Four ways to break down company silos and improve employee collaboration

break down company silos

By Robert Hicks, Group HR Director at Reward Gateway

If you work at a larger organisation or one in which communication is challenging, you may be faced with silos that can harm attempts to improve employee engagement. Silos can form for a number of different reasons, including poor communication, disconnect from the top down, misunderstanding of the organisation’s purpose, mission and values or lack of recognition from their colleagues. When this happens, people tend to retreat to the safety of their inner circle rather than going to the wider business and may pursue goals and objectives that don’t align with the company.

Silos harm organisations in a number of different ways:

  • They’re less productive.
  • There’s less teamwork.
  • There’s less communication.
  • They’re unfocused.
  • They waste energy defending their roles.
  • They make decisions that favor themselves over the company.

Fortunately, silos can be broken down, and it requires everyone at the company, from management to the people working in silos, to participate. HR’s role is to help facilitate the breakdown, so the company can move forward. Together.

Some people may experience anxiety working in a team, while others may fear losing their job if their role becomes a team effort. You can address these challenges — and increase overall employee engagement — by cultivating a workplace that values collaboration. Here are four great ways to do that.

Make collaboration part of your core values
Your core values define your corporate culture and set the tone for how employees engage with the organisation and interact with each other. At Reward Gateway, one of our values is Think Global, which defines the collaborative workforce we have here.

“RG People understand they are part of something bigger, that our strength comes from being united. They understand that our success demands more than individual excellence in personal roles. It requires working together across departmental, geographical and cultural boundaries, to achieve something greater than what they can achieve alone.”

Set an example from management
If you have a silo-based leadership team, you’re going to have an organisation that’s oriented toward silo-based working. So you need to set an example from the top. It’s one of the reasons why Reward Gateway moved to a functional leadership team. We want to have everybody working together toward the same goals, with the focus on getting things done rather than on who is in charge. So even though I work in HR, I get involved in everything that the rest of the team does, and our leadership teams work more collaboratively as a result.

Make communications more personable
One of the biggest ways to break down silos and engage more individuals in the broader goals of the organisation is to simply get up out of your seat and talk to people. Explain things to them in person. They’ll be much more open to what you’re trying to accomplish than if you’re only sending impersonal emails.

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I spend a lot of my time talking to people and listening to their issues or concerns. When we have new initiatives coming out, I share that information right away with people I talk to so that they have an opportunity to address their concerns before the big announcement. When the email does come, people are much more aware of it and there are fewer issues. I suggest creating a communications path — opt to talk in person or calling instead of messaging or emailing. Open communication is key.

Share each other’s perspectives
There’s an old saying that goes, “You can’t understand someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.” I think you can apply that to the workplace to create a more collaborative environment. Get people on different teams to walk in each other’s shoes. Have them swap roles for a day or shadow one another on customer calls. That kind of listening together and getting another person’s perspective will enable workers to bond and share information they may not have otherwise. They’ll be less likely to form silos once they’ve gained a new level of understanding.