Running Your Business

Using Cross-Departmental Collaboration to Break Down Company Silos


  • Breaking down silos within your organization can significantly improve employee engagement

  • When departments communicate openly with each other, the company culture can improve exponentially

  • Ensuring that people understand what other departments do, instead of just relying on the end product, is crucial

Posted by February 28, 2019

Do you know what happens when your organization doesn’t have cross-departmental collaboration? Complex reports—which call for data from six different people—are created, followed by hardcore analysis and then numerous revisions based on feedback from three different stakeholders. And, to top it all off, the recipients of these reports may then complain about how long the process takes.

But wait, isn’t this an example of cross-departmental collaboration? People from different departments worked together to create a report that was used by others, after all. In actuality, this is how siloed departments operate.

Pretty confusing, right? Here’s an overview of what this collaboration should look like, as well as the benefits of maintaining open communication across departments.

What Comprises a Cross-Departmental Project?

In the hypothetical scenario above, although everyone did their task, no one really understands what each other person contributed to the cause. Everyone knows two things for sure: the report got done, and they played a role in the process. However, due to that disconnect, people have no idea how long each step should actually take, leading to impatience throughout the process and a lack of empathy when data isn’t perfect the first time around.

If, alternatively, everyone understood what went into the report creation, there would be better understanding—and fewer hurt feelings—across the board, and potentially better data from the get-go. That’s where cross-departmental projects come in! These are often so effective because they unite the entire workforce to accomplish the following three key things.

1. Reduce Waste

When you have siloed departments, you run the risk of pitting colleagues against one another. Left unchecked, this can cause your organization to waste a tremendous amount of time and money on projects.

For instance, you may find that two different departments are creating the exact same report, unbeknownst to them. And depending on the complexity of the report, that project can cost your company anywhere from a few bucks to millions of dollars in wasted resources.

2. Increase Employee Engagement

When people understand what other departments do (and how the departments all work together), you can not only reduce waste, you stand to increase employee engagement in the process. Wondering how? Consider this: When John in accounting is tasked with creating a report that he thinks gets sent into the abyss, he doesn’t feel like an actual member of the team and he probably isn’t super motivated to deliver the product. Alternatively, if John understood how operations uses his report to bargain with vendors and save the company money, he’s more likely to feel like he’s producing something of value—and he’ll definitely feel like an important member of the team.

There’s another benefit, as well. When John understands exactly how the report is used, he may be able to make it even more effective for those using it. When employees start to talk to each other about their jobs and exactly what they do, new and innovative ideas can be identified more easily.

3. Improve Communication

Communication is key in any relationship, and that goes for the workplace, too. Some companies utilize rotational programs as a means to get people talking with other departments. While this method doesn’t work for all roles, it reiterates the point that team members should all understand and respect one another. And what better way than through open and respectful communication? You can help encourage communication by hosting icebreaker activities, giving people time to talk at work and setting up internal networking events.

Additionally, if your organization has multiple locations—such as a corporate office and a manufacturing plant—leadership from both places should be spending time together. Otherwise, there’ll be disconnects.

Removing silos in favor of cross-departmental collaboration effectively softens egos and puts the focus back on work. It’s a good idea to encourage a nice balance of hard work and camaraderie among the workers at your company. This sort of culture can make employees feel a great deal happier, and the business only stands to improve as a result.

Searching for helpful tools and resources that can enable your colleagues to better manage their benefits? Check out the Employer Toolkit hosted on United Concordia Dental’s website.

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