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Book Clubs at Work

By: Hsin-Yi Cohen BSc, MA, MSt - Updated: 16 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Work Reading Groups Work Book Clubs

Book clubs aren’t just a great idea for social and leisure time – they can be fantastic in the work environment too, helping towards team development and employee motivation. In fact, they can be one of the most inexpensive ways of professional enhancement.

Why have a Book Club at Work?

Book clubs for work colleagues can offer many benefits. Through the discussion sessions, employees can learn leadership skills, as well as more effective communication, negotiation and the importance of listening to other’s viewpoints. For employees from different departments, it can be a great way for them to get to know each other better outside a work scenario whilst for those already in a team, it will help greatly to build and cement bonds. Book clubs also allow those at more senior levels to interact with those in more junior positions in a relaxed, non-pressurised setting.

In addition, through the actual discussions themselves, employees not only expand their general knowledge but also their management skills, lateral thinking and in many cases, even personal growth.

How do you start a Work Reading Group?

First find out if employees are interested in a book club at the work place through a general email or memo. Ask for volunteers to make themselves known to a selected member of management and note down numbers.

Next, decide the format of the book clubs. Hold a meeting with all book club volunteers and decide on the main points. Will employees all read the book in their own time and then meet up during one lunch hour? How long will employees have to read a book? Or will all employees read one chapter each week? Should the meetings be weekly or monthly? Who will lead the discussions? A rotating roster is better for fostering leadership and communication skills.

What Kind of Books?

This depends partly on the type of book club and the volunteer members. For example, if most of the volunteer readers belong to the marketing department, then a recent bestseller in the marketing field may be a good choice. Many companies may like to use this opportunity to further their employees’ professional development therefore books related to business and the industry may be chosen. Certain employees may want to recommend good professional books that have read or the organisation leaders may have certain books on their mind. Alternatively, a team may be assigned to choose the books or the choice may be down to a majority vote. If reading non-fiction, employees will often select topics they want to learn about.

Of course, the books can also be purely fictional choices and do not have to relate to work at all. If the intention is to develop relationships in a more relaxed setting, then this may be a preferred choice.

Remember, regardless of the type of book - be sensitive to social and cultural (and religious) attitudes within the company and choose a book with broader themes if readers come from a variety of departments and backgrounds.

Tips on Running the Book Club

Delegate one member of the club to send reminder emails to everyone for the next meeting, including information about whose turn it is next to lead the discussion, so that they can be prepared with notes and questions. Have a meeting room set aside for the meetings, so time is not wasted looking for an available space, and it can also be a good idea to provide a flip chart or white board and markers, especially if the books covered will be of a business nature.

Each time the club finishes a book, send another email around the company inviting new members to join in the next round. This prevents the reading group members from turning into an exclusive clique. It is also important to always provide one book per person, so there is no pressure to share books. It is generally expected that the company will purchase necessary copies of each book – a worthwhile investment for the gains in employee participation and communication.

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