Group Activities in Corporate Training Programs – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
In many corporate training programs, participants are frequently asked to work together on group activities. These activities could be as simple as a five-minute brainstorming session or as complex as a multi-month project. As a corporate trainer, I continue to look for ways to include group activities in my courses because there are numerous benefits that are gained from asking participants to work together. Unfortunately, group activities can also have a down side that may negatively impact the learning process. In fact, sometimes, group activities can become downright ugly!
It is rare in today’s corporate environment for individuals to work only by themselves. More often than not, people are required to work with other people to accomplish corporate goals. Because this is so frequently true, I believe that group activities in corporate training programs should be used. Working in groups helps participants to improve their interpersonal skills. Additionally, there is a synergy in groups that can be achieved through sharing ideas (i.e., a teammate might think of something that another teammate never would have). Group activities also provide more experienced participants with the opportunity to mentor the less experienced participants. In this way, everyone benefits. Good group activities enable all participants to interact with the material in a meaningful way.
When participants in a corporate training program are already colleagues, their classroom interaction can be excellent. On the other hand, when unfamiliar participants are asked to work together, the activities can be challenging. Some people do not feel comfortable sharing their ideas with strangers. When there is a risk of this occurring, it might be beneficial to start with some simple teambuilding exercises or icebreakers. Another downside to group activities is when there is work to be completed outside of the classroom. We all have our own obligations outside of work (e.g., family, friends, etc.), and those obligations can make scheduling a challenge. When participants are asked to complete projects outside of the classroom, they might struggle to find the time for everyone to get together. This can lead to a shift in responsibilities that might upset the distribution of work. When there is a risk of this occurring, corporate trainers need to find some classroom time for the participants to work out an agreement for responsibilities, meetings, communications, and responsiveness. Then, to the extent possible, corporate trainers should facilitate those outside-of-the-classroom arrangements.
Of course, even the best corporate trainers cannot plan for everything or facilitate every step in the process, nor would that even be a good idea! The point of the group activities is to have the groups do the work. When the work is not being completed (regardless of the reason), things can get ugly. Some participants may feel as if they are doing more than their share of the work, while others may feel as if they do not have the same opportunity to get the work done. These feelings can spiral out of control and even turn into resentment. Some participants might be viewed as “controlling,” while others might be viewed as “lazy.” This scenario can present a particular challenge to corporate trainers. If you, as a corporate trainer, notice this happening, it is best to intervene—but in a very unassuming way. Meet with the group as a whole and with the individuals to determine what the root of the problem is. Then, help the group come to a solution on their own. If the group is still unable to work out their differences, it may be time for the corporate trainer to intervene in a more assertive way. It is vital to remember that the goal of the group activities is to promote learning. If learning is not occurring, action needs to be taken to get the participants back on track.
What do you think? As a corporate trainer, how do you handle group activities? Do you like them or dislike them? What do you do to handle the challenges that may arise during group activities? Consider the other perspective: As a participant in a corporate training program, what do you think about group activities? Do you like them when you are one of the group members? I am always looking for new ideas and thoughts about how others navigate the good, the bad, and the ugly of team activities in corporate training programs. I look forward to your feedback!