7 Ways to avoid organisational silos

If you’ve read our previous article What does working in (organisational) silos mean? then you already now know what organisational silos are and how to identify them within your company. 

Now, you can start eradicating them.

In the following article, we provide seven simple techniques for breaking down organisation silos.

How to avoid organisational silos (7 simple steps)

Actually, there are eight steps.

But don’t worry, you’ve already completed the first one, that is, acknowledging that they exist.

Most organisations don’t even realise their employees are demonstrating a silo mentality. They think they’ve done a great job of subdividing their business processes.

Not true.

So you’ve already got one up on your competitors, but what else can you do to start breaking down—or protecting yourself from—organisational silos?

1. Organise company-wide events

To collaborate effectively, your workforce needs to feel connected. By organising company-wide events such as offsite team-building retreats, you allow your employees to build relationships in a casual environment, away from the office.

You should develop a purposeful agenda, full of social activities, games, and entertainment that encourages interaction between employees who wouldn't usually cross paths. The skills and experiences gained through these activities should apply to the office environment.

Organising a company retreat yourself is time-consuming and expensive. To ensure your team-building retreat goes off with a bang, consider outsourcing the planning of your event to a specialist retreat planner, like Surf Office.

2. Invest in collaborative technologies

Fast and efficient communication between employees and departments increases productivity, reduces costs and cultivates a positive team environment.

Notice how effective communication isn't the same as frequent communication. Streamlined communication is what you’re aiming for. If your team are continually contacting each other with questions and revisions, you might need to take a closer look at your workflows.

3. Place your company mission front and centre

When your team starts arranging itself into silos, it loses sight of the broader company mission. Employees get so bogged down in conflict, competition and micro metrics, that they forget why they’re doing their job in the first place.

It’s the responsibility of your executive team to reiterate the company mission and communicate the importance of each employee’s role.

Once your employees understand how their position aligns with the company’s long-term goals, they will start accepting accountability and become more engaged.

4. Get together in the office (remote teams)

One of the biggest challenges of remote teams has been maintaining the collaborative working environment that’s usually provided by an office environment.

Online collaboration tools have emerged in great quantities since the COVID-19 pandemic with the likes of Slack, Asana, and Avaya claiming the majority of the market share. These do provide some protection against a silo mentality if used correctly, but working from home often causes employees to focus exclusively on their daily task list.

When all is said and done, there’s no better way of building employee relationships and encouraging collaboration than getting together in an office environment. Workations have become popular among remote organisations as a way of improving the company culture while achieving business goals.

Alternatively, if you want the best of both worlds, you might consider going hybrid. This gives your employees the benefits of working from home while providing a space for them to come together and collaborate. The only drawback is that you’ll be restricted to a narrower talent pool than if you were to remain fully remote.

5. Facilitate team diversity

Here’s a direct quote from an article written by David Rock and Heidi Grant that was published in the Harvard Business Review:

“A 2015 McKinsey report on 366 public companies found that those in the top quartile for ethnic and racial diversity in management were 35% more likely to have financial returns above their industry mean, and those in the top quartile for gender diversity were 15% more likely to have returns above the industry mean.” (Why Diverse Teams Are Smarter, 2019)

Diverse teams are more successful. They’re more capable of distinguishing fact from assumption, they’re more critical and they come up with more innovative ideas.

Because diverse teams are more likely to challenge the group consensus, they’re less likely to experience confirmation bias. If the departments in your organisation are already siloed, uniform teams within those departments create a silo within a silo. If your teams aren’t diverse enough, you can wind up with a sort of silo Russian-doll situation. 

And nobody wants that.

6. Ensure departments have equal access to resources

Competition for limited resources is one of the main driving forces behind organisational silos.

When employees start fighting over office supplies and budgets it has dire consequences for your company. How is your workforce supposed to remain focused on the company mission when they're struggling to obtain the most basic amenities? 

A limited supply of resources promotes an “us against them” mentality that’s detrimental to the internal health of your organisation. When one department is granted the resources and another isn’t, it damages interdepartmental relationships. 

So the next time budgets are handed out, your employees know that the winning team is that which screams and shouts the loudest.

7. Bring departments together more often

One simple way of building bridges between departments is to host regular meetings during which various teams throughout your organisation can together to discuss major challenges and find solutions.

Successful meetings are run by appointing a leader to keep the meeting on track and zeroed in on a specific issue.

Some teams—especially ones that haven’t spent much time working together—need help with effective communication. To get the most out of your meetings, try organising group team-building activities. With a little research, you’ll find several tried-and-tested games specifically designed to improve public speaking and debate skills.

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