What Are Work Groups? (Types, Benefits and Tips to Manage)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 12 October 2022 | Published 27 April 2022

Updated 12 October 2022

Published 27 April 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Many companies use work groups to encourage individuals to work together and achieve organisational goals. Companies may establish groups for different tasks, goals or projects. If you're a manager, you may be interested in knowing about effective ways to organise groups of professionals in a team setting. In this article, we explain how groups operate in the workplace, explore the reasons for forming a work group and provide tips to manage groups at work successfully.

What are work groups?

Work groups are teams of people who collaborate to accomplish specific workplace objectives. Work group sizes may vary depending on the needs of the tasks. Some groups are permanent, while others come together for a few months or weeks.

The main purpose for creating a work group is to consolidate group members' expertise and capabilities and achieve organisational goals through their collective efforts. Groups at work also offer opportunities for people to take part in individual and collective work. Companies may find that groups are a useful way to improve productivity and increase employee satisfaction.

Types of groups in the workplace

Companies may create different types of groups to achieve their organisational goals. The type of work group may vary according to the task requirements, project timeline or individuals' needs. Here are some common types of work groups:

Functional work group

People in a functional work group perform the same function and typically report to one supervisor who manages the group. Some examples of functional work groups are the accounts department or the HR department. Members of these groups usually take instructions from managers to perform their individual tasks.

Cross-functional work group

In a cross-functional work group, members may come from different departments. They each contribute their areas of expertise to the group and work together as a team on work group assignments. For instance, professionals from across different departments may form a sustainability committee to explore company-wide sustainable practices.

Self-managing work group

A self-managing work group rarely has a formal leader, and group members work with minimal supervision. Such groups often display a high level of collaboration and cooperation. Members may divide responsibilities and distribute tasks among themselves. Examples of self-managing work groups may be informal volunteer groups within companies.

Types of work group tasks

Groups conduct different types of tasks depending on the company's requirements. The tasks may also determine the type of work group established. Here are some areas that groups may focus on in the workplace:

Solving problems

Problem-solving groups focus on improving processes and generating solutions to solve problems. Group members give suggestions to overcome challenges and improve companies' operations. For instance, companies may establish a work group to improve work-life balance if there are more individuals facing work stress.

Leading projects

Project work groups are one of the most common types. Members of these groups work on a project from start until the end, and the groups usually dissolve after the project finishes. A project work group often comprises members from different departments, and they report to the project team leader.

Related: What Does a Project Manager Do? (Plus Requirements and Pay)

Handling emergencies

Sometimes companies may face situations that require a work group to come together quickly and work on a single defined activity or solve an imminent problem. For example, if there are emergency crises such as transport accidents, companies may create an emergency task force to handle the situation. In such cases, task force members typically dedicate themselves to working on task force assignments until the problem's resolved.

Benefits of work groups

While groups may work on a variety of projects and tasks in the workplace, companies may find that the efforts of a well-functioning work group typically lead to successful outcomes that improve the company's operations. Here are some reasons a work group may be beneficial:

Consolidate diverse skills

Work groups typically comprise people from different departments who may have diverse skills and experiences. Every member may contribute to the work group using their own capabilities and talents. When the work group leaders assign tasks based on members' skills, the group may have the potential to achieve greater success.

Listen to different opinions

As groups frequently involve people with different roles and responsibilities, there's an opportunity for members to understand varying perspectives. This may lead to a diversity of opinions and a better collaboration of ideas. When group members offer multiple viewpoints, it may lead to more effective strategies to tackle the assigned tasks.

Related: What Is Diversity and Inclusion and How Do You Show It?

Improve communication

Effective communication is usually a key feature of successful work groups. When individuals from different departments join groups, it may remove the barriers of communication between different departments and lead to more connections. The newly created lines of communication may continue after work group tasks and result in a more cohesive workplace.

Encourage teamwork

Participating in groups at work often requires teamwork. As group members work on accomplishing goals, they may recognise the importance of working as a team. They may also realise that the efforts of work group members contribute to overall business objectives, and every member has a part to play to achieve collective success.

Related: What Is Teamwork? (With Definition, Benefits and Examples)

Share the workload

Employers or managers may form groups because a project is complex and requires members to share the workload. For example, a project that aims to standardise company-wide information systems may require input from many departments. The work group may consider the needs of every department before preparing ideal solutions.

Motivate team members

Work group assignments that fall outside individuals' normal work routines may stimulate them and provide new challenges beyond their usual job scope. Taking part in groups may also offer opportunities to use new knowledge and skills. This allows them to discover new capabilities that may lead to career advancement.

Related: How to Motivate (Plus Tips on Self Motivation and Leadership)

Differences between a work group and a team

A work group and team may sometimes be interchangeable. Some work groups may function as teams, but there are some differences between the two. Here are the key differences between work groups and teams:

  • Responsibility: In a work group, members usually take accountability for their part of the work only. On a team, members are accountable for both their own efforts and the collective efforts of the team.

  • Objectives: Members of groups may each have their own goals that contribute to the overall work group objectives. In teams, every member may focus on a single unified goal.

  • Supervision: A work group commonly works under the supervision of a manager who provides guidance. Teams may function with internal leadership.

  • Time period: A work group frequently works together for a specific period and dissolves after accomplishing the tasks. Teams may work together continuously and permanently.

Tips for managing groups at work successfully

Work groups can be a useful way for companies to accomplish business goals. High-performing groups can produce results that benefit companies and professionals. Here are some tips on how to manage groups successfully at work:

Organise the work

Before forming the work group, it's a good idea to organise the work properly so that every member of the group has a clear idea of how to approach the assigned tasks. This includes setting up deadlines, processes and expectations. Groups can achieve greater success if members understand the goals and objectives.

Put the right people to the right job

It's important to think carefully about which individuals to include in the work group. You may invite people to join the work group based on their capabilities and skills. You may also want to select members that can complement one another in terms of competencies. Selecting the right individuals for the assigned tasks is critical to well-functioning groups.

Manage group processes

In the initial stages of a work group, members may be unfamiliar with one another. It may take time for them to integrate with one another. As members get to know one another better, they may perform well as a team. It's essential to manage the work group dynamics during the initial formation phases so that members can work towards success.

Related: Important Roles and Responsibilities of a Team Leader

Promote inclusiveness

Work groups may perform better when members feel that other people in the group value their opinions and ideas. When a work group promotes inclusiveness by listening to multiple perspectives, it sets a positive foundation for cooperation and teamwork. Encouraging all group members to contribute their thoughts and ideas is a good way to promote inclusiveness.

Related: Learning About Diversity And Inclusion: 10 Free Virtual Courses

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