Contributed by Heather Redding
Heather Redding is a part-time assistant manager and writer based in Aurora, Illinois. She is also an avid reader and a tech enthusiast. When Heather is not working or writing, she enjoys her Kindle library with a hot cup of coffee. Reach out to her on Twitter.
Communication is one of the most important elements of running any successful business.
If your employees can’t communicate correctly, you risk information silos, inconsistent performance, and even poor staff engagement.
One of the biggest problems that companies face with communications, involves keeping team members from different teams aligned.
It’s common in many businesses for groups of employees to form which communicate amongst themselves more often than externally.
For instance, your sales professionals might talk to each other every day, but they may rarely interact with your marketing group or product development team.
Prioritizing interdepartmental communication ensures that everyone in your company is on the same page, working towards the same visions and goals.
This significantly reduces the risk of information silos in your organization and paves the way for better company culture.
So, how do you enable amazing interdepartmental communication?
Step 1: Understand the Benefits of Interdepartmental Communication
The first step in successfully promoting strong communication between your teams is understanding why it’s so important.
Interdepartmental communication brings different departments together to create a more aligned approach to serving customers.
Before they can work effectively together, teams need to learn how to talk about everything from company-wide goals to new promotions, customer requirements, and endless other challenges.
When your team members know how to communicate, and how to align their behaviors according to the specific needs of the organization, you’re more likely to get positive results.
Around 75% of employees say they don’t feel fully connected to their company’s mission, which negatively impacts both engagement and motivation levels.
Bring teams together with regular communication, and you reduce the risk of confusion, while creating new opportunities.
For instance, a marketing team can only create ad campaigns based on what they know about the product and the existing marketplace.
For their campaigns to really hit the mark, they need to interact with the product development team about new features and what products can really do.
Addressing the specific needs and concerns of the audience means talking to the sales teams about the issues customers want to solve with the product.
Marketing teams can even interact with the service team for ideas on what kind of content they should create for a business website or blog, to answer common customer questions.
Step 2: Help Everyone Understand the Business Goals
The biggest benefit of strong interdepartmental communication is the ability to align your team members towards the same goals or vision.
This means that, if you want your communication strategy to be successful, you need to decide what the main focus or goal should be first.
Start by outlining the vision of your brand, and what you want to accomplish.
Do you want to stand out as the number one company in your industry for customer service?
Are you hoping to achieve recurring revenue with loyal, committed clients?
Once you have your mission in mind, think about the kind of tools you’re going to use to accomplish that goal.
For instance, do you want to ensure that customer service responses are always timely and empathetic?
Should employees always be punctual when responding to calls? How are you going to define on-brand behavior for your team members?
Highlight your goals and expectations in as many places as possible, to ensure your staff members understand them.
This could mean having a knowledge base where team members can answer common questions for themselves or running regular in-team webinars where you teach employees how to hone the skills you find most important.
With this strategy, you can even foster better relationships within your team.
Having a shared, easy-to-understand purpose will instantly make your team members feel more connected to your business and their colleagues.
When everyone feels like they’re on the same page, it’s less likely for team members to feel like they’re in an “us vs. them” community.
A shared goal provides your employees with a common foundation they can build relationships on.
Step 3: Set Guidelines for Communication
Next, you can start paving the way for a culture of communication and collaboration, by giving your team members guidance on how to stay connected with their peers.
Start by creating a series of channels where members of staff can reach out to each other.
You might have a company Slack channel or a similar instant messaging tool, where everyone can chat in a central group while also having separate rooms to talk about specific concerns to do with their particular department, like marketing or sales.
Other forms of communication can be conducted by email or phone, for instance.
When people need to reach outside of their department for assistance, let them know who to contact, and when it makes sense to use different kinds of communication.
For instance, a marketing professional looking for guidance on a new piece of website content doesn’t necessarily need to call the head of sales for advice.
That employee could send a quick message to the sales team asking for insights and add the head of sales to the message to ensure they’re kept in the loop.
Alternatively, a product developer looking for insights on which new materials to use might need to contact the financial team more urgently with a phone call.
