Departmental silos cause a negative ripple effect that impacts every aspect of a company’s health.
How big a problem is it?
Consider this: According to a report from The Economist Intelligence Unit, in the US, nearly 60% of employees state there is “inadequate communication between departments” at their workplaces. And year after year, cross-departmental communication is consistently ranked among the areas in most need of improvement for businesses.
Communication failures take many different forms, from a lack of information flow to downright hostile interactions, and everything in between. Most commonly, departments focus solely on their own tasks and objectives, losing sight of “the big picture” and missing opportunities only possible through collaboration.
Lack of collaboration and ineffective communication is responsible for workplace failures, according to 86% of respondents in a survey of more than 1,400 corporate executives, employees, and educators.
Reach Your Goals with Effective Communication
Those surveyed in The Economist Intelligence Unit report stated that unclear instructions, pointless meetings, and daily stressors snowball into the following issues:
- Delays, long lead times, and failure to complete projects (44%)
- Low morale (31%)
- Missed performance goals (25%)
- Lost sales that are sometimes worth hundreds of thousands of dollars (18%)
Sometimes the issue is a company-wide failure, while other times, the breakdown traces back to one particular department. Either way, recognizing the opportunity to improve communications between departments is the first step toward strengthening company culture, employee engagement, productivity, and overall success.
5 steps to improve communication between departments
Each of these communication-enhancing strategies and actionable steps will revitalize the work environment and lay a new foundation for enlightened company culture.
1 Proactively prevent team members working in silos
Silos can naturally begin to form with as few as eight team members working on a project together. Without prompt action, a silo can devolve into toxic groupthink and discourage the team from collaborating with colleagues in other—or even their own—departments. To combat this, management can do the following:
- Pull everyone into the initial project planning to set a foundation of solidarity.
- Ensure department managers see how free-flow communication benefits them.
- Consider how office redesign can have an impact on collaboration.
- Relocate departmental teams to be in closer physical proximity to one another.
- Have members from different departments sit in on each other’s meetings as applicable.
- Use collaborative customer relationship management (CRM) software that provides equal access to information.
2 Set company-wide objectives
When individual departments put their goals first, cooperation takes a nosedive and the whole company loses its sense of direction. The solution is to establish company-wide, high-level goals to unite disparate teams. In doing so, this is what management should keep in mind:
- Empower department leaders to define and communicate goals company-wide.
- Ask department leaders to explain why their goal is not only important to their unit, but also how it’s important to the organization as a whole.
- Discuss how greater company strategies can align to achieve departmental goals.
- Use emails, newsletters, and daily messaging to reinforce a shared purpose.
- Cascade communications to all teams, encouraging questions and feedback.
- Release regular statements and hold town hall meetings across departments.
- Encourage departmental heads to find ways to support each other.
- Share good news and individual or department “wins” to boost morale.
3 Encourage regular team interaction
The best way to break down silos is to have departments interact with one another on a routine basis. You may already hold regular in-person meetings, Zoom presentations, and conferences to ensure team alignment. Introducing communication platforms allows for immediate interactions as needed, which is crucial to fostering a continual flow of communication throughout the workday. Management and department leaders can do the following to put this into practice:
- Schedule regular interactions with teams at a set time and place.
- Hold video conferences when teams can’t meet in person, encouraging team members to have their cameras on to foster connectivity.
- Allow for daily syncing through a communication platform.
- Maintain weekly leadership meetings to discuss common issues and solutions.
- Create a variety of clubs to foster shared interests outside of work-related topics.
- Hold team lunches and other social events—picnics, happy hours, offsites, lunches, etc.—to encourage camaraderie.
- Encourage team members to meet as needed without management initiation.
4 Form cross-functional teams and adopt project management platforms
Cross-functional teams are the linchpin of productivity and workplace satisfaction. These synergistic teams give employees access and exposure to different team members they may not normally interact with. This fosters an environment where everyone has the opportunity to broaden their skill sets while still working toward common project and business goals. To implement these teams within an organization, management should try these methods:
- Build teams with diverse sets of experiences, skills, and backgrounds.
- Establish clear roles and goals for each person involved.
