Why Group Facilitation Skills - The Benefits? by Gary Rush, IAF CPF PDF Print E-mail

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"Companies have to look at how best to use their resources to improve productivity at work. Facilitators are in a position to help make the most of organizational resources – Facilitators add value."


Organizations are cutting back in resources, asking those who remain to do more with less, and cutting budgets for travel, training, etc. On the surface, this certainly makes the numbers look good – but is it the right approach? Organizations need to make the most effective use of their resources and human capital is the most important resource any organization has. Making employees productive is key!


  • Meetings – meetings are notoriously unproductive, yet an important part of every business. In 1986, Roger Mosvik and Robert Nelson surveyed Fortune 500 companies and found that managers lost 240 hours a year in unproductive meetings. This translates to an average of $71 million per company per year - in 1986 dollars!


  • Projects – cost a great deal of money and most is spent on salaries. An IT project today easily costs more than $1 million and many are implemented with problems in quality creating poor relations between all parties involved.


What is a Facilitator?

Today, the word "facilitator" has been diluted because so many people call themselves "facilitators" - teachers, contractors, moderators, and even amusement park guides. The dictionary definition is, "one who makes easier" and is so broad that it fits a wide spectrum of functions.


I'm talking about Group Facilitators, those who have been trained "how to" design effective processes, manage discussions, work with difficult participants, and guide groups to consensus. This is a highly skilled job. The savings and benefits only happen when you have a well-trained Group Facilitator. The cost of their training is returned the first workshop they facilitate or the first meeting they lead.



Businesses and organizations work smarter through the use of Facilitators using facilitated workshops because employees are engaged creating new ideas, increasing commitment, and communication is greatly enhanced. This results in:


  • Saving money – using facilitated workshops result in a 20% to 40% reduction in effort required to gather requirements.
  • Saving time – reducing the time to complete projects to ¼ the time.
  • Increasing quality – fewer mistakes and changes down the road.
  • Enhancing communication between all stakeholders involved.



Yes, there are documented metrics proving the benefits using productivity measurements.  The International Association of Facilitators (IAF) documented tangible benefits through their Facilitation Impact Awards - Read more...


What I found was:


  • Meetings work better; significantly reducing the $71 million wasted in poorly run meetings.
  • Projects complete the requirements phase of work in ¼ the amount of time.


A facilitated workshop produces 8 weeks of requirements work in a 3-day workshop. Translated into dollars and cents, this means:


  • If a Business Analyst makes $80,000 per year, then 8 weeks of requirements gathering costs $12,308. In a 3-day facilitated workshop, the cost is $924. That means that gathering requirements in a 3-day facilitated workshop saves over $11,384 for the one Business Analyst. When you include the actual number of Business Analysts along with the clients involved during the 8 weeks to gather requirements the savings are even greater.
  • If an IT project costs $1 million and the requirements phase requires one-third of the effort, then requirements cost $333,000. Using facilitated workshops to gather requirements cuts the time to ¼, saving almost $250,000 out of the $333,000. That amounts to one-fourth the cost of the project – just for requirements!
  • In addition, because the requirements are consensus-based and more complete, development time is reduced and quality increases adding to the savings.


Using facilitated workshops brings additional benefits to any organization beyond financial benefits as the previous points illustrate. Using facilitated workshops provides intangible benefits such as engagement of their human capital. Engaging a greater portion of any organization:


  • Increases the number of ideas an organization has to work with - this enables tremendous innovation.
  • Increases morale – people feel more valued when they are engaged.




One of the least cost effective actions that organizations take is putting an employee in a job without training. It demeans the importance of proper training, it is unfair to the employee, it wastes the organization's money, and hurts the organization in the long run. Like any job skill, facilitation skills can be taught and learned. It is far more than "one who makes easier". An effective Group Facilitator needs to know:


  • "How to" present him or herself in front of a group.
  • "How to" deal with a diverse group of people and move them to consensus.
  • "How to" engage a group of people.
  • "How to” prepare to make workshops and meetings productive.
  • "How to” develop clear processes that enable a group to come together to accomplish a task.
  • "How to" actively listen.
  • "How to" not be in charge.

The result?

Well-trained Facilitators using facilitated workshops are proven to deliver significant value to any organization. It's proven that when organizations engage everyone and they learn to collaborate, the organizations thrive and grow.


Knowing the benefits, I can’t help but wonder why every organization doesn’t make facilitator and facilitation skills a core competency for every employee of their organization. logo