Advantages of CCDI’s Culture Meter, Module 3, Identities - Focus Groups

Posted in : Blog
Posted on : April 10, 2018

Yuriko Cowper-Smith - Coordinator, Consulting

CCDI’s Culture Meter (focus groups) service is quickly becoming one of our more sought-after offerings, and we now have extensive experience conducting Culture Meter engagements with a variety of our clients. In general, businesses use focus groups to keep a pulse on their employees, and to check in on their experiences and feelings of the workplace. By gathering qualitative information from target audiences, focus groups are able to support businesses in their decision-making processes and policy development.

Refined through experience, CCDI has developed a precise methodology for focus groups that harnesses their advantages in ways that cannot be done by other data collection tools, such as interviews and surveys. In particular, CCDI’s technique of ensuring participant confidentiality is a substantial advantage that is unique among the types of focus groups that exist. First, we will present the definition and process of CCDI’s focus groups, and then elaborate on the main advantages that we’d like to highlight: 

  • CCDI’s focus groups engage 15 to 20 employees of a client’s workforce to gather their perceptions of the issues faced by their demographic group. CCDI generally encourages clients to undertake seven focus groups in total, which include the demographic groups of: Racialized people, Indigenous people, Women, Straight-white-able-bodied men, People with Disabilities, LGBT2sQ+, and Newcomers to Canada. Research demonstrates that these demographic groups experience the workplace in substantially different ways, and so are important target groups to tap into when seeking input from employees.
  • Next, CCDI, in collaboration with the client, develops a communication plan to recruit volunteers for the focus groups. Potential participants who identify with one of the abovementioned groups emails CCDI to express their interest in participating.
  • Participants are then provided with the date, time and login information allotted to their specific group. CCDI focus groups are conducted virtually via webinar platform and over the phone.

The four main advantages of CCDI’s focus groups are as follows:

  • Confidentiality – Confidentiality is the key factor that allows participants to voice their candid experiences in a safe and contained space. The method of direct interaction that occurs between CCDI and employee contributor eliminates the need for the person to communicate with their employer, which goes toward ensuring the confidentiality of their responses. Additionally, the virtual platform allows participants the ability to join the focus group from their desk at their office, or from their home, provided they have access to technology. This flexibility again permits the opportunity for the participant to feel at ease when offering their perspectives on their workplace.
  • Collaboration yields new data - Unlike the highly structured nature of a survey, or the isolated nature of an interview, a focus group format facilitates discussion between the participants, as well as with the moderator. This platform thus encourages the production of data that could otherwise be lost during an interview or a survey format (Acocella, 2012). At the same time, focus group pose the potential for group-think. Group-think occurs in settings where members are pressured to self-censure and conform to a dominant perspective on a subject (Irving, 1972). In particular, when there is pressure to agree on a topic, people may become oblivious to alternative perspectives. In CCDI’s methodology, the process of asking structured (poll) questions, followed by unstructured questions mitigates the problem of group-think.
  • Definition clarification - People often don’t understand something if it is stated to them only once. Clarification of definitions and of questions allows for precision in the data yielded. Moderators also have the opportunity to ask more of participants, which lends further depth and clarity to the answers given.
  • Richness of data - In surveys, participants are often confined to set questions and set answers. In a focus group, participants can explore the content asked of them along with their peers. In this way, participants can agree with or disagree with their colleagues, which in turn generates fruitful information. This back-and-forth process provides the opportunity for participants to feed off each other, and to offer more complex and reflective answers, that are often not allowed for by surveys (Acocella, 2012).  

To summarize, the confidentiality provided by CCDI’s approach to focus groups substantially augments the three advantages presented above. With the confidence that answers are kept private, and identities are left unknown, employees are more inclined to voice their lived experiences in the workplace.


Acocella, I. (2012). The focus groups in social research: Advantages and disadvantages. Quality & Quantity, 46(4), 1125-1136.

Janis, I.L. (1972). Victims of groupthink: A psychological study of foreign policy decisions and fiascoes. Boston:  Houghton Mifflin Company.

Tags CCDI Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion Culture Meter Identities Yuriko Cowper-Smith

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