Provide advice on which employees to contact with departmental maps and insights into what each member of staff does.
Offering plenty of different modes of communication, from phone calls to emails, messaging, and video will also ensure you can support everyone’s communication style.
Step 4: Focus on Building Relationships
Employee relationships have grown increasingly crucial to business success since the pandemic started.
Companies are quickly learning that if they want to keep staff members engaged, they need to build stronger connections regardless of where employees are working from, or which segment of the business they belong to.
Fortunately, there is a range of opportunities for building relationships today.
You don’t necessarily need to get all of your people together for a group retreat or weekly pizza night to make everyone feel like part of the group.
Pulling members of staff from all over the company together into a monthly video conference is an excellent way to form connections between different groups.
You can even use virtual games as a way to encourage more interaction.
Outside of scheduled periods of company-wide interaction, make sure there’s an environment available where people can just “chat” whenever they need to.
In the age of remote and hybrid work, watercooler conversations are becoming increasingly less common. However, you can still have a chat room in your virtual meetings app where people from all departments can go to talk about non-work-related topics.
Competitions and games are also a wonderful way to bring your teams closer together.
Encouraging employees to compete in business games as part of a cross-departmental group will bring them closer together.
You could also consider asking certain members of staff from each department to act as buddies or mentors for employees looking to learn new skills.
Step 5: Give Everyone the Same Information
It’s easy for different departments in a business to feel separated when everyone is getting different information.
As mentioned above, all of your employees need to have the same view of your company’s goals and values.
They should also feel equally informed about the changes and evolution of the business over time.
Many entrepreneurs make the mistake of thinking that only the sales team needs to know about the latest sales figures or the changes you’ve seen in customer preference.
However, the reality is that any significant news for the business should be available for all members of staff.
Keep people in the loop by producing regular newsletters and announcements that everyone can access.
If you’re not sure whether a message is going to be relevant for every member of staff, you can always precede each message you send out with tips on who might find the information important.
Then, give everyone else the opportunity to read on if they still want to know more.
The most important thing to remember here is that no one likes to feel like they’re being kept out of the loop.
To prevent this, be mindful of how you run your meetings.
For instance, rather than updating your staff members on new information during an in-person meeting and sending an email to everyone else, create a time for an all-hands video meeting that anyone can attend.
This way, everyone feels like part of the same team.
Step 6: Ask For Suggestions and Feedback
Encouraging positive communication is easier when you have guidance and suggestions from the people you’re trying to keep connected.
With a focus on improving company culture, ask your team members to regularly provide feedback on collaboration with colleagues from other departments.
You could run polls asking whether employees feel like certain departments use too much jargon, making it difficult for others to understand what they’re saying, or whether specific departments are never available for calls and chats.
Making these polls anonymous should give employees extra confidence to share how they truly feel.
If you notice that specific departments aren’t connecting as often as they should be, ask for insights into why that is.
It could be that different teams in your workforce are operating in different time zones, which makes it harder for one group to be available at the right time for another.
If this is the case, you can work together with your staff to find solutions for the disconnect.
Whenever you implement a new strategy for interdepartmental collaboration and communication, pay close attention to the results.
Are certain generations of staff members less likely to participate in team games?
If so, maybe you could reach out and ask them what type of activity they’d feel more comfortable with.
Are some employees using more communication technology than others? Ask your less tech-savvy teams how they prefer to stay connected.
Lack of interdepartmental communication can rapidly become a serious issue for many businesses.
If your employees can’t connect properly, they can’t work together on reaching crucial goals.
Fortunately, with the tips above, you can boost your chances of successful communication between teams and benefit from a more productive, well-aligned organization.
The key is to make sure your entire team is clear on the goals they are working towards as a company and the benefits of interdepartmental communication when it comes to achieving them.
Then, ensure there’s an uninterrupted flow of information.
Establish a variety of communication channels for different purposes and make sure everyone is working with the same information.
Foster good relationships between teams through conducting regular meetings and organizing joint activities.
Finally, make the relationship mutual by gathering regular feedback on your efforts.
Don’t underestimate the power of better communication between departments.