Working in a group has its benefits. It can make reaching goals easier for the employees, and it can make projects more efficient for the company. However, working in groups also has its challenges, especially when you have people of different ages working together with different thoughts, experiences, and ideas.
Here are three important factors to include for successful group work along with some suggested tips:
1. Time and space to work together
To succeed, the group needs time when all the members are available to meet and work together. They also need a space that has what they need for their work (e.g., quiet enough, internet access, necessary tools, etc.).
Try: physical spaces on campus (libraries, cafes, lawns, labs, etc.), working together online (simple chat software, meeting software like Adobe Connect, etc.), or online document sharing (e.g., Google Docs, Evernote, etc.)
There is a lot of useful software for group work, including free versions. Some online resources may have already been provided for your unit of study.
However you do it for your company and employees, the key is to make time for employees of all ages to work together. This allows them to get to know each other and learn how to work together.
2. Clear goals for the group and individuals
The next step toward successful group work is to make sure everyone knows what the goals are for the group and for each individual — e.g., what the group should produce at the end, what grades the different members would like the group to achieve, etc.
The most successful groups will also set clear goals for what the group should achieve at each meeting or what each person will do by the end of each week (e.g., choose a topic, search databases, do reading, and make notes, share notes with the group, collect data, write the first draft, proofread and edit, etc.). It is also necessary to clearly state at the beginning of the project exactly what work each person will do.
Make sure that everyone agrees that the workload has been shared fairly. Ask your tutor or lecturer for advice on this if you are not sure. The University of Sydney’s Academic Honesty Policy states that schools and departments in the university must give clear guidance on how the tasks for group work assessments are shared among group members fairly.
3. Supportive and responsible cooperation
A group often contains a mixture of different personalities, cultures, and levels of confidence and experience, so a special effort is needed for group work to go smoothly. For example, everyone needs to have a chance to express their ideas, and group members should be positive and encouraging to one another. Everyone needs to respect the group by being responsible for their own workload, arriving on time, replying to e-mails, etc. Bad feelings in a group (e.g., if someone feels they are doing all the work or if someone feels criticized or embarrassed) often cause lower quality group work, lower marks, and low-quality learning.