Sometimes you need to take a break. Now we don’t normally take guest posts here on Incentive Intelligence but because I have a soft spot for college folk and HR AND my nephew will be playing football for Villanova I’m making an exception. Below is a guest post from Erin Palmer who works with their online Human Resources programs. Enjoy one of the few guest posts you’ll see…
To a farmer, silos are important. They can store huge amounts of grain and silage that can be a critical resource in many areas. However, you don’t want to work in one. They are dark, confining, and they don’t contain much oxygen.
Sure, it may be tempting to keep to yourself at work, nose to the grindstone, the picture of productivity – cranking it out in a vacuum. However, if you really examine healthy office dynamics, you’ll find that silos have no place in the workplace. It is up to human resources to recognize the drawbacks of working in a silo atmosphere and figure out ways to break out of that mentality.
Problem: Unproductive Cycles
Formal documentation often outlines how a project is to be passed from department to department, but the process could get out of hand without evaluation. A project can be lobbed back and forth like a ping pong ball, enduring endless tweaking from all sides and adding unnecessary complexity. This wastes the company’s time and resources. It might also promote frustration between departments.
HR professionals can help by monitoring the effectiveness of processes. Find out what is and is not working. Don’t let unproductive cycles continue. Be proactive about making adjustments when needed and changing policies that continually fail. Make sure that all of the team members involved have a voice in the new process. You won’t be able to please everyone entirely, but listening to the specific problems should make it easier to form the best possible solution.
Problem: Us-Against-Them Mindsets
Unproductive cycles are not the only thing that could cause workplace tension. People tend to see their own department as the indispensable function of the entire operation. When focusing on their work, it can seem like everybody else just gets in the way. Working on projects for other departments might seem to impede their own progress. This kind of myopic thinking is easy to slip into when you are working in a silo, but it can be damaging to team dynamics. Synergy is what makes a company successful. The whole must be more valuable than its parts.
A positive workplace relies on happy employees. Having smooth processes in place can help relieve the tension, but there are other ways HR can help. Create a work environment that encourages teamwork. Have the different departments meet and create a mutual plan on the onset of a new project rather than have team 1 start something and send it to team 2. Host events inside and outside of work that help different departments get to know each other socially. Employees that get along are more likely to play nice and work well together.
Problem: Disjointed Communication
As every HR professional knows, communication needs to be a two-way street. Since many offices rely on email, communication is often asynchronous. Delayed feedback can still be valuable and should have the extra benefit of efficiency for all parties involved. However, it is important to assure that nothing gets lost along the way. In a project-driven work environment, there are always a lot of moving parts. Balls easily get dropped in a flurry of emails, and that can quickly frustrate isolated workers who may feel like nobody else cares about what they need to accomplish.
Sometimes there is just no substitute for a face-to-face conversation or an all-hands-on-deck meeting. Give employees opportunities to meet when needed. Aim for a work environment where employees are encouraged to interact freely with one another. HR can set the tone for the entire company through the way that they communicate with employees.
Problem: Lonely, Burnt-out Workaholics
The most devastating effect of office silos is probably the psychological toll they can take. Unwavering focus on the task at hand can be damaging. Quality of life and work can suffer as a result. For this reason alone, it’s important to encourage our employees to shed their silo mentality.
HR should encourage employees to take breaks from time to time. Go bounce an issue off a colleague in another department. Suggest that employees step back and see the bigger picture. It can only reaffirm and strengthen their role in the greater whole. When workplace culture allows employees to take time to step away for a few minutes, it can lead to a huge increase in overall job satisfaction.
Division of labor was one of the first hallmarks of civilized society, and the complexity of the workforce demands specialization. There will always be projects and tasks that require employees to work independently. However, interdepartmental communication and accountability are essential. We all need to see how our efforts work into and benefit the entire company. So HR professionals, help your employees knock down those silos! An open workplace will be much happier and the company will be much more successful for it.
Originally posted on on Incentive Intelligence