As businesses become more employee-centric, we see them investing in a free-flowing work culture promoting cross departmental communication.
According to Economist Andre Chamberlain, "a new wave of culture-first thinking among business leaders [is] elevating employee engagement to the core business focus for a growing number of companies."
Many business leaders agree that departmental silos (caused by a lack of cross departmental communication) can be detrimental to every aspect of a firm's health.
Before discussing ways to encourage cross departmental interactions, let's look at what departmental silos are and how big of a problem they pose.
What are departmental silos and why are they toxic to your company?
Business leaders and economists alike have realized that while organizational units hold merit in some functional areas of the company, they can ultimately lead to plummeting productivity.
While these specialized components are designed to meet business goals as efficiently as possible, they inevitably grow to the point where they can function independently from the whole. This sort of independence can lead to fragmentation.
It disrupts organizational synergy, wastes resources and chokes the company's flow of information. This can occur to teams of different sizes, from small business to scale-up or multinational.
Think about it. How can there be a healthy flow of information if there is zero cross communication between departments?
How to promote communication between departments
The Workfront 2020 State of Work Report found that nearly 87% of employees think leaders should revisit how they think about communication technologies at work. Approximately 84% think businesses are missing out on opportunities by refusing to adopt modern opportunities.
Now that we know that departmental silos are a double-edged sword, the next thing we need to consider is how to bridge the gap and encourage more cross departmental communication. In this section, we'll be discussing some highly effective communication strategies.
These actionable steps can revitalize your work culture and help departmental teams get to know each other. Ultimately, better communication and types of communication styles help you boost productivity and employee satisfaction.
1. Avoid working In silos
As we've already seen, silos can create a toxic work culture and snuff out any interdepartmental communication. When left unchecked, silos can easily fall into toxic herd mentality or groupthink.
Team members can begin to discourage each other from collaborating with others outside of their immediate circle. Silos can even take place within the group harming cross functional collaboration.
Without checks and balances against this, it could seriously harm your business's goals—mainly in information bottlenecks. Here's how you can combat this issue:
- Have members of different teams engage in one-on-one coffee chats over Zoom or Microsoft teams. These interactions help the different teams understand the structures outside of their team and promote a healthy discourse. Perhaps members of the marketing team could give helpful consumer insights to the sales team— helping close more deals.
- Look into renovating your workspace in a way that helps promote collaboration between different teams. For example, an online workspace like Gather Town or a virtual water cooler can provide the space for employees to interact. Collaborative workspaces help open dialogue between different teams and help.
2. Spaces that nurture interaction
We briefly spoke about renovating your office to create a more collaborative workspace. Employees might shy away from cross departmental communication out of the blue. Think about it: they've already formed a comfort zone in their teams— it can be challenging to begin talking to new people suddenly.
Create virtual spaces that encourage workplace communication to make this a more organic transition. Motivating remote employees to be more social with their colleagues requires different solutions compared to in-person teams.
You can do this successfully by creating a new space on Rock. You could name this space "The Water Cooler", and it could serve as a place where all your employees can get together to talk about non-work-related things. This space is essential because your employees need to find common interests that aren't work-related.
Another idea could be scheduling regular one-on-one coffee chats with the team. Encourage them to have their cameras on to feel more connected with their peers.
You can start these meetings by having your employees share the weekly personal and professional good news with their peers. These chats can also give the team members an insight into each other's lives and nurture better interactions between team members.
Here are some other ideas:
- Allow for daily syncing with messages, tasks, notes files and meetings through a communication platform like Rock.
- Have an open anonymous survey to send feedback and discuss common problems.
- Establish new clubs in your workplace to help teams discover shared interests that aren't related to work.
3. Create common goals
While different departments have different goals they need to work on to contribute to the whole. It's helpful to set shared metrics. In other words, you need to establish companywide and high-level tasks that multiple teams must work towards as a company leader.
The back-and-forth communication should eventually help them hone interpersonal relations and unite disparate teams. Here's what you need to remember:
- Be sure to announce good news or "wins" to keep your department in high spirits. They'll feel like the collaboration is worth it and will be eager to work with each other in the future
- Encourage ways for department heads to support each other. They shouldn't compete with each other. Instead, they should lead by example
- You can start an internal company newsletter to reinforce these common goals. Instead of email, you can share a note or topic in a space with your whole team to further encourage responses and interactions between team members.
4. Clear documentation and task management protocols
To be successful at cross departmental communication, especially when working remotely, you need to use tools that create synergy. As is the case with many companies, different teams in your firm may prefer to work on different platforms. These could be WhatsApp, Asana, Trello, or Slack.
