Collaboration

Ditch Those Silos! 3 Ways to Embrace Cross-Departmental Relationships

Boost collaboration. Break down those walls. Bring people together. Companies that do tend to be high-performing ones.
Ditch Those Silos! 3 Ways to Embrace Cross-Departmental Relationships
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Guest Writer
Vice President, Marketing, Acceleration Partners
6 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Every successful company today is focused on building strong, meaningful relationships among its employees. With "silos" being blamed for major setbacks at giants such as Microsoft and Sony in the past, smart employers are taking steps to break down those barriers before they affect their bottom line.

Related: True Success Is Powered By the Strength of Human Relationships

Think: creative types unable to communicate with strait-laced budget planners, engineers and salespeople totally at odds . . .

A study conducted by i4cp last year found that high-performing companies studied were 5.5 times more likely than competitors to encourage collaboration across the board. What's the correlation there? Shared purpose creates momentum, sparks innovation and generates the best results.

When teams are united around common goals and processes, they can substantially improve an organization's hiring and marketing successes, its return on investment, sales productivity and top-line growth.

Struggling with the obvious

Working in teams not only enables people to be more effective and efficient in their work, but it can also make them more accountable when they're working remotely. The best way to increase collaboration among teams is to break down company silos, and mix employees across divisions. In the long run, this helps a company react more nimbly to changes in markets, thus producing better overall decisions and results.

According to a recent survey by digital consultantcy Red Badger, which looked at 750 leaders who had more than 500 employees, 94 percent of the leaders agreed that interdepartmental collaboration increases efficiency. Yet only 13 percent took actions as simple as having employees work on the same projects sit near one another.

Are you like the vast majority of those respondents? Are you still not taking commonsense steps like rearranging seating charts to boost collaboration? Maybe it's time you did.

Embrace relationships to enhance productivity.

At my company, Acceleration Partners, we emphasize the importance of meaningful partnerships with one of our core values: "Embrace relationships."

We understand that the interpersonal aspects of our professional lives deeply affect our success (or lack thereof). So, as a company, we focus on long-term outcomes by forging genuine connections with our clients, teammates and partners. We believe that competence and character are fundamental to relationships built on trust, and that quality relationships help us achieve more.

Given our focus on relationship building, we encourage collaboration among our internal teams. When we noticed, for instance, that transitioning from "sales" to "client services" was often difficult for clients, we developed a structured transition process to help them experience the move more seamlessly. Working together across departments, we created a comprehensive, in-depth 100-day on-boarding program that now makes clients feel welcome and sets expectations for what they can expect from our services.

Constant interdepartmental teamwork like this helps us form stronger partnerships with one another and with clients. Having actively lived our core value of "Embracing relationships" for many years, we've identified three key steps that will help you improve collaboration within your own organization.

1. Train your talent to think big. Companies that encourage collaboration see more new and exciting ideas come to life. In fact, according to Nielsen, concepts generated by teams with representatives coming from four or more different roles in the company performed 46 percent better than concepts generated by less diverse teams.

If you want to promote relationships and collaboration, train your employees to think big. Facebook holds hackathons every few months, for example. Employees from different teams and locations across the organization come together to brainstorm and build things they believe will improve the Facebook experience.

Related: 10 Simple Ways to Build a Collaborative, Successful Work Environment

With a strong company culture, people feel comfortable sharing their knowledge, experience and skills freely with other team members. Collaboration encourages people to think, communicate and gain clarity about their strengths and how they can best leverage their skills for the growth of the business overall. By creating a safe space to explore, test and refine new ideas, you can help employees learn to rely on one another and see more lasting success in achieving company goals.

2. Leverage collaboration in recruiting. According to the PwC 18th Annual CEO Survey, 73 percent of executives polled were worried about finding top talent with the skills their organizations needed. But at least one solution is obvious: While hiring traditionally rests with the HR department, using a collaborative approach is more likely to help you land the right candidate.

Apple is notorious for its long interview process, which puts candidates in front of multiple employees, including future teammates. This structured approach to collaborative hiring allows many people to evaluate and voice their thoughts on potential hires.

My company adapted this approach by involving in the interview process people whom candidates would work most closely with -- including roles above and below them on the organizational chart. With every participant holding distinct stakes in the outcome, each one assesses different things and provides a unique perspective on the candidates.

This process naturally leads to a more cohesive and cooperative workplace culture -- the people involved become invested in the potential hire's success at the company. What's more, a collaborative hiring process is highly attractive to candidates, who will benefit from a clearer understanding of the people at the prospective company, along with its culture.

3. Embrace relationships with everyone -- including customers. Collaboration starts with your team, but it can't end there. As customer expectations increase, keeping customers happy has become an ongoing focus for many organizations. A collaborative team approach to working with customers builds credibility and fosters stronger relationships with them.

The RED Interactive Agency, for instance, lays the foundation for stronger partnerships by taking on-boarding to a new level. By spending one or two days in meetings with its clients' brand stakeholders, RED's teams build trust and discover information they can use to increase and improve engagement.

Related: It Takes More Than Tech to Get Teams to Collaborate Effectively

In today's business environment, collaboration is the main key to success -- and that holds true across departments, up and down the chain of command, and with clients. A diverse team of people with complementary skills and expertise can solve problems more quickly and provide customers with better information. Loyalty is built organically when clients feel equally invested in the solution.

So, follow these suggestions to create a virtuous cycle of successes leading to new business. When collaborative innovation is the norm, new business opportunities always find their way to your doorstep.

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