participation in a Focus Group should be by invitation. You should try to invite a mixed cross-section of people, e.g. of different ages and gender, from different departments etc.
- Refreshments should be made available.
- Set a time limit on the Focus Group, usually about one and a half hours. Ideally, it should be held within working hours.
Running a Focus Group
Considerations when running a Focus Group:
- The facilitator should draw up a list of topics to cover during the discussion. This is not meant to be an agenda but rather to help facilitate free discussion whilst covering all topics. Here is a Sample Focus Group Topic Guide that you can use as a template for structuring your own Focus Groups.
- The facilitator should introduce themselves then ask the participants to do the same and say a few words about how they normally travel to work and how long it normally takes.
- Ask open-ended questions, e.g. “Do you enjoy your journey to work every morning? If so, why; if not, why not?”
- Ensure that participants do not deviate too far from the subject area.
- Ensure that everyone in the group gets to have their say, not just the vocal ones!
Remember, a handful of Focus Groups are not going to be representative of your whole organisation and sometimes people are swayed by the opinion of others during a group. Focus groups should not be used in isolation for monitoring purposes, but rather added to the findings of other monitoring measures such as the Employee Travel Survey or Spot Counts to give a fuller picture.