When people with diverse skill sets work together, your business can leverage the power of teams.

Plenty of team-building activities may encourage your employees to get along, but it’s turning teamwork into a company-wide culture that will make your business thrive. In order to get the most out of their employees’ strengths, many of today’s top companies are bringing cross-functional collaboration to the forefront.

If you’ve ever worked in a large-scale company, you know that it’s easy to retreat back into your department or, in some cases, barely touch base with other teams at all. This leads to what’s called a “silo effect.” A silo effect is when teams don’t work with each other and focus only on their own team’s goals, which may overlap with those of the other team—or even be at odds in some ways—without anyone knowing. As a result, your business will be far from meeting its productivity potential.

With 86% of workplace failures caused by ineffective communication, it’s clear why you need to make cross-functional collaboration a priority.

What is cross-functional collaboration?

Cross-functional collaboration is the concept of bringing team members from different departments together to work on a single project with a common goal. Each person brings their own unique knowledge and skill set to make the entire project run more smoothly.

As an example, if a retail chain is looking to launch a brand new loyalty app, the cross-functional team in charge of the new project may be made up of people from its engineering, operations, and marketing teams. By working directly with the marketing department in the process, a team of developers can get immediate insight into their audience, such as where in an app users are most likely to navigate to based on market research. This steers their design in the right direction right off the bat.

On the other hand, working independently causes work to drip down an assembly line without instant feedback. If the marketing team notices a development issue while they’re creating copy, the entire project must be sent backwards in this assembly line until it’s resolved. This prevents your business from moving forward in a timely manner.

When your employees are truly doing the tasks that are best suited to them, you’ll get great results in the least amount of time.

3 benefits of cross-functional collaboration

As you may already see, cross-functional collaboration comes with plenty of benefits. By putting this concept to work and forming high-impact teams, you can drive great results.

This effective collaboration also goes beyond improving the measurable results of your projects and helps you achieve a more efficient and enjoyable organization as a whole. Here are three company-wide benefits that you’ll notice when your teams work together on a daily basis:

1. It increases communication.

As cross-functional collaboration becomes a lasting part of your workflow and culture, people in different roles will naturally reach out to each other to solve problems. Your employees will better understand the strengths of other departments and reach out to do more as a team, instead of letting themselves be siloed. With this communication, your whole organization will be working toward common goals together, instead of wasting time by working toward the same goals separately.

Boosting the amount of inter-team communication is also a great way to build empathy among your employees as well, reducing conflict and creating a friendlier environment for all.

2. It improves employee satisfaction.

In order to improve employee retention, you need to first make sure that your employees enjoy their work life. Cross-functional collaboration allows every team member to work directly in areas they excel in, instead of struggling to do work that other teams are better suited for. This can limit burnout and make employees six times more engaged, so you avoid the high cost ($15,000 per worker) of employee turnover.

Being part of a cross-functional team also gives diverse employees the chance to demonstrate their leadership skills and showcase their knowledge—whether or not they hold a management title. When your team members feel that their voice is heard, they’ll be nearly five times more empowered to do their best in the workplace.

3. It builds talent and innovation.

When diverse people work together, they’ll naturally pick up on new ways of working. This leads to employees being more versatile in their skills and more inspired to continue developing them, too. For your organization, this can rapidly enhance efficiency without adding a huge amount of extra costs.

Similarly, team collaboration also helps your employees adopt new ways of thinking. By getting exposed to people with diverse experiences, your employees will find unique solutions that give you the competitive advantage and help you produce 19% more revenue. When everyone has a more well-rounded perspective, problem-solving only gets easier.

How to implement cross-functional collaboration

Putting cross-functional collaboration into action isn’t always easy. When you put a diverse group of people in one room, some of them will inevitably have conflicting ideas. Knowing how to manage this conflict can stop these unique perspectives from butting heads and instead allow team members to expand on each other’s suggestions.

Here are a few tips to help you implement and improve collaboration between teams:

1. Set clear goals.

A big part of project management is making sure every employee knows what they’re working toward. This keeps every team member on a cross-functional project headed in the right direction and helps your meetings stay on track.

The best goals are always measurable. This is because it gives employees the best point of reference possible during the decision-making process, so they can quickly select the better of two ideas, supported by solid reasoning. Measurable goals will also help you evaluate how well a team performed together, so you can strategically place people in teams in the future.

2. Encourage diversity.

Getting the most innovation requires you to not only create a team filled with unique skill sets but also to create a team with entirely different life experiences. Be conscious of varying the seniority of team members, while also doing your best to vary the demographics of your teams, too. This will allow everyone to have something unique to pitch in.

You’ll also want to actively embrace diversity across your organization, not just within your cross-functional teams. When you do, this ensures that everyone goes into these teams with an open mindset, without shutting down ideas straight away.

3. Use online collaboration tools.

One of the most important parts of building a team that functions smoothly together is helping them communicate in real time. By using online collaboration tools, like Asana and Google Drive, employees can work together no matter where they are in the office—or in the world, for that matter. By leveraging collaboration tools, you can avoid gaps in communication that lead to decreased productivity.

With Podium Teamchat, you can further enhance your cross-functional collaboration by streamlining your employee’s internal messages and customer conversations onto one platform. This way, no messages will ever be missed.

Make your organization whole

When you push cross-functional collaboration to the forefront of your business, your once isolated departments will become part of a supportive ecosystem of skilled workers. Each employee can let their expertise shine within their groups, and they’ll begin to communicate with members of different teams when they need help. While producing results for you, this also helps your customers remain happy in their careers and feel more inspired during each workday.

By implementing an online collaboration tool like Teamchat, you’ll be able to reap the benefits of cross-functional teams even faster. Watch a demo of the tool to learn how it can benefit your team.

Pat Johnson
Pat Johnson Product Marketing Manager

Pat Johnson is a product marketing professional at Podium, the leading communication system that connects local businesses with their customers. He is based in Denver, Colorado

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