You know that organizational silos can inhibit innovation and lead to inefficient work, but how can you break them down and increase collaboration between departments? One-on-ones are a way to build cross-departmental relationships and encourage collaboration.
This article covers how to have a productive one-on-one, plus six additional ways to bring people together from across your company. With some planning and process, but at no cost to your org, you can start putting practices into action that foster a more connected and engaged team.
Organizational silos happen when employees within a department can’t or don’t want to share information with members of other departments. This is also known as a silo mentality. Having a silo mentality isn’t necessarily an intentional decision; rather, it occurs because:
People have more opportunities to develop relationships with peers within their department
Departmental goals sometimes seem more pressing or higher priority than company-wide goals
There aren’t any tools or practices in place that facilitate cross-departmental collaboration and sharing of information
No surprises here: a silo mentality negatively impacts your company, including:
Redundant effort and lost time
A lack of innovation because people with different viewpoints aren’t collaborating on problems
A sense of distrust or even a cliquey work environment
An inability to achieve company-wide goals due to widespread inefficiencies
Luckily, no one actually wants to work with a silo mentality. It’s isolating. It’s unfortunately the default mindset people tend to fall back on when the right tools and practices aren’t in place.
It’s up to managers to lead the charge against organizational silos, and one way to do that is to encourage one-on-one meetings between coworkers from different departments.
To get the process started, managers from different departments could suggest pairings between coworkers, such as a marketing coordinator and a sales rep who can use their connection to create a more efficient lead generation process. Employees should then be encouraged to take the initiative and plan and coordinate these interdepartmental one-on-one meetings on their own so that this process becomes a routine part of the work environment and is ingrained into the company culture.
Create a meeting agenda and share with people if they need ideas for how to get started, especially if they’re having a conversation with someone they’ve never met before.
Here are a few things to consider including in a suggested agenda for a successful one-on-one meeting:
An icebreaker or some get-to-know-you questions
A review of what each person does and if needed, their shared goals
Conversation and decision about how often to have one-on-ones with each other
Here’s a sample one-on-one agenda for anyone who needs it.
In combination with creating a culture where cross-functional one-on-one meetings are expected and enjoyed—something that takes time—here are six other strategies for encouraging collaboration and building trust and connection between your employees and teams.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has hit the pause button on in-person retreats, many companies are adjusting by hosting virtual retreats. The team at Agorapulse, a social media management tool, found that careful structuring of an online event is the key to fostering relationships between team members, even at a distance. Schedule sessions that are similar to the one-on-one meeting agenda, with icebreakers that pair employees with their counterparts in other departments.
Having employees sit near members of their own department is important for collaboration on that team, but the downside is it naturally increases a silo mentality. Try switching up your seating chart so that coworkers are sitting near their peers from other departments.
If you use org chart software like Pingboard, you can include an employee’s desk location in their profile so people from other departments know where to find them.
A peer-to-peer recognition program can increase employee satisfaction and workplace engagement. As part of your company’s program, encourage staff to praise peers in other departments, not just their own.
Applause—a Pingboard feature—allows coworkers to share praise about each other publicly. If you prefer an analog solution, have a corkboard in a shared space where staff can share positive notes about their peers.
Sometimes increasing cross-departmental collaboration is as easy as making sure employees have the contact info of everyone on staff. An employee directory allows coworkers to reach out to each other without having to go through a gatekeeper like a manager or a department head.
Get new employees started on the right foot by introducing them to peers across every department. Schedule sessions in your onboarding checklist for new hires to mingle with other departments and learn how they can work together.
Perhaps the quickest way to break down silos is to have cross-functional teams work together daily on various projects, rather than passing off work to each other. A cross-functional team includes members from a variety of departments working toward a shared outcome, such as a product launch.
Breaking down silos and increasing collaboration between departments isn’t as tough as it seems. It just takes some rethinking the usual way of doing things and implementing new processes and, in some cases, cultural norms.
One-on-one meetings between coworkers can build the relationships necessary to end silos. Additionally, simple fixes like how you onboard new hires or being more deliberate when assigning desks can go a long way toward building bridges between different parts of your company.