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The Alternative Board Blog

End Workforce Silos and Build a Sense of Community

Jan. 17, 2020 | Posted by The Alternative Board

CEOs and business leaders understand that compartmentalizing departments and tasks is not desirable, yet—paradoxically—silos still crop up in organizations and inflict damage on the bottom line.

To counter this, it’s helpful to grasp specifically what the term “silo” means. As CMSWire explains, organizational silos “describe the isolation that occurs when employees or entire departments within an organization do not want to, or do not have the adequate means to share information or knowledge with each other.”

Silos can be even broader than that, notes Business Journals, since they “can occur from one department or workgroup to the next, one location to the next … one work shift to another, or even one generation of workers to the next.”

Damaging effects of silos include:

  • Isolated work teams
  • Duplication of tasks
  • Breakdown in customer service
  • Collapse in employee morale

What actions can be taken to prevent damage caused by silos?

Promote cross-functional efforts.

Leaders and managers should strive to create opportunities for different departments or teams to work more closely together. For example, try assembling a cross-functional team “to tackle a nagging business challenge while providing the tools and resources needed to achieve a favorable outcome.” Things may not always run smoothly, but employees will benefit from expanded knowledge and skills throughout the company.

Share a vision of the “big picture.”

All too often, employees and teams focus almost entirely on their own roles and work processes. They lack a sense of how these efforts fit into the big picture.

It’s up to business leaders to keep up the refrain that “we’re all in this together.” In ongoing communications—a personal message from the CEO, regularly scheduled all-staff meetings, etc.—outline how the work of varying teams contributes to primary organizational objectives. Emphasize how teamwork, as opposed to solitary workflows, helps move the company forward. Employees with a deeper understanding of the end-result of their work will have a stronger sense of the entire organization moving together to achieve strategic goals.

Want additional insight? Download Easy Ways to Improve Your Company Culture


Practice greater transparency.

Silos crop up when isolated employees or teams know they’re working with an incomplete body of knowledge about the company. In the absence of concrete information concerning the organizational triumphs and challenges, rumors and gossip flourish—contributing to further isolation and diminished motivation. A culture of “non-transparency” only encourages individual departments to act in the same way, withholding key data from others who might benefit from that knowledge.

As part of your ongoing communications efforts, be transparent about what obstacles lie in the way of continued growth. Invite employees to contribute insights and possible solutions. This, too, reinforces the sense that working together is far preferable to operating in a silo.

Encourage informal gatherings.

In addition to cross-functional activity, look for ways to enable employees to bond. This can include team-building exercises and/or casual, offsite gatherings where “work talk” is discouraged, and having fun takes top priority.

This is not a waste of organizational resources. On the contrary, when employees in otherwise isolated departments get to know their co-workers, the result is a stronger sense of identification throughout the organization. When they become friendly with fellow employees, they understand that the actions they take often have a ripple effect elsewhere. Cooperation and collaboration can flourish when employees have this type of mindset.

What is your company doing to break down silos and build a collaborative culture? Check out our free TAB BOSS Webinar, “Culture—If You Build It, They Will Stay,” to learn more about leveraging the strengths and opportunities that exist in your organizational culture.


Read our 19 Reasons You Need a Business Owner Advisory Board


Written by The Alternative Board

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