The field of facilitation is gaining increasing recognition as organizations of every shape and size begin to realize the impact workshopping, and facilitation skills have on innovation, product workflows, and high-stakes problem-solving. The number of companies signing up to sprints and workshops proves that in addition to energizing teams and aligning processes, successfully facilitated workshops play a key role in overcoming major business challenges that help boost overall company growth and profitability.
For those considering careers as facilitators, this is all great news–whether in-house or freelance, facilitators are in demand from more and more companies who need skilled individuals to guide teams via a range of proven agile techniques to find the right solution, build a product, or reach a specific company goal.
Facilitation careers aren’t just growing in popularity due to demand; in fact, many career changers are moving into the field thanks to its flexibility and range of impact. Facilitation skills allow an individual the flexibility to work in multiple industries, whether as a full-time member of staff or as an external and independent advisor. With employers and recruiters predicting that future workplaces will value facilitation skills even more highly over the next decade, those who onboard this skillset now can future proof their careers and secure long-lasting and rewarding work in work environments and within timeframes that suit them.
However, if you’re considering a career in facilitation, it can be hard to know if a freelance or in-house role is right for you. While some facilitators enjoy the variety and challenge of working independently for companies on a freelance basis, others choose to work in-house for just one company, taking responsibility for agile processes, streamlining product development, running problem-solving workshops, and facilitating important conversations as a permanent member of staff.
In this article, we run through the different employment options available to those who have this sought-after skill set, the pros and cons of each employment style, and give you an idea of what you might earn in this career. By the end of the post, you’ll make an informed choice about what kind of facilitation career is right for you and begin putting a plan in place to launch it.
Ready to find out more? Then let’s go!
An in-house facilitator often occupies a dual role within a company: as a team member and as a workshop facilitator. Typically those elected to facilitate have proven skills or experience in guiding group discussions, implementing processes, and making impactful decisions, and tend to be middle or senior level members of staff with good knowledge of the product and team.
Facilitation duties also frequently fall to UX designers or project managers as the techniques used to facilitate align well with their primary roles. UX designers are a natural choice because of their in-depth knowledge of agile sprints, which naturally complement the workshopping process.
However, it isn’t always the case that in-house facilitators must already belong to a company in another capacity. As the importance of the role of facilitation grows and the benefits of agile and sprint processes become more apparent, more companies are beginning to hire skilled individuals purely to facilitate workshops, improve internal processes and promote collaborative problem-solving.
Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of being an in-house facilitator.
You can practice in your current job
If you’re hoping to launch a new career as a facilitator but do not yet have the confidence or skills to get started, then offering to assist as a facilitator in your current job is a great way to build your experience. You’ll be working with familiar (and hopefully friendly!) faces who can give you valuable feedback on your techniques so you can hone your skills and improve how you lead, motivate and guide teams over time. In addition, practicing facilitation on home turf gives you the opportunity to prove your worth in this role, which may lead to a more permanent facilitator role being created for you by the company.
You have knowledge of the product and company
As an internal facilitator, you’re going to know the company inside and out. You’ll know the strengths and weaknesses of the team, the goals of the company, and what has worked before and what hasn’t. You’ll also likely be privy to internal power struggles and office politics. This knowledge can be a useful tool when facilitating workshops: you’ll know techniques to avoid, which team players might best fill certain roles, and which processes or tools might work well to solve the issue at hand. You won’t be coming to the challenge fresh, but you will be very well prepared.
You have established relationships with the team members
Getting to know the team you’re going to be working with can be a time-consuming process, and while ice-breakers are all well and good, there’s no replacement for genuine bonds of trust between a facilitator and their workshop group. External facilitators have to regularly prove their worth and build trust with a new group of people, as well as handle the skeptics in the room or defend certain practices against outspoken critics. These issues are much less likely to occur when a facilitator is known to the group beforehand, and a relationship built on trust and respect has already been established.
You might struggle with objectivity
Although in-depth knowledge of the issue might certainly come in handy during facilitation, an internal facilitator will almost always have untested assumptions and deeply ingrained biases, making a fair process difficult to achieve. While these biases may not be immediately obvious, a facilitator’s own assumptions can undermine the facilitation process, which in turn can directly and negatively affect the outcome of the workshop.
Trust from the team can be compromised
While we have seen the benefits that having an established relationship with team members can have on the facilitation process, a potential downside of using an internal facilitator is that team members may not trust that that person can be wholly objective. When history with the company already exists, team members may wonder about the facilitator’s bias towards or against other members of the group or for or against particular decisions. When team members doubt the objectivity of the facilitator, their own motivation, engagement, and trust in the process itself may tail off.
You might avoid difficult questions
Although asking difficult questions is sometimes needed from a facilitator, a fear of rocking the boat or bringing their own position into question may lead them to avoid unpopular, albeit necessary, topics or questions. By avoiding questions or themes which their previous experience with the company tells them could lead to difficult discussions, a facilitator is undermining the workshop process and is therefore unlikely to get a good outcome.
