Groups, teams, and organizations are composed of cohorts, which can be defined as individuals who hold a common attribute. For instance, everyone born in 1960 is of the same age. This means they also have shared common experiences. People born in 1970 have experienced the information revolution, but not the Korean conflict. People born in 1945 shared the Vietnam war, but not the Great Depression. Women in US organizations today who were born before 1945 matured prior to the women’s movement and have had substantially different experiences from women born after 1960. Group demography, therefore suggest that attributes such as age or the date that someone joins a specific work team or organization should help us to predict turnover. Essentially the logic goes like this: Turnover will be greater among those with dissimilar experiences because communication is more difficult. Conflict and power struggles are more likely and more severe when they occur. The increased conflict makes group membership less attractive, so employees are more likely to quit. Similarly, the losers in a power struggle are more apt to leave voluntarily or to be forced out.

A number of studies have sought to test this thesis and the evidence is quite encouraging. For example in departments or separate work groups in which a large portion of members entered at the same time, there is considerably more turnover among those outside this cohort. Also, when there are large gaps between cohorts, turnover is higher. People, who enter a group or an organization together, or at approximately the same time, are more likely to associate with one another, have a similar perspective on the group or organization, and thus be more likely to stay. On the other hand, discontinuities or bulges in the group’s date-of-entry distribution are likely to result in a higher turnover rate within that group.

The implication of this line of inquiry is that composition of a team may be an important predictor of turnover. Differences per se may not predict turnover. But large differences within a single team will lead to turnover. If everyone is moderately dissimilar from everyone else in a team, the feelings of being an outsider are reduced. So, it’s the degree of dispersion on an attribute, rather than the level, that matters most.

Size of teams: The president of AOL Technologies says the secret to a great team is Think small. Ideally our team should have been to nine people. His advice is supported by evidence. Generally speaking the most effective teams have fewer than 10 members. And experts suggest using the smallest number of people who can do the task. Unfortunately, there is a pervasive tendency for managers to err on the side of making teams too large. While a minimum of 4 or 5 may be necessary to develop diversity of views and skills, managers seem to seriously underestimate how coordination problems can geometrically increase as team members are added. When teams have excess members, cohesiveness and mutual accountability declines, social loafing increases, and more and more people do less talking relative to others. Moreover, large teams have trouble coordinating with one another, especially when time pressure is present. So in designing effective teams, managers should try to keep them less than 10. If a natural working unit is larger and you want a team effort consider breaking the group into sub teams.

Member Flexibility; Teams made up of flexible individuals have members who can complete each other’s tasks. This is an obvious plus to a team because it greatly improves its adaptability and makes it less reliant on any single member. So selecting members who themselves value flexibility then cross-training them to be able to do each other’s jobs should lead to higher team performance over time.

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