- Align workflows with project-management tools (such as Taskworld, Asana, Trello, and Wrike).
- Encourage teams to use tools like Zoom, Google Chat, or Slack to keep an open channel of communication.
- Enable better sharing with Google Docs, Dropbox, and other cloud storage tools.
- Perform a continual re-evaluation of processes to avoid communication breakdowns.
5 Select communication tools with a simple learning curve
While encouraging communication is an important goal businesses should prioritize, ensuring it is done in a productive, professional manner is another hurdle in itself. Some team members may not be up-to-date on communication best practices, and in some instances, poor communication can cause employee rifts, frustration, and a loss in productivity.
To avoid this—while still keeping in mind everyone’s different communication skill level—management can employ the use of a digital writing assistant like Grammarly Business. It integrates with a number of platforms and applications, and offers suggestions to team members in real-time. In addition to providing suggestions for grammar, spelling, and punctuation review, Grammarly Business detects and analyzes tone and compares content to a custom style guide.
This streamlines both the adoption and learning processes, enhancing communication swiftly and efficiently at the individual level without the need for lengthy onboarding or costly company-wide training.
Here’s how management can best introduce a tool like Grammarly Business:
- Involve team members from different departments to test-drive the new tool.
- Offer best practice trainings as requested or needed.
- Encourage team members to share acquired tips and tricks with the company on how to best use the writing tool.
- Review performance metrics and analytics to examine how well teams are adopting the tool and if any areas of improvement need to be addressed.
Improved departmental communication not only affects teams and internal progress, but also impacts other key areas of your business.
The domino effect of improved internal communication
When done successfully, improving communication between departments can create a “domino effect” that results in several potential benefits:
- A significant positive impact on employees:
- Motivation: 85% of employees say they’re “most motivated” with regular company news updates from management.
- Stress and health: Poor communication leads to increased employee stress and higher healthcare costs. Stress costs the US an estimated $300 billion per year.
- Job satisfaction: Over a third of employees (36%) rate communication between departments as “very important” to their job satisfaction, though only 21% are currently “satisfied” with the current state of affairs. Furthermore, when speaking about what greatly impacts job satisfaction, 43% answered it was teamwork within their department and 48% said it was communication with senior management.
- Tenure: Businesses with effective internal communication are 50% more likely to experience low turnover.
- Drastically improved external communication and brand perception:
- Happier customers: Harvard Business Review found that a one-star improvement in a company’s Glassdoor rating directly corresponds to 1.3 out of 100 improvement in customer satisfaction scores.
- Social selling: PostBeyond, in partnership with Golfdale Consulting, found that employee-shared brand messages reach 561% further compared to corporate-branded social channels.
- Conversions: Leads developed through employee social marketing convert seven times more frequently than other leads.
- Trust and loyalty: Nearly 3 in 10 consumers said “how a company treats employees” is the “most important” factor in deciding whether to become a loyal customer. How a company treats its workers was the primary factor in choosing whether to try a new brand for 27% of consumers.
- An increase in company health and bottom-line revenue, including:
- Reduced turnover: Replacing an employee is expensive for employers, costing roughly 33% of that worker’s salary in recruitment, training efforts, and lost productivity. Reducing turnover by 75% is possible with improvements to communication and company culture.
- Performance: Organizations with effective cross-departmental communication programs are three and a half times more likely to outperform their peers.
- Productivity: Companies that endeavor to establish better connections between employees see a 20–25% increase in productivity.
- Time management: The average professional at a mid-size company spends 17 hours per week clarifying misunderstandings, costing 30 days or $500,000 per year.
- Profits: Companies with effective communication strategies realize 47% higher total returns to shareholders.
Achieving productive cross-departmental communication with Grammarly Business
The importance of improving communication between departments cannot be stressed enough.
Its success impacts all aspects of an organization, from its employees and customers to its company health and bottom-line revenue.
There are many strategies an organization can implement to improve cross-departmental communication. But adopting the use of a digital writing assistant like Grammarly Business can help companies realize those benefits much more quickly.
Surveys found 72% of respondents in HR say Grammarly makes it easier to communicate with colleagues, and 80% of respondents say that Grammarly has reduced their anxiety when communicating with others.