You may have difficulty detaching
For the facilitator themselves, detaching from the team or company may make it difficult for them to run an effective workshop. It may be hard for them not to give their opinion on topics they have knowledge on, rather than simply bringing out the opinions or perspectives of the group. For the facilitator, this could bring about feelings of frustration which may, in turn, create a tense workshop atmosphere.
Salaries for in-house workshop facilitators vary widely, depending largely on the organizations hiring them, location, number of years of experience, and seniority. Due to the relative newness of the field, when you start looking for facilitation positions, you’re likely to find a range of different job titles, including Agile Coach, Workshop Moderator, Design Thinking Facilitator and Business Design and Strategy Facilitator. An Agile Coach in the US can expect to earn on average over $137,000 per year, while tech giant IBM is trumping the US average by offering a yearly salary of close to $150,000 for their in-house Agile Coach position. In the UK, high street fashion retailer Marks & Spencer is looking to pay a salary between £75,604 and £101,787 (according to Glassdoor) for their Agile Coach position, while MoneyCorp US’s London branch is offering between £42,865 and £97,863 for their Agile Delivery Practice Lead.
When looking for your first permanent position in workshop facilitation, it’s important to search for a range of job titles similar to the ones we’ve mentioned here to ensure you get all of the results that reflect your skills and experience in facilitation.
Learn how you can become a high-paid facilitator
Unlike an internal facilitator, a freelance facilitator has a single role but performs it for a wide range of companies and clients. An organization might choose to hire a facilitator to organize and host a workshop or series of workshops when a big launch is coming up, a difficult problem has arisen, or the company wants to change direction.
It’s easier to remain objective
Freelance facilitators typically find creating a neutral atmosphere considerably easier than an internal team member. They are coming at the issue, team, and organization fresh and do not have previous baggage or relationships with the company or team members. Additionally, an external professional has an easier job commanding respect from the team, can remain detached from internal power struggles, and won’t be influenced by previous working relationships with team members.
Variety of work and clients
As a freelance facilitator, you’re not bound to one company or client but instead, bring your skills to different workplaces to solve a wide range of problems. Over time you can become more selective about the type of clients you’d like to work with, choosing organizations where you feel you’ll make the most impact. Every day will be different; you’ll meet new people, solve new challenges and leave each job with a feeling of having made a difference to the working lives of different teams and improving the processes by which they work.
You’re not afraid to ask difficult questions
As an external person, you’re less invested in the company personally, which means asking difficult or controversial questions about the working style or product will not leave you fearing your own position at the company. When your own position isn’t called into question for asking uncomfortable questions or making challenging statements, you are much more likely to direct the group towards the changes they need to make, which makes for a more effective facilitation overall.
You’ll need to win over the team
With each job, a freelance facilitator will need to earn the respect and trust of the team they’re working with. Unlike an in-house facilitator who is known to the other members of staff, an external facilitator will have to continually prove their worth. When you’re starting out in the field, this may prove a test of your confidence, but as you settle into your career, you’ll have the knowledge and experience that comes with having run many successful workshops to demonstrate why you’re the right person for the task at hand.
You’ll need to find your clients
As any freelancer will tell you, building a client base takes time, dedication, and patience. As an independent facilitator, you’ll need to advertise your skills, network both in-person and online, and grow your social media presence to ensure your clients are able to find you. You’ll soon be getting word-of-mouth recommendations (the absolute best kind of advertising for any freelancer!) after a few successful workshops that will help grow your professional network even more and boost your confidence to boot.
You’re solely responsible for the quality of the workshop
Expectations are higher because you’re an external, and the client is likely to spend a bit more money (this one might be linked to “You’ll need to win over the team.”
Our research shows that there is currently no standard rate for freelance facilitators! You might be asked to do a one week sprint, a three-day retreat, or a one-day product workshop, all of which can be charged at different rates depending on their length and the type of work you’ll be doing.
What we recommend freelancers do is try to establish a base day rate. We go into detail about how you can calculate your personal day rate in the video itself, but put simply, what you need to do is:
- Figure out how much you want/need to earn per month
- Establish how many days you’d like to work per month
- Calculate how much to charge per day to meet this figure
We hope our rundown of the different types of facilitation roles has given you a good idea of what you can expect from the role both as an internal team member or an external freelancer. With this information, you should have the knowledge you need to make an informed decision about which type of career best suits your lifestyle, work preferences, and salary expectations. Below you’ll find some additional resources that we think you’ll find particularly useful if you’re considering a career in facilitation!
- The Ultimate Facilitation Training and Courses Guide
- Why Facilitation Is the Skill of the Future
- What is a Workshop and Why Do You Need One?
- How to Make the Career Shift Into Workshopping
- Read Andra Stefanescu's story and find out how facilitation improved her scrum master practice and took her career to the next level.