How to Improve Cross-Department Collaboration

Have you ever needed to collaborate with other departments to complete a project, only to find yourself trapped in the endless cycle of fruitlessly syncing up meeting schedules and sending yet another follow-up email? You’re not alone—teams often struggle to collaborate with other departments within their organization. Lack of collaboration can lead to missing fine details, oversights, higher production costs, less productivity, missed deadlines and tension in the workplace. In fact, The Project Management Institution (PMI) conducted a study that found ineffective communication to be the culprit for half of all unsuccessful projects.

Group of professionals discussing in a modern office lounge area.

By learning to improve effective communication between departments, companies can grow revenue, retain talent and enhance employee satisfaction and productivity.

But how can departments cultivate more persuasive collaboration skills? And what roadblocks threaten to stand in the way?

The Reason Departments Don’t Collaborate

There are many factors that could impede a company’s collaboration. Examples of obstacles include:

  • too many goals with conflicting priorities
  • physical distance
  • managerial differences

The common term “silo effect” is used to explain the lack of systems facilitating communication across different departments. Silos create frustrating isolation from other departments that hinder what could potentially be productive and creative problem-solving on shared objectives.

Often, employees don’t feel empowered to ask questions, or that they have any ownership in how the department is structured. When there is too much top-down direction, employees often shut themselves down and focus on their daily tasks, waiting for a manager’s direction rather than creating more dialogue between departments.

Benefits of Interdepartmental Collaboration

By diligently working to improve interdepartmental collaboration, employees and employers alike gain shared pride in the organization. Suddenly, employees feel more personal ownership in their department’s success and understand how departments rely on one another. Teams get a holistic view of how the entire operation functions and more clearly understand how interdependent they are. When employees feel they have a positive impact on other departments and their workplace as a whole, they’re much more likely to be productive, loyal and communicative.

Better communication can only help your organization, so it’s always in your best interest to foster collaboration!

Methods to Improve Collaboration

So, what are some practical ways to apply collaboration in day-to-day business operations?

Create More Productive Meetings

Countless jokes poke fun at meetings, all expressing the same laugh-because-it-hurts truth: That hour-long meeting could have been an email.

Despite attempts to nurture smarter communication and align goals, meetings have created a source of resentment and frustration among many departments. Harvard Business Review recently reported on a study that revealed 71% of Senior Managers found their meetings to be unproductive and inefficient.

Managers should consider what they want from their meeting. Having an end goal in mind can often shape the narrative and structure of a meeting, helping prevent tangents and diverging priorities. Adhering to a strict schedule and time limit can help motivate employees to come to a consensus swiftly, speaking directly to reach an understanding.

Mandate Progress Updates

Progress updates can hold employees accountable between departments and provide space for dialogue concerning top priorities, timelines and objectives. Mandated progress updates also allow departments to stop work orders or readjust direction in real-time, rather than settle for being frustrated with a deliverable that didn’t meet their expectations or requirements.

Internal Company Newsletters

Your departments may have one big thing in common: they often aren’t aware of what is going on outside of the confines of their department walls.  This disconnect is particularly noticeable with larger companies, but can still exist within smaller organizations, especially if there are remote workers.

Creating an internal company newsletter can become a fun, informal forum for teams to contribute news and information between departments. Newsletters can be published as often or as rarely as you would like and offer departments a chance to expound on their challenges or their successes. Newsletters also serve to bridge gaps and foster feelings of empathy and familiarity for their coworkers by highlighting birthdays, work anniversaries, and other notable life events.

Employee Training Programs

Most employees want the opportunity to learn and grow more within their respective industries. When managers invest in their employee’s continual professional growth, they yield not only happier employees, but more productive and loyal employees. There are countless statistics showing a direct correlation between employee training and retention rate.

Successful organizations know that to ensure long-term success, employee training programs are an absolute necessity. An employee training program ensures that your employees are on the same page about rules, regulations and protocols, but it also arms employees with a little added security and clarity.

Training programs can also provide ample opportunities to improve upon cross-department communications. Whether as part of employee onboarding or as a quarterly refresher on company policies, make sure that employees are briefed on the importance and daily operations of other departments. Employees should have this opportunity to talk, engage and ask questions they otherwise may not have the opportunity to address.

Create a Culture of Community

Many companies don’t see the value of weekly stand-ups. These may seem frivolous or like a waste of time at first glance. However, they can often have profoundly positive impacts on communication and morale, leading to better retention of revenue and staff.

Hosting a weekly standup where representatives of each department can discuss their projects and challenges, along with their successes as a team, can help the different teams learn and stay informed. Fridays are ideal for this, since employees are usually more relaxed and the events of the workweek are still fresh in their minds.

These weekly standups can help put a face to departments outside of standard daily work tasks. The ultimate goal is to establish relationships among staff founded on positive feelings so that employees are encouraged to report to one another when issues arise.

Next Steps

As you can see, improving communication and collaboration between departments is a key factor in success for any cross-departmental project. If you need more ideas and tips on how best to improve communication, enhance productivity and increase employee satisfaction, check out KnowledgeCity’s expansive library of courses.

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Mnonleli Justice Makaula

Please share with me the pros and cons for advancement of collaboration within various departments.

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