Silo mentality makes it hard to disperse knowledge because of the “us versus them” stance where each department is unwilling to give up their “secrets”.
Silos in your business environment exist around knowledge—both gaining new insights and sharing them.
Departments of your organisation often share information only within the department, making it difficult for other departments to access the same data.
Your business relies on the free-flow of knowledge to thrive, so such practices have a negative effect on your business potential.
The trouble with the silo mentality in the workplace is how it creeps up and takes root without the knowledge of the organisation.
When left to grow, the silo mentality can destroy the culture and values you’ve been building and promoting to motivate your teams.
The silo mentality robs you of business opportunities
When information isn’t freely shared, your organisation can’t act quickly to take advantage of new opportunities.
The free flow of information in a company is essential to helping your organisation make informed, data-driven decisions.
When information is stuck behind silos, your marketing, supply chain, distribution, and other teams are all acting separately from each other.
Not only does work become more disjointed, but the relationships between members of your staff can become more strained too.
Around 40% of employees believe different departments in their company have their own agenda.
Silo mentality in the business causes problems such as:
Poor customer experience
Without the right data and information, teams struggle to map the customer journey. Such an issue makes it difficult to convert your prospects into customers and keep them coming back to your business.
When one group in your company doesn’t know what another group is doing, your chances of tasks being repeated accelerates.
When two teams both think the same task was their responsibility, this highlights a clear issue with communication.
Redundancy at work costs time and money and leaves your team members feeling frustrated.
“Group think” might sound like a good thing in the business world. After all, you want your team members to share similar thoughts and ideas.
However, when too many people in the different segments of your organisation start thinking and acting the same way, you end up with a sort of “follow the leader” culture, where no-one thinks outside of the box.
Different kinds of group think between segments of your organisation can also lead to clashes between teams that are supposed to work together.
You must take control of your corporate culture again, and eliminate the silo mentality. It’s not a quick fix and will take time, but following the steps below will help.
Create a unified vision of collaboration
Silo mentality is an issue that trickles down from the top of your business to the bottom. Often, departments within an organisation have managers who set specific goals for their departments.
Unfortunately, the targets of each department can end up being in conflict with each other. As each manager continues to focus on their own specific goals, the teams move further apart, seeing each other as rivals instead of partners.
To break down this silo mentality, department supervisors must all follow a vision shared across the entire organisation.
The leadership team must be aware of the long-term goals and ambitions of the business, and what it’s trying to achieve, before passing such a unified vision down to the teams.
Start by getting together with the department heads of your business and figuring out what you want to accomplish. Once you’ve created a specific set of targets, you must make sure they all align with each other.
For instance, improving customer service will also translate to better sales and enhanced brand recognition.
When your managers have a unified image of the business and what it needs to achieve, the cohesion bleeds down to the rest of your company too.
Train and evolve together
One way to break down the silos in your workforce is to create more connections between your employees. It’s common for team members in different departments to spend all of their time working in specific areas of the business.
Unfortunately, this can mean you only build connections in specific silos of your company.
However, if you bring different departments together for training and education purposes, they have a chance to work together and build trust.
You could pull people from your sales, marketing, and customer service team together for a training session on how to communicate more efficiently with clients. Each team will have their insights on clients and contribute to creating a larger picture.
You could also encourage people in your teams to mentor each other on specific things.
For instance, your sales team can offer mentoring to your marketing team on the customer journey and provide insights into how consumers buy from your brand. These cross-departmental sessions will set up a structured environment for knowledge sharing.
Eventually, your employees will realise how beneficial it is to share insights and start to feel more comfortable collaborating with each other, so the flow of knowledge will happen naturally.
Even allowing people from different departments to work in the same physical office environment could make a difference.
When people work close to each other, they automatically build relationships and rapport.
Implement collaboration software
Finally, there is software available today specifically designed to help remove the silos in an organisation.
Collaboration software creates a unified space where your people can cohesively share thoughts and information. We love using this kind of software for our own collaboration strategies.
Your collaboration tools can include file-sharing services where you can create a knowledge base of useful information between your departments.
At the same time, you can create channels in an instant-messaging environment both for specific segments of your business, and your company as a whole.
Some brands even build “water cooler” rooms within their collaboration apps.
These informal chat rooms give people from all departments a chance to interact with each other and build a rapport – even when they’re not talking about work.
A water cooler room can be particularly useful for a company hiring remote employees, as it means your distance workers can still build a connection with each other.
Communicating consistently is the key to better relationships in your workplace. Sometimes, this will mean building structured strategies and guidelines for communication.
You must choose what tools to implement to ensure communication and information is shared naturally and frequently.
You might host a video conference once a month with your in-office and remote workers, so everyone has a chance to connect, so ensure you have the right software to support it.
You might launch weekly conferences where you talk about the things your business has accomplished over the last seven days and what bumps in the road you’ve discovered.
In the office environment, give your team members a space they can go to when they want to chat with their colleagues away from their desks. This might be a lunchroom or a break area.
In the digital environment, instant messaging apps will allow your teams to maintain a consistent connection with people both inside and outside of their departments.
For communication to thrive, you’ll need to ensure all the systems you use are utilized properly and don’t create disruptions. Have guidelines on when to call, send emails or instant messages.
Your communication technology—from telephones, emails and instant messaging services—must work properly to ensure it can be utilised in the best manner. Make sure each individual workstation is working well. All departments should have well optimised operating systems that won’t slow down collaboration.
If any aspect of your technology stack is clunky or problematic, your whole strategy will struggle.
There are times when a division in a company may be necessary. This doesn’t mean that you should create walls between teams focusing on different tasks and operations.
When businesses can support the free flow of information between departments, the entire business benefits.
When everyone communicates and shares information freely, potential problems are detected earlier, can be avoided, and employee and customer experience and satisfaction is improved.
About the Author
Lisa Michaels is a freelance writer, editor and a thriving content marketing consultant from Portland. Being self-employed, she does her best to keep up with current trends in business and tech. Find her on Twitter.