How to Deal with Silos at Work

Jan 22, 2020 | Culture

For most of us, silos at work aren’t of the grain-holding variety. Instead, they’re the deep – and often deeply problematic – rifts that emerge between divisions or groups in your organization.

Whether your organization is large and stratified, or divided across geographical lines, it’s normal for silos to emerge. The key is to recognize and address issues as they emerge. When organizations are siloed, people feel disconnected: they don’t benefit from the strengths and resources of other teams and they lack a sense of belonging. What this results in is a less engaged workforce and a duplication of efforts.

So, what can you do to combat the silos? Keep reading for our best advice.

Internal Communication is Key

Many of the issues that arise from silos are the result of teams simply not talking to each other. If you don’t know anyone in your organization’s satellite office, and you don’t really understand what they do, then you’re more likely to duplicate efforts and feel disconnected. By creating opportunities for teams to engage in collaborative problem-solving and information sharing – through facilitations and workshops, for example – you can build a sense of one cohesive team and find efficiencies along the way.

At one of my previous jobs, a big part of my role was developing internal communications to combat departmental silos and help divisions benefit from each other’s knowledge and resources. Every day, I would consult divisional leaders’ plans and priorities, and write a fun, brief internal newsletter highlighting how different teams could borrow key ideas, projects and insights that would be launched that day. The newsletter was hugely impactful – divisions were regularly referencing each other’s work, talking to each other about interesting projects, and making sure they weren’t duplicating each other’s work. However, these results did not come free: this kind of internal communication work can’t simply be added to someone’s existing workload, to be done off the side of their desk. It requires skill, time, and ultimately investment in order to work and be taken seriously.

Leadership matters

Have you ever worked at an office with multiple locations? Did you notice a subtle (or not-so-subtle) hierarchy between those teams at “head” office and those teams at a satellite location? These divisions are insidious: while they are often quiet, they can creep up and be very damaging to morale, productivity, and team unity.

This is where leadership has a role to play. As a leader, send a clear message – through words and actions – about how various teams and locations fit together within the organization’s broader mandate or mission. Be aware of the effects you can have as a leader: make sure that you regularly visit the “satellite” offices or split your time, and keep in consistent communication with leaders from other sites. The people at your organization notice what you do: if you want a more unified organization, you have to live and model that unity.

At the end of the day, it’s tough to completely avoid silos. But if you are aware of them, and actively take steps to unite your organization, you can make a tangible difference to productivity, efficiency, innovation, and morale.

By: Elissa Gurman

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