In these times of change, there’s a higher risk of silos forming in your organisation. Silos are no place for your organisation’s knowledge, ideas and talent. Communication and expertise should flow freely throughout your organisation to ensure everyone benefits. This way, innovation and positive organisational change can flourish.
What Are Silos
In business, organisational silos refer to business divisions that operate independently and avoid sharing information. It also refers to businesses whose departments have silo system applications, in which information cannot be shared because of system limitations.
Silos create low morale, negatively impact workflows, and ultimately adversely affect the customer experience. The silo mentality reduces the organisation's efficiency and, at worst, contributes to a damaged corporate culture.
What Causes Silos
Silos are more common than you think. After all, people being categorised as being from one department and getting benefits whenever they achieve a department goal is a silo system. This sums to the silo development, but there are many ways in which an organisation can go the wrong way and contribute to the silo effect.
The main causes of silos are:
Act Now: Break Down Silos
Breaking down silos isn’t easy, but you can start small and implement the below steps. Also, make sure management really buys this "no silo mentality" policy. It all starts with leadership. And if managers aren’t putting up an example, employees will hardly follow.
Steps To Breaking down silos
1. Establish your organisation's vision
Your organisation's vision statement defines its purpose and what it hopes to achieve. Creating a shared vision for the entire organisation can help break down silos between different groups and encourage a team mentality. Instead of focusing on what their respective departments need to achieve, managers and employees can understand how they can contribute to the organisation's ongoing growth and success. The organisation's leaders can meet with managers to discuss and establish this vision. During these conversations, they may identify long-term goals the organisation aims to achieve and the role each department plays in those efforts.
The vision statement should also incorporate the organisation's values. These values ultimately align with its goals but should represent the principles or ideas that matter most to the organisation. Once the leadership team has established a vision statement, it can promote it throughout the organisation via mass-correspondence efforts. The organisation can also incorporate its vision into employee handbooks and its websites or social media platforms. Continuously reminding the workforce about this vision can help motivate and inspire them to maintain that team mentality.
2. Set common goals
As mentioned, objectives play an essential role in an organisation's vision statement. These long-term goals can serve as a unifying force for the organisation's employees. When silos exist, each department develops its own goals and objectives based on its wants or needs. As a result, these goals may not always align with the goals of another department.
By establishing and promoting common goals, each department can instead think about what it needs to do to support them. For example, the organisation may set a common goal to improve its overall reputation with customers. The customer service department may set a goal to improve satisfaction by increasing its average response time. Meanwhile, the product development teams may develop goals based on improving the quality of the organisation's offerings. While the short-term goals may vary across different departments, their results help the organisation's greater good rather than solely themselves.
3. Provide incentives
Employees with a silo mentality may sometimes focus on achieving their immediate needs rather than the organisation's ongoing goals. Leaders can use incentives and other motivational tools to further break down such silos. These incentives can encourage employees to go beyond their typical or required tasks and take part in activities that help the organisation meet its objectives.
Practical Example: An organisation may set a goal to increase its workforce to help boost its productivity levels. It may begin a referral program for employees, offering a monetary incentive to those who refer potential job candidates to the HR department. Such incentives can help prompt individuals throughout the organisation to make referrals even when the new hiring decisions don't directly affect them.
4. Promote cross-departmental collaboration
Organisations can break down silos between departments by encouraging or requiring them to work together on projects. These projects provide specific goals for different departments to work toward together. This collaboration also promotes the sharing of resources, information and knowledge across various areas of the organisation. It also enables employees to understand others' roles within the organisation, and they may use these insights to improve future projects or processes.
Practical Example: If an organisation wants to launch a new website or revamp it, it may build a project team comprising members from the marketing and IT departments. Web developers from the IT team build the website, while marketing specialists and graphic designers create the content hosted on it. These departments represent different talents and skills, and combining them can help develop and launch the project more efficiently with agility. Throughout the projects, these departments can also learn about each other and how they operate. These insights can help them work more effectively together in the future because they already understand each other's needs and abilities.
