It doesn’t matter what size your business is. Even in the smallest organisation silo mentality can creep in and start damaging your efficiency, your productivity and – worst of all – your culture. But there are ways of helping to prevent it, and even breaking it down, and a great intranet is a fantastic place to start.
There is a common and dangerous issue that all businesses need to address. Divisions, departments or teams operating independently, and failing to share information, can be extremely dangerous in the long term. A silo mentality can cause people to work against each other, to limit communication, to collaborate solely with ‘people-like-them’, or even look to undermine other areas of the business. This can lead to widespread disengagement, inefficiencies and, often, high levels of attrition. Ultimately this kind of behaviour can seriously undermine the success of a business, and will almost definitely lead to an unsupportive, negative culture.
Where does it come from?
Don’t always assume that these pockets of isolated activity have started intentionally. A silo mentality may have emerged over time, born from a historic way of doing things (“HR always organise the Christmas party”) or necessity (“The new product launch team are working in isolation to maintain absolute secrecy”). So, if the HR team are asked to share the load of organising the biggest bash of the year, it may be hard to give up any of those much-loved roles. And, for the new product launch team, working out in the open and sharing information that was once held confidentially can feel uncomfortable and less … well … sexy than having a special important secret mission!
Hierarchies – the way we traditionally set up a business – can often promote a feeling of separation. Separation between ranks, between specialist departments, or even between teams within a department can create firebreaks of communication, collaboration and support.
The most common cause of a silo culture is disjointed leadership, or leaders who are so focused on what they are doing that they fail to bring their teams, or the wider organisation, along with them. Culture is so often a learned behaviour, and leaders set the tone for the way the rest of the company work and interact with each other.
What can we do?
All is not lost. Whether you believe you have a deep-rooted problem or have noticed pockets of in-fighting and unhealthy isolation opening up, there are certainly ways to fix it.
Listen to the way teams talk to, and about, each other and you may spot clues that indicate you have a silo culture. Phrases such as “Why didn’t anyone tell us…”, “That’s not what we do here…” or “I don’t think that’s important for us to know…” can all indicate fractured communication at best, and disengaged, isolated teams at worst.
Once you have identified what you think is causing the silo mentality within your business you will need an action plan to break down and rebuild the way you work. Using or creating a modern, fit-for-purpose, company-wide intranet can be an invaluable way to drive and track this action plan, and also an effective way to ensure your business maintains high levels of engagement without falling back into bad habits.
Create and share your common purpose
With a shared vision for the business – bought into and embodied by the leadership – employees have a better chance of understanding how the work they do is contributing to company success. Linking individual objectives back to this common purpose, at every level of the organisation, is a vital way to demonstrate how every individual counts.
Your intranet can help you communicate your company mission, and even allow employees to drill down into the vision and strategies that underpin it. Some organisations choose to use their intranet to share SMART role objectives and link them all the way back to the mission, to create a transparency of responsibilities. As well as removing any perception of greater value between roles, this shared resource can help individuals to see that their own skills cross department boundaries, to plan their own career development and to move into new roles within the business.
Interaction across perceived boundaries
Good communication is at the heart of combatting a silo culture. And it’s when we listen to each other that we understand how best we can work together. Encouraging teams to talk to each other regardless of their locations can open up new opportunities, identify synergies and efficiencies, and allow cross departmental teams to form organically around shared ideas and purpose.
Your intranet is a valuable tool on breaking down silos. You can use your intranet to ask questions, and encouraging employees to contribute to solving cross-company issues will fast become a critical part of your internal communication strategy. A unique multi-way communication channel, your company intranet allows you to listen to your employees as well as to share messages and updates to individuals, teams or the whole organisation.
With a modern intranet you aren’t limited to text-based comms but can share video, voice messages, animations or even broadcast live to your entire business in multiple languages – with live subtitles! Indeed, an intranet can be a vital tool for international businesses, or those with multiple languages. Translation tools, and alternative comms styles and methods, can help to explode communication barriers of language, style and even disabilities.
Remove the obstacles
What is getting in the way of people working together? Why are teams not communicating? Is it that they don’t have easy access to each other? If you want your organisation to have free-flowing cross-company communication and collaboration you need to make sure that your infrastructure supports this desire. It is no longer an excuse to say that you have remote teams, or part-time employees, or international divisions working in different time zones. For all these barriers – and more – there is a technical solution to bring your employees together into a collaborative space, and to provide you with a smooth and consistent communication path to reach every one of them, and hear what they have to say!
Your intranet can help you reach your employees and give them a secure space to share work and communicate with each other. Modern intranets are equipped with tried-and-tested ready built tools for any size of business, and the cost need not be prohibitive with the out of the box modern SharePoint Communications providing a great starting point at little cost or effort to configure.
Share the successes
Shouting about achievements beyond the team is an important part of employee recognition, which in turn is a positive contributor towards feelings of engagement and value. Sharing success can also create new relationships by alerting people to possible mentors and team members from other divisions. Movement between teams – and the subsequent blending of experiences across departments – is a fantastic long-term way to combat a silo culture.
Your intranet is the perfect place to display work, celebrate individual and team success and even send ‘on the spot’ rewards. Encouraging employee-to-employee recognition, by using simple tools such as emojis and stickers in chat, for example, and widely broadcast acknowledgement of teams’ successes from leadership helps to build a supportive culture, a far cry from an isolated working. Some businesses use their intranets to run regular awards: they create showcases of work, ask for nominations and then run voting on the intranet.
Using your intranet in this way means that individuals and teams can be represented and celebrated in a very visible forum, breaking down silos and – ultimately – creating a culture of collaboration and shared success.