However, when collaborating with different departments, use a single platform to reduce context switching and learning new platforms. Even if different platforms have different ways to annotate or label something, this knowledge should be given to the other team as a heads up.
Here's how you get different teams to streamline inter-departmental communication:
- Go for tools that are easy to use and don't have a huge learning curve. This way, you can help get all your teams on the same page as soon as possible.
- Use task management functionality to assign work more efficiently. This way, you can inform everyone what they'll be working on, thus avoiding confusion.
- Encourage teams to use tools such as Zoom or Rock to keep an open communication channel.
- Succeed at team collaboration by using all-in-one tools. This way you can reduce your tech stack and keep communications in one place.
5. Pick easy-to-use collaboration tools to maximize cross departmental communication
Before you get different remote teams to work with each other, go over the process and streamline it. You don't want to face issues when the team is halfway through a project. Look for a reliable remote work tools that aren't too complex but get the work done. Not every employee will be up to date on remote communication best practices.
Running into issues with the system can lead to confusion and frustration and break down the collaborative effort's fabric. The consequences could end up causing irreparable harm to your work culture and cause resentment amongst employees.
At this point, Rock comes in. The communication platform is easy to use and reliable and helps you in different areas of your cross departmental communication. Check out some tips you can employ when introducing a tool like Rock to the rest of your team:
- Make sure to involve different departments to test out the new platform. They should be comfortable navigating through it.
- Offer training sessions to your employees to get the most out of the collaboration platform. You can use tools like loom to do this asynchronously and create a dedicated onboarding space in Rock where you upload all the footage.
- Analyze how to improve work performance metrics when reviewing how well the collaborative effort is going. This review should give you a sound idea of how well the teams respond to the platform.
6. Find natural synergies
To avoid distance between teams, consider where working across teams makes sense, and try to assign joint projects where natural synergies exist. Sales and marketing seem to work together very well, and so do accounting and operations. That's because there is a significant overlap in these departments.
The collaboration would be forced if you switched them around and put marketing and accounting together. Alternatively, you can also select individuals from different teams to work on their behalf. These tasks can include working on companywide objectives like equity, inclusion, and diversity.
The 3 biggest challenges of cross departmental communication
As effective as cross communication can be, it does come with its own set of hardships. Here are some of the most challenging parts of getting your cross departmental communication going while working remotely and how Rock can help you overcome these problems.
1. Social loafing
Social loafing is when certain team members deliberately slack off or delay tasks that are much simpler to perform. Consequently, loafing can cause a rift between the collaborating team as they'll feel taken advantage of.
Sometimes, especially when remote teams first begin collaborating, it's easy to assume that this "social loafing" is just an adjustment period. But as a leader, it's your job to keep an eye on this behavior if you are looking into how to improve productivity in an organization.
Controlling this behavior gets a little easier to track with Rock’s features. You can keep track of each team member's tasks to see what they've been doing. With the "mention" and "comment" features, you can reach out to any employee in a task, chat or 1:1 space and follow up with them.
2. Different goals and priorities
Teams with different goals and priorities are more challenging to get on the same page. Even though your departments may be collaborating on a specific project, they still have standalone tasks they need to be accomplishing.
These tasks could take time away from team collaboration. In Rock, you can use labels that align with goals and priorities on every task. This way, you know people are staying organized at work and spending time on tasks that will make an impact.
If they consistently fail to do so, perhaps they've been occupied by other tasks. Then, you can reach out and have a conversation about solving this issue.
3. Teams In different time zones
Do you need a specific meeting with someone in a different time zone, or can you also discuss through chat, tasks, or notes instead? Asynchronous work saves both people time and provides better communication sharing streams.
Scheduling meetings can be tricky when some members are in different time zones. Make sure to upkeep virtual meetings best practices so everyone is included while not wasting time. A good workaround for this is trying to rotate the times so no one has a chance to complain. It'd be best to pick a suitable time for most attendees.
This solution is the fairest since there isn't just one employee who must always meet outside their work hours. Since there isn't any software that can put everyone in a meeting simultaneously, regardless of where they are in the world, there is something Rock can do to help.
Many have found that using communication platforms with mobile integrations makes it easier to take meetings. Instead of canceling their plans for that day, they can take a meeting call anywhere that's quiet— a café or even a car works well.
How to promote cross departmental communication: conclusion
It's easy to recognize that cross collaboration is the key to achieving company goals and objectives. However, it's tough to implement policies that help promote and implement in the workplace.
Figuring out how to improve interdepartmental communication at your place of work is an uphill battle. It involves trial and error. However, what helps a lot throughout the process is having a communication platform you can fall back on.
Enter: Rock. Our all-in-one messaging platform combines the best of WhatsApp, Slack, Asana, Trello, and Discord. To find out more, sign up today for free.