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3 Ways To Improve Cross-Department Harmony

Posted by Insightlink on 08/23/17

Despite the role technology has played in disrupting business, corporate structure as we know it today isn't going anywhere. Now, it's no secret businesses that are able to scale operations and develop teams whose employees work more efficiently are better able to focus on tasks, and thereby create better synergy and output.

Too much structure, however, and these efficient teams become silos, a term for departments that, like a mischievous kindergartner, don't like to share. Ultimately, this lack of collaboration leads to a lack of transparency. What's the point of sharing information company-wide if workplace teams are only concerned with their own department's goals? It's hard to quantify how much damage this situation causes.

But Buffer, a social media management platform, demonstrated an actual business benefit of transparency. Specifically, Buffer posted the salaries of its entire staff, including the CEO, on its company blog — and the decision paid off handsomely: In the days following the announcement, Buffer received close to 3,000 job applications, a 229 percent increase from the 30 days before publishing the blog post.

Is your company looking for ways to create better efficiency and harmony? Here are three tips that will help your leaders and decision-makers improve cross-departmental relationships.  

1. Use Company Values as a Business Principle  

Many experts advise aligning your company around a common goal. While this sounds nice in theory, in reality, different departments look at unique metrics and have separate goals. Getting buy-in to use the company's values and/or mission statement to dictate operations is more realistic, though.  

Startups can do this by drafting a mission statement during the company's infancy and rely on it as a hiring tool. Of course, further dedication is required for this approach to better scale operations, but Netflix is a prime example of a company that's doing things right. 

In 2009, Netflix made major headlines after publishing its "freedom and responsibility" slide deck, which the company uses to communicate its corporate values to potential and existing employees. The company has also published a 4,000-word culture manifesto on its careers page that aims to promote diversity, freedom and responsibility. 

In the end, company values won't be endorsed by employees unless they promote transparency. But Netflix does this directly and without any sort of ambiguity: "We share documents internally, broadly and systematically. Nearly every document is fully open for anyone to read and comment on, and everything is cross-linked."  

2. Adopt Physical and Digital Communication Tools 

United, concrete company values and mission statements pale in comparison when it comes to developing sound communication tools. And while employee buy-in can be a challenge, the results can be significant. Of course, divides between various company departments have long been an issue long. 

But business leaders like former General Electric CEO Jack Welch who rank employee talent No. 1 on their priority list have long-advocated for "boundary-less" organizations. During his time at GE, Welch initiated what became known as the GE Work-Out process, a series of structured meetings that brought together various company stakeholders to hash out ideas, develop improvement plans and make decisions in real time. 

Of course, company structure and communication can't and won't improve overnight, especially with many companies adopting and encouraging work-from-home policies. According to a recent Gallup survey, 43 percent of American employees have spent at least some time working remotely. Sometimes physical communication isn't possible, but a wealth of software programs have been developed to serve today's ever-changing digital communication needs. Here are a few of those services and their capabilities: 


  • Slack: The real-time chat and project management platform is a great tool for today's workplaces, as it allows teams to create specific channels dedicated to discussing and checking progress on specific workflows. 

  • Project management software: Tools like Asana, Trello and Basecamp work to make things easier for workplace teams through features like shareable project boards, message boards and other customization features. 

  • Data and analytics: Enterprise organizations, on average, have adopted 52 software as a service applications, leading to what's referred to as "information sprawl," where data is hard to find. Your company can avoid this by training multiple departments on how to use business intelligence tools like Looker or Tableau. For example, companies with large call center operations can adopt a cloud contact center to enhance customer service and employee management. 


3. Consider a Holacracy Model 

In 2013, Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh announced his company would go all-in on promoting employee empowerment values and ditch traditional management structure entirely. More specifically, Hsieh adopted what's known as a holacracy, a structure that allows self-organizing teams — not just upper management — to create autonomy, streamline decision-making, and crush so-called corporatocracy. 

Despite trying to involve more people in key decision-making, Hsieh faced internal and external criticism, and 18 percent of his staff eventually left the company. This apparently didn't overly concern Hsieh, who said his only regret was not making the move sooner. While adopting a holacracy system won't work for every company, here are some of the principles behind it:


  • Roles are flexible, as responsibilities are ultimately dictated by employees — not the job description.
  • Authority is shared by teams and individuals, as decisions can be made without any red tape. 
  • Departmental structure is self-organized by employees and adapted over time. 
  • Complete transparency is required from the top down.


About Insightlink:  Insightlink Communications is a leader in full service employee surveys and offers a range of employee survey products and services to fit their client's needs. With over 18 years of experience, Insightlink's reputation has been built on giving organizations the knowledge they need to create effective change using their acclaimed employee research, analytics, benchmarking and survey methodologies. Insightlink's expertise in data collection reporting and analytics takes the pressure off organizations that find data overwhelming and daunting creating reports that are digestible and understandable, simple and easy to understand for organizations of any size and experience level. For more information please contact Lynn Gore at 866-802-8095 ext 705 or visit our website here.


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