Silos, the idea that a company’s groups or departments should not or will not share knowledge with others, are prevalent in the workplace. “This type of mentality will reduce the efficiency of the overall operation, reduce morale, and may contribute to the demise of a productive company culture.” Many people see both benefits and drawbacks to silos in the workplace, but ultimately, having open communication benefits the company tremendously.
All large corporations, and even smaller companies, have many departments (HR, accounting, communications, operations, business development, etc.) and individuals who start their career within these sectors often stay, even if they change employers. An individual eventually gains more knowledge and expertise and moves up the corporate ladder – usually within his specific department. In the past at large corporations, individuals often did not know what went on within other departments, and some still do not. Every detail about others’ job functions is not necessary, but goals, projects and ideas should be shared transparently for the benefit of the entire company. A company will never get ahead of competitors if they do not share information with their own colleagues and peers.
Silos typically exist because of a company’s past culture, the way different departments are structured, and having individuals work in different locations. A geographically distributed company is less likely to share information with colleagues not in their office space unless sharing behavior is modeled by management and collaboration tools are used effectively.
The first step to sharing information more openly is to get executives and management on board. If individuals see that their boss is not in the practice of communicating often (either with them or with other departments), they likely will not feel comfortable sharing much about their work either. So (1) convincing leadership that more constant and open communication is necessary by showcasing the benefits and (2) getting leadership to create and implement an information-sharing strategy are the beginning steps to breaking down silos.
“A unified leadership team will encourage trust, create empowerment, and break managers out of the ‘my department’ mentality and into the ‘our organization’ mentality.” — Brent Gleeson
Management that encourages their team to share and collaborate with colleagues not only in their department but also throughout the company will get more buy-in. Once individuals begin to see the example set by leadership and the benefits that come with information-sharing, this behavior will be easy to continue.
- An understanding that everyone is working toward a common goal
- Better communication skills, both internally and externally
- Saving time (if an individual in another department or location did something before, the wheel does not have to be reinvented)
- Knowledge kept when individuals leave the company
Other benefits exist, but these main four are universal for any company. Besides sensitive or private information, the more sharing the better. Encourage colleagues to connect either virtually or in the office, and make sure your intranet is functional for quickly searching for information and collaborating effectively. Work toward a more effective overall communication plan, connect through silos and break them down altogether.