A silo may be a great way to store grain, but if you apply this idea to your business, it can damage your operations as well as customer experience.

What is a silo? And what does it have to do with business organization?

Organizational silos in business refer to the separation of different teams and employees departments, which can impact the workforce’s ability or desire to work together. The term “silo” comes from farmyards, where large containers are used to keep grain separate.  

A silo may be a great way to store grain, but if you apply this idea to your business, it can damage your operations as well as customer experience. Unfortunately, silos are a common problem that arises in business structure when you have multiple departments and communication channels. 

However, what’s avoidable is the “silo mentality” in which departments are isolated, proprietary, and competitive. Organizational silos can have a negative impact on team productivity. That’s why around 86% of executives and employees blame a lack of collaboration or bad communication for team problems and failures.

When silo mentality develops in business, it encourages segregation within a company, which can prove to be a major stumbling block on the road to success. In this article, we’ll explain what silo mentality is and how you can detect the early signs of it in your organization. Plus, we’ll share 9 proven strategies to help you break down silos in business, helping you breed greater unity and cohesion throughout the workforce.

What Is Silo Mentality?

Silo mentality is a mindset that exists in organizations, which makes people reluctant to share information and resources with other employees of different departments within the same organization. As a result, it reduces the company’s efficiency and, at worst, contributes to a damaged corporate culture. 

Also known as silo thinking and silo vision, silo mentality occurs when people think that it’s not their responsibility to communicate with their colleagues or other departments. Silos in business restrict people from taking an interest in the overall success of the company.

The silo mentality mainly arises due to internal competition with other teams or individuals. As this inward-looking attitude grows within each department, it breeds an “us and them” mindset, which invariably has a negative impact on the culture and productivity of the organization as a whole.

3 Early Signs of Silo Mentality in Business

  1. Broken Customer Experience
  2. Duplicated Work
  3. Groupthink

Companies don’t intend to create a fragmented, divisive structure like this. However, silos can form over time as departments grow and specialize in their own core duties.

Research indicates as many as 40% of employees believe different departments in their company have a separate agenda, and just 29% claim reaching their customers is a truly collaborative process between all teams in the business.

Here are a few warning signs to watch out for:

1. Broken Customer Experience

Without adequate communication, technology, and data, you’ll struggle to map the customer journey. This inevitably makes it much more difficult to convince prospects to become customers.

For example, if a returning customer receives emails that clearly cater to first-time customers, it’s an indication that silos exist between sales and marketing. This has a negative impact on the customer experience, and may even deter people from returning.

2. Duplicated Work

It’s a major red flag if you discover several teams repeating each other’s tasks. When two teams both think it was their responsibility, it highlights an obvious lack of communication.

Redundant steps like this cost your business time and money and will leave teams feeling frustrated. It may even breed resentment as a blame game takes place.

3. Groupthink

Ideally, great leadership will produce more leaders. In reality, the best efforts to inspire individuality and free thought usually end up producing more followers. This creates a tightly-knit group that values harmony above critical evaluation.

This leads to groupthink, where disagreement or challenges are discouraged, and individual group members simply follow the leader. When this happens, your team is left open to blind spots and may resist any outside input.

Silo mentality - Business2Community customer experience graphic

Image Credit: Business2Community

4 Benefits of Breaking Down Silo Mentality in Business

  • 1. It Encourages Collaboration
  • 2. It Reduces Duplicated Work
  • 3. It Improves Knowledge Retention
  • 4. It Facilitates Continuous Productivity

Research from Deloitte found that 94% of surveyed companies claim “agility and collaboration are critical” for success. Despite this, just 6% of companies believe they are “highly agile today”.

Silos in business are sometimes called agility killers.

Let’s take a look at how you can benefit from breaking down silos in business.

1. It Encourages Collaboration

Silos form when people fall into the habit of only communicating with people in their respective departments. If sales and marketing teams don’t talk enough, both departments can feel the effects.

Using collaboration tools like a company intranet system can help everyone stay in touch, even across departments. This makes it easier for managers to get important feedback, and it facilitates a culture of shared information.

2. It Reduces Duplicated Work

With this sharing culture, people will be more likely to communicate about minor details on tasks. This reduces the chance of tasks being repeated, which in turn, can save your company time, effort, and money.

Also, by eliminating these accidental double-ups, there is less chance of tension brewing between teams.

3. It Improves Knowledge Retention

It’s good for your workforce to develop a broader understanding of the different aspects and areas involved in the business.

