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Focus group exploration of firm‐employee relationship strength

Carmel Herington (Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia)
Don Scott (Southern Cross University, Lismore, Australia)
Lester W. Johnson (Melbourne Business School, Carlton, Australia)

Qualitative Market Research

ISSN: 1352-2752

Article publication date: 1 September 2005




The purpose is to present the results of exploratory research which analysed firm‐employee relationship strength from the employee perspective. Three main research questions were explored: What indicators should be used to measure strong firm‐employee relationships? How important do employees see relationships to be in the work environment? and how do employees define relationship strength?


Qualitative research in the form of focus groups was utilised. Four focus groups of employees from medium to large regional and national Australian companies were held in a large Australian regional city.


Employees view relationships as being very important in the work environment. The findings revealed a greater degree of consistency between employees' viewpoints about important relationship elements and non‐marketing literature. Important elements found were cooperation, empowerment, communication, attachment, shared goals and values, trust and respect. The emphasis on commitment as a key relationship indicator was not supported by the findings. The findings are summarised in a proposed model of relationship strength, positing commitment as a relationship strength outcome. Employees defined relationship strength in terms of the identified elements.

Research limitations/implications

This research enables commencement of examination of the value of internal relationships through empirical examination of the proposed model.

Practical implications

Management is informed as to what makes the best work environment from the perspective of employees.


This paper fulfills an identified gap in the literature in relation to the ability to measure internal firm relationships. It also clarifies the confusing literature on relationship elements, and it posits a model for the empirical assessment of firm‐employee relationship strength.



Herington, C., Scott, D. and Johnson, L.W. (2005), "Focus group exploration of firm‐employee relationship strength", Qualitative Market Research, Vol. 8 No. 3, pp. 256-276.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2005, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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