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A hybrid workforce has many advantages, often bringing increases in productivity, work-life balance, and talent from anywhere. But when collaboration becomes more amorphous, it can also lead to an increase in communication silos.
In fact, the silo mentality is one of the most significant obstacles to organizational success in hybrid environments. Because communication requires more effort when we’re not face-to-face, it means employees often don’t share information across departments or teams as often (or in the same way) as they previously did. These lapses and miscommunications can lead to unhealthy competition, frustration, and decreased productivity, since multiple people are more likely to be working on the same task without noticing each other. The result: wasted energy, wasted resources, and drops in morale.
Furthermore, when employees work in silos, it hurts innovation and also affects the overall results. Just to give you an idea of how detrimental a silo mentality is, new research shows that miscommunication in the workplace costs US businesses $1.2 trillion a year. Meanwhile, more than 9 in 10 business leaders (96%) agree that “effective communication is essential to achieving the business results expected from [their] team next year.”
So how can these silos be bridged? In theory, you can easily overcome the silo mentality by building a space of psychological safety and free expression. There are many great collaboration tools that allow the distributed workforce to come together and also contribute to projects. However, the reality of hybrid and remote work is somewhat different, and it takes more effort and dedication to foster genuine and effective internal communication.
Related: To Break Down Silos, Incorporate Cross-Communication
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As bad as workplace silos are for hybrid companies, people often find them comfortable. This makes it harder to fight them, but luckily it’s not impossible. Any organization can take steps to ensure that its employees are communicating and collaborating to reach their full potential.
I speak from experience. When I started my company, we had a small team and it was easy to share ideas and work together. As the company grew, I became the CEO of a distributed global company where remote work was the norm, even before the Covid-19 pandemic. We face some of the challenges of communication and collaboration in a predominantly virtual environment. Because our focus is innovation in teaching and learning, employees and leaders have had to be creative and brainstorm with each other to find optimal solutions for both our products and internal processes.
Here are some areas we’ve found help break down communication silos.
1. A healthy organizational culture
Company culture refers to the generally accepted values, behaviors, and attitudes within an organization. It influences everything from how employees view their roles to how they communicate with colleagues and superiors. Leaders need to be aware of this and strive to build and maintain a positive culture.
The elements of a great company culture, according to Bamboo HR, are: fostering diversity, focusing on onboarding, encouraging employees, being inclusive, recognizing and rewarding employees, and preparing for the future.
Of course, no two organizational cultures are the same, so it’s essential to discover and articulate your company values and how they translate into a culture focused on your people and their well-being. When employees feel that they are heard and that their input is valuable, they are more likely to break out of silos.
Related: How to break down the silos in your company by building lanes
2. A learning ecosystem focused on soft skills
Preparing for the future is not only essential for a positive company culture; it is also a requirement for any organization that wants to be successful in the long term. Building and nurturing a good learning ecosystem that supports continuous education, reskilling, upskilling, and the right skills ensures that employees remain productive when circumstances change.
However, in addition to measurable hard skills, companies must also focus on developing the soft skills of employees. These include open and productive communication, effective problem solving, and intercultural competence, which are all relevant to ensuring unrestrained collaboration in geographically dispersed and hybrid teams. Using an online learning platform will also help learning and development (L&D) teams design relevant learning experiences and appropriate content for the diverse and changing communication and collaboration needs of their workforce.
3. The appropriate communication technologies
There is no shortage of communication tools that promise to increase productivity and make communication a breeze. They certainly can do that, but only if you find the right ones for your organization. Before purchasing any software, no matter how slick the marketing pitch sounds, it’s best to request a demo or, if possible, a trial period. It’s the best way to know that your teams will benefit from it.
It’s also essential to make sure you get the proper training and support for any new platform, as the adoption process can take some time. If your goal is for employees to collaborate effectively, they need to know how to use technology and see its benefits. Being comfortable with the use of communication tools will facilitate the exchange of information.
Related: 4 Warning Signs Your Team Is Working In Silos And How To Destroy Them
Breaking down and preventing silos
The “new normal” has already established itself as a combination of a hybrid workforce and a gig economy. Companies are increasingly global and teams and talent are geographically dispersed. These attributes come with challenges, along with tremendous opportunities for innovation, as long as companies understand how disruptive silo mindsets can be and focus on building a positive culture, providing great learning opportunities, and employing the right communication technologies to break down barriers. silos (and prevent them in the first place).