By creating knowledge management systems online, you can offer more information and resources to everyone in the workforce. That way, there’s more chance the right information will always be available at the right time. When this happens, people can make better-informed decisions.

Case in point:

The popular business communications platform Slack is an acronym for ‘Searchable Log of All Communications and Knowledge’. Since its 2014 launch, the company has become the fastest-growing business app in history, now valued at more than $7 billion.

Sharing is caring – about your company’s growth and revenue.

4. It Facilitates Continuous Productivity

When your team is working together, it will be more effective. The onus is on C-suite members and managers to encourage this open culture in the workforce, where everyone communicates with everyone else.

When this is in full flow, with the right software and tools to help, you will have a seamless, streamlined organization that is optimized for productivity.

Silo mentality - Infographic about knowledge sharing culture to tackle silo mentality.

Image Credit: Quandora

9 Ways to Conquer Silo Mentality in Your Business

  • 1. Introduce Department Ambassadors
  • 2. Eliminate Office Politics
  • 3. Nurture a Unified Vision
  • 4. Make the Office More Open
  • 5. Use Collaboration Tools
  • 6. Improve Socializing and Cooperation in the Workplace
  • 7. Encourage Remote Work
  • 8. Define Shared Accountabilities
  • 9. Set Common Goals

So, how can you break down silos in business?

Here are nine steps that will help you tackle silo mentality. Done right, these measures can transform your workplace culture so that is built for success in the modern age.

1. Introduce Department Ambassadors

A leadership study by Red Badger found that just 13% of companies encouraged teams to sit together while working on the same project.

In efforts to break organizational silos, some businesses have decided to sit teams together. Another idea is to send a department representative to another team for a short period. These reps can gather valuable insights and bring them back to their own team.

As time goes on, this strategy can help your company create closer ties between teams, and may even lead to innovative new solutions that boost productivity.

2. Eliminate Office Politics

One of the main reasons organizational silos occur is because departments can feel a little threatened by each other. Office politics become ingrained, and people rail against collaboration with other teams. The SEO team may hide details from the copywriters, as they worry they could marginalize their role, or even steal jobs.

Great digital leaders will step up to put an end to negative office politics. By using data, you can determine issues based on metrics, and hard numbers. This will make it easier to find employees who are not only willing to co-operate but are also more effective at hitting goals.

Silo mentality - Boardroom with six women discussing a project.

Image Credit: Pexels

3. Nurture a Unified Vision

It’s quite common for your sales, marketing, and customer service teams to set goals that will benefit their respective department, and at the same time, conflict with another team’s goals. Silo mentality starts at the management level. Therefore, it’s up to department managers to co-operate and find ways of countering this problem.

By creating a unified vision that the entire workforce understands, the various teams in the company can build their objectives with that vision in mind. This will build greater trust between teams, and help everyone adopt a big-picture view of goals, rather than only focusing on their own department.

4. Make the Office More Open

The traditional office is one that grouped companies by the department with teams literally sectioned off from each other through cubicle clusters, walls, and different floors in the building. This sets a tone that makes silos inevitable.

By comparison, the modern-day startup will have a more casual culture, with open floors, and several areas that make cross-department connections easy.

If you want to break down silos in business, you should consider how you can restructure your office to make sharing, communication, and collaboration easier.

5. Use Collaboration Tools

As the freelance revolution continues to grow, more companies are hiring remote workers. Some of these people will rarely if ever, be in the same office as each other. They may never meet in person.

With digital collaboration tools, you can unite remote teams, and foster smooth communications and workflows, even when your employees are scattered around the globe. For example, try introducing the following:

  • Project management platforms – preferably one with chat and commenting features, like Asana or ClickUp.
  • Shared documents – Google Docs and Google Sheets enable up to 100 people to collaborate on a live document at the same time.
  • Data management tools – These can collate data from other platforms in regards to key metrics and business objectives, so all teams are kept up-to-date with what actions and events in other teams.

By using collaborative tools that encourage regular information sharing and communication, all teams can work together, even if they are in different rooms, buildings, or countries.

6. Improve Socializing and Cooperation in the Workplace

With regular joint meetings and focus groups, all employees will have the chance to mingle with those from other teams. You can also run company events outside of working hours, such as a fun monthly excursion like bowling, hiking, or paintballing.

By giving different departments opportunities to interact and work together outside of work, you will soon improve cooperation in the workplace.

7. Encourage Remote Work

Another great strategy to break down silos in business is to encourage remote working. Now that doesn’t mean you only have to work from home. You can work from anywhere. All you need is a laptop and an internet connection to be connected to your company at all times.

