6 Ways to Bash the Silo Mentality and Get Your Departments to Act as a Team

Imagine this: Two teams in an advertising agency, the copywriting and design team, are both working on a huge project, but instead of collaborating, both neglect to share key insights, ideas and information with each other that would help each produce a better product for the client.

Each team is hoping to shine bright and look good but is missing the opportunity to maximize value for the client. Why? They aren’t fully or effectively using the human resources at their disposal: Not enough heads are working together to bring the project alive. Each team might come up with astonishing ideas but lacks valuable feedback from the other team that could make their ideas way better.

The agency, by failing to maximize its resources, is at risk for derailing its business opportunity. This is the result of the silo mentality.

What is the silo mentality?

The silo mentality is a reluctance to share information, similar to what happened with the two agency teams. A lack of sharing can puncture holes in trust and communication. Besides affecting a business overall, the isolation that comes from silos tends to destabilize employee morale. This can lead to:

  • Reduced productivity due to lack of trust among employees
  • Reduced collaboration from those who normally would share. You will hear employees saying something like, “If he chooses not to share, why should I?”

Instead, by bashing the silo mentality, the result will be a free flow of information, ideas and data transfer. This in turn can lead to:

  • Increased innovation
  • Improved employee productivity
  • Better decision-making—businesses that share data are 3 times more likely to improve their strategic decision making when compared to companies using less data points to make and implement major decisions

Sounds better, right? Here’s how to identify if siloed practices are holding back your business, and how to bash the silo mentality and get your departments to act as a team.

6 ways to bash the silo mentality

1. Identify why—and where—silo mentality is happening

The first step is to understand what part of your business structure brought about the silo mentality and address this directly. Silo mentality is a problem typically associated with one or all of these three areas:

  • Company culture: What kind of competition does your business leadership promote among your employees? Is it healthy or is it more like a survival of the fittest?
  • Business operations: Some operational structures—facilities, equipment, personnelle, procedures, communications, for example—isolate employees and departments from each other. Employee, team, and department isolation paves the way for a silo mentality.
  • Technology use: Businesses haven’t truly grasped the power of the Internet of Things (IoT), essentially, the potential and use of digital tools to support the collaboration and idea sharing between teams. State-of-the art technology tools help teams collaborate, share information easily and reduce siloed resources by half.

Honestly assess if your company is fostering a culture that encourages unhealthy competition. Examine if your operations structure is isolating people, teams and departments from each other and preventing collaboration. Update technology tools so information is automatically shared across all departments. Take the time needed to figure out the root of the issue.

2. When you train, train multiple departments together

Usually, corporate training involves one department at a time. This could be influenced by cost and convenience. However, training multiple departments together develops relationships and encourages collaboration.

Your business is made up of various departments for a reason —each has a valuable area of expertise to contribute. So pair them up.

The marketing department will develop a better marketing campaign for a product launch when it collaborates with the product development team or sometimes even someone from the accounting department! Yes, it’s that outrageous, but pairing complementary areas of expertise yields better results..

When you schedule corporate training with different teams, they learn from each other, improving efficiency.

3. Creating company-wide common goals

Often, a goal that is set within only one department can limit collaboration, triggering silo mentality.

For example, a sales team leader might set a goal to increase the sales close ratios by 20% in six months. Even though this is possible, informing the marketing or logistics teams of such a goal may improve that ratio.

The marketing department could then work on improving existing customer relations—a key factor in brand loyalty. The department could also become more strategic, building value around a company’s offering in marketing campaigns.

The logistics department could also work on improving communications with customers in case of mishaps during product delivery.

The sales department will likely reach its target or exceed expectations due to these inputs from the marketing and logistics department.

So, meet with other department leaders and create shared goals—objectives that are directed towards company growth where every team has a role to play, like with that of the goal to increase sales by 20%. This will increase the company’s net profits since everyone is working towards a common goal.

