For self-sufficient professionals, it can be hard to share workloads. This mindset can sometimes be positive, but more often, this thinking leads to forgotten tasks, overlooked details, and staff burnout.
Working groups are a more efficient way to solve difficult problems or finish big projects.
Working Group Definition
Why Set Up Working Groups?
Many initiatives in the workplace need collaboration to succeed. An organized working group lets you take advantage of the different knowledge, viewpoints and expertise your company’s employees already possess.
Working group frameworks also:
- Create a structured environment for task delegation
- Provide accountability and help establish time frames for project stages
- Relieve the workload that would otherwise fall to a single employee
Rules of Group Work
Establish clear expectations. Your working group should know:
- Time frame to complete objectives
- How to present or format their findings
- Who should have access to the findings
Working Group Frameworks
Working groups are only successful if there is a framework for members to follow. To assemble a winning team, it’s up to management to establish expectations. Your working groups should know:
Objectives - Clearly explain the reason for the working group. Why are they there? What are they expected to accomplish? What common goals are they working to achieve?
Time Frame - How long does the group have to complete their objectives? Are there outside factors dictating the deadline?
Findings - How should the working group findings or conclusions be communicated? Do you want a written report? A presentation? Let the working group know in advance so they have time to provide updates and findings in the appropriate format.
Who Should Have Access - It is important to also communicate who the working group’s information is intended for.
- Is the information confidential? Consider restricting discussions to management or certain departments of the office.
- Are the findings for company use only? Most working groups within a company are a way to assess the business and should not be accessible to outside sources.
- Is there some information that may benefit the public/others in the industry? If your group is assessing the state of your industry or compiling data that may be useful to colleagues, prepare an external report for all other stakeholders.
Working Group Management Considerations
If you don’t take advantage of working groups in your office, take the time to prepare. Before you assemble your team, there are some considerations management needs to weigh.
Working Group Resources
Working groups are great for identifying issues and discovering creative solutions. But they will fail if not given adequate resources.
Do you have the right resources to set up your first working group?
- Meeting space - Working groups need a quiet, distraction-free place to meet and discuss projects.
- Employees - Be sure you have enough people to cover day-to-day tasks when working group members are meeting.
- Time - Estimate how long the project will take and how much time each member requires to complete their work. Be realistic with your expectations.
Team member personalities should also be considered for a successful working group. Ask yourself:
- What skills are required to accomplish the group’s goals?
- Are there particular people who work well together?
- Are there employees you know don’t mesh well with each other?
Compiling a group based on who is most available may not be the best choice.
Consider the strengths and weaknesses of the people you may recruit. Look at backgrounds. Identify introverted and extroverted staff. A mix of diverse people and personalities will usually yield the most successful results.
Working Group Example: Debt Collection Agency
Changing regulations, compliance rules, and court rulings can all impact business activities. In a high-risk industry like debt collection, it’s important to keep track of changes that could make current processes noncompliant.
Working groups are an ideal way to assess internal procedures, analyze processes and come up with solutions that fit your business. This may take people from several departments to ensure every angle is examined and no details are overlooked.
The recent release of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Regulation F is a perfect example of the need for working groups within debt collection agencies.
As a panelist on the webinar, “Enhancing the Consumer Experience Under the CFPB’s Proposed Rule,” Kelly Parsons-O’Brien, President of Pacific Credit Services, discussed how setting up a working group helped her own agency.
The webinar covered the new trend of customer service in debt collection. It highlighted how the consumer experience is an important differentiator for agencies now that Regulation F has worked to standardize other collection practices.
“A lot of times we talk to our management team and our collectors a lot more from a collector’s perspective or a manager or owner perspective,” says Parsons-O’Brien. “But why aren’t we communicating with our staff as consumers?”
Creating a working group within her agency led her to ask staff to put themselves in the position of a consumer, or draw from personal experiences as consumers to see how processes look from the outside-in.
Earnest feedback from a team can make a real difference in the outcome of the project.
This is a good example of how an organization’s working group can approach topics from a new point of view. This encourages positive change and problem-solving in a way one person might not be able to accomplish by working alone.