Remote working allows you to work flexibly, empowering your employees as well as your business. Your employees can work across different time zones, attend meetings virtually while traveling to see a prospect or catch up on emails and chats even when they are on a business trip.

8. Define Shared Accountabilities

Once you nurture a unified vision, you need to translate it into the day-to-day behaviors of teams and individual employees. By defining shared accountabilities, you can pull your teams together instead of dividing them. For instance, your company may tie the IT department’s accountabilities with those of other divisions to ensure more efficient use of in-house IT systems. 

To further reduce silos in business, you can have two or more teams work together on a task that involves giving a joint presentation to senior management.

9. Set Common Goals

In order to beat the silo mentality, it is critical to determine the underlying issues that may be causing the ripple effect of silos. Often companies identify several strategic goals and objectives for every department, however, it is imperative to define the single, qualitative focus that is common among all departments as the top priority. 

Ensure that all employees are aware of this common goal and understand how they can contribute as individuals. You need to foster a holistic and big-picture view to encouraging collaboration, teamwork, and eventually accomplish that common goal.

How EngageBay Can Help You Defeat Silo Mentality

  • 1. Improve Your Customer Relationships
  • 2. Enhance Customer Experience
  • 3. Cloud Services Give Everyone a Holistic View
  • 4. You Can Create a Culture of Sharing and Communication
  • 5. Zapier Integrations Improve Productivity

In the digital age, nothing really stands still for long. Advancing technology and increasing competition have made agility a top priority in modern businesses.

And as you now know, silo thinking is an agility killer.

Here are several good reasons to consider EngageBay as the cure for silo struggles:

1. Improve Your Customer Relationships

With a customer relationship management (CRM) platform, you can use data-driven insights to guide your sales, marketing, and customer service teams. EngageBay has several innovative features that improve customer service, such as:

  • Ticketing – so everyone can track the status and actions in a customer issue.
  • Feedback forms – to help improve problems with the service.
  • Knowledgebase – to provide customers with greater access to key information.

These features make it easier for every team to track the customer journey.

2. Enhance Customer Experience

This is a customer-centric age. Companies are working harder to ensure they deliver on the needs and interests of their audiences. If your company isn’t working well internally, it will affect the customer experience.

With EngageBay, your company can build a stronger foundation of knowledge, communications, and co-operation between all teams. This allows you to present a united front and enables your sales, marketing, and customer service teams to be more effective.

Silo mentality - EngageBay and Zapier integrations.

Image Credit: EngageBay

3. Cloud Services Give Everyone a Holistic View

EngageBay has a dashboard that keeps everyone updated with actions and events from around the workforce. Teams will be able to see how other departments are working towards the bigger business objectives of the company.

It doesn’t matter how big your organization is, or whether you have a lot of remote workers. The cloud service makes it easy for everyone to see the big picture. This makes it much easier to succeed in cross-channel marketing.

4. You Can Create a Culture of Sharing and Communication

As EngageBay offers a host of tools for project management, data analysis, and marketing automation, your business can soon feel the benefits of breaking down silos. When everyone is on board, training together, and learning how to use this unified platform, your company will improve in many ways.

This all comes down to creating a new culture throughout the workforce. Ideally, it will be a culture that makes people keen to communicate and share information and resources from one department to the next.

5. Zapier Integrations Improve Productivity

In addition to the many features of EngageBay, you can use Zapier integrations to use your favorite digital tools. There are 1,500 apps currently available for your business to use, including Google Docs, Asana, Gmail, HubSpot, and Mailchimp.

Silo mentality - Two businesswomen and a man in suit writing on board with red pen.

Image Credit: Pexels

Beat Silo Mentality from the Top-Down

According to Salesforce, around 70% of customer experience professionals and executives view silo mentality as the biggest obstacle to customer service. Plus, 73% of sales teams believe that cross-department collaboration is critical to their overall sales process.

All these stats speak for themselves. Silo mentality is a huge problem even in 2020. Businesses are still struggling with inefficiency, information hoarding, and game-playing in offices -all because of silo thinking.

Breaking down the silo mentality is not an easy feat for any business. However, the 9 strategies discussed in this article can help you reduce organizational silos. Using these strategies, you can create a unified vision and establish practical steps to providing employees with a clear objective and means to attaining the ultimate common goal. 

There’s nothing more resolute in your business than having all team members rowing fiercely in the same direction.

Not sure how to break down silos in business? Get in touch with EngageBay today to take your business in the right direction.