4. Create spaces or protocols that foster employee connection

Although an open office layout allows for employee engagement, this structure may start to die out. A study by Harvard University suggests that open office layouts cut employees’ face-to-face interactions by as much as 70 percent. There is a surprising reason for this. Based on a quote by Denis Diderot, an 18th-century French philosopher, employees see the open spaces as distractions and choose instead to shut out co-workers to concentrate on their jobs, thus reducing interaction.

Instead, strive to create a contextual structure (specific to your business set-up) in which employees can interact with each other. You can get started by first installing sensors that track your employees movement and using softwares to collect data on how they interact. You can use this data to model an office structure. This is why it is contextual and not a one-size fits all setup.

If you operate on a hybrid model that pairs remote workers with office workers, it is not as straightforward. The ideal step is to devise a workspace based on your employees productivity. In a nutshell, be flexible. Allow your employees to work where and how they want, prioritizing productivity.

Here are two tools that will help you with that:

  • Use Flex-desking: This tool allows your employees to book a desk every morning. Ultimately, this allows the same workstation to be available for someone else the next day.
  • Take advantage of Wayfinding: Wayfinding allows you to create an interactive map of your organization. It allows employees to easily see what, who and where there is availability. This  helps them know who to collaborate with and where to optimize effective use of your business resources, both human and material.

The rules are changing, and your business should respond to these changes. Get rid of the open office environment to improve your employee’s engagement and bash the silo mentality.

5. Update with connecting technology and software

There are two relatively simple fixes to provide your teams with technology that will foster collaboration between departments.

The first is to provide your employees with laptops, rather than immovable desktop systems. This especially applies to employees working in an office building, or a hybrid system, with some at the office and some working remotely. Laptops allow employees to move around and collaborate more without losing work efficiency. An employee stuck at one desk is less likely to collaborate, finding it tiring or distracting to leave the workspace to ask questions or give out any information regarding a task.

A second effective strategy is to invest in cloud-based software like Google Drive, Slack, and Smartsheet. These digital tools give employees visibility into files, documents, data and communication across various departments. The cloud-based software creates a virtual workplace hub that connects employees across departments, as well as across locations. These tools are especially essential when connecting and aligning hybrid and remote workforces. If you have an entirely remote team, utilizing Internet of Things (IoT) software for every task is an effective way to encourage interaction and collaboration. For instance, rather than sending emails, create a slack channel and share messages by simply tagging the individual. Instruct other personnel to do the same.

6. Include more team leaders in meetings

Create a collaborative environment by including other team leaders to complement the information exchanged during meetings. Even when the agenda doesn’t specifically apply to another team, frame the invitation as a chance to share information and ask for their ideas.

Often, other team leaders have beneficial insight. For example, if a marketing team is meeting to discuss next quarter’s budget, have the foresight to invite someone from the finance or supply chain department to share what they know.

Improve overall team performance

There are perceived advantages in protecting a siloed structure. However, each positive can be easily countered with the advantages of a structure that encourages a free-flow of information that results in improved outcomes. Encouraging information sharing is what businesses need to increase revenue, grow and maintain financial sustainability.

So, now move to bash the silo mentality within your business.

This article was submitted by and expresses the views and opinions of the independent freelancer listed as the author. They do not constitute the views or opinions of Upwork, and Upwork does not explicitly sponsor or endorse any of the views, opinions, tools or services mentioned in this article, all of which are provided as potential options according to the view of the author. Each reader and company should take the time needed to adequately analyze and determine the tools or services that would best fit their specific needs and situations.
This article was submitted by and expresses the views and opinions of the author. They do not constitute the views or opinions of Upwork, and Upwork does not explicitly sponsor or endorse any of the views, opinions, tools or services mentioned in this article, all of which are provided as potential options according to the view of the author. Each reader and company should take the time needed to adequately analyze and determine the tools or services that would best fit their specific needs and situations.
Article Author
Mike V.
Expert Vetted
Marketing Strategist & Coach
Santa Rosa, United States
Marketing Strategy
Career Coaching
Marketing Leadership

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