6. Implement team-building exercises and events
Rather than focusing on team-building exercises within departments, organisations can encourage cross-departmental training programs or events. They may host these programs with the entire organisation or in groups to encourage future collaboration between specific departments. Team-building exercises involve activities that encourage participants to work together more effectively. These activities can help individuals get to know one another better, both personally and professionally. They can also help practice teamwork skills, such as communication.
Hosting in-person events also provides opportunities for members of different groups to meet and interact with one another. These programs can align with its overall vision and goals. For example, organisations may implement professional development training to improve skills, such as customer services, time management or using particular technology tools. Organisations can also organise events aimed at increasing awareness about particular topics, such as diversity in the workplace.
7. Encourage communication
Encouraging open, honest and regular communication throughout the organisation can help different departments and individuals feel more comfortable interacting. It can also prompt more socialisation amongst diverse groups. Depending on the organisation's size, it may host monthly meetings to bring together all departments to discuss company updates. During these meetings, managers can highlight accomplishments or other significant news happening in their department. When everyone understands what is happening beyond their group, it can create a stronger team mentality. If the organisation cannot host in-person meetings, it may consider sharing similar information via a monthly organisation-wide newsletter or virtual event.
8. Use collaboration tools
Leaders can make it easier for departments and individuals to communicate across the organisation by implementing collaboration tools and software. These tools can cover a wide variety of business needs, such as communication. Instant messaging tools enable individuals to communicate across different departments or floors of an office without having to leave their desks. Remote organisations benefit from using virtual meeting software to provide face-to-face interactions and keep employees connected despite the physical barriers.
Sharing resources and information is an important component of breaking down silos. Organisations can find numerous tools and software that enable employees to share and access documents through the internet or cloud services. These tools are especially helpful for cross-department collaborations. For example, the marketing and information technology departments may not have access to the same data. With collaboration tools, they can share information with each other that will help them fulfill the project's tasks.
9. Reduce physical barriers
Silos within an organisation can sometimes be physical. If particular departments or employees never see one other, it can make it more difficult for them to interact, especially with recent hybrid working models. When possible, organisations may consider restructuring their offices to make them feel more open. Their chosen layout may also depend on the amount of office space they have. For example, some organisations place several departments on the same floor and employees work in cubicles alongside their department teammates. This partially open layout enables easier communication across departments because people can walk to one another's desk areas.
Other organisations use fully open layouts with no partitions, walls or other barriers separating employees' workspaces. This layout can allow everyone to see and understand what their colleagues do at work and communicate easily. Offices can also restructure their environments in smaller ways. For example, they can encourage the use of shared spaces such as break rooms. Having designated areas where employees can congregate and interact with one another can help boost interactions and socialisation amongst different workgroups.
10. Continue monitoring progress
After taking steps to break down silos, leaders monitor and evaluate the results. Depending on the goals they set, they may have measurable data that shows whether the organisation is meeting key metrics more effectively since implementing silo-breaking efforts. For example, if the organisation aimed to improve its reputation, departments may have data that determine whether customer satisfaction ratings improved during that period.
For less tangible results, leaders can continue promoting open communication by gaining insights directly from departments and employees. These leaders can interview department managers to gain their feedback about the changes they have noticed. They may also send out surveys to employees to get their insights. If employees and managers describe positive changes, it can show that the efforts succeeded in breaking down silos. Otherwise, leaders may need to identify ways to further reduce or eliminate divisions within the organisation to promote collaboration and communication.
Silos and siloed thinking isn’t going away overnight. What’s more, it’s a lot of work and you have to make sure to always enforce collaboration and communication. But on the other hand, it gives your employees a healthy and productive working environment. It gives you confidence that your people can do the job. And it sets you up for success.
So, yes, it’s a lot of work. But it’s totally worth it. We are here to help you make it a success.