How to Break Down Business Silos

Breaking Down Business Silos with Social Intranet Software

Morganizations will at some point run into a communication breakdown known as siloing. Organizational silos are when a team blocks communication with other departments—as if they work independently from the rest of the organization. Silos happen for many reasons, and in some cases they’re needed. But more times than not, organizational silos create low morale, wasted resources, and reduced productivity.

While different departments have their own unique processes, the majority of successful firms encourage a connected and aligned workplace where the information everyone needs flows through each team. By fixing the silos that hinder productivity and togetherness, you ultimately encourage a company culture built on strong communication, information sharing, and engagement across the entire organization.

What is a silo in business?

how to avoid the silo mentality in business

When you hear the word silo, you might picture the tall cylindrical structures that store grain with a bright red barn nearby. This is, unsurprisingly, not what we mean when talking about departmental silos.

business silo is the tendency to hold and maintain information with little or no communication with other teams. This can result in inefficiencies, and when left unchecked, it can stall growth and lead to bigger problems down the line.

Business silos are good when you need to protect confidential information, but they are harmful when trying to innovate, collaborate, and communicate. Legal might have some aspects of their work that they need to keep private, but that doesn’t mean the entire company shouldn’t know what the legal team does on a day-to-day basis.

There are three types of business silos to look out for within a company:

  1. Organizational silos – When departments or teams pull apart and block information from one another. Sometimes this is due to independent mindsets and the pursuit of departmental goals over company-wide ones.
  2. Information silos – In this scenario, teams are not sharing records and data and instead choosing to gate keep it from other departments. Informational siloing can also occur when teams do not have proper channels to share knowledge.
  3. Silo mentality – This is caused by individuals who refuse to pass on information if the act of sharing does not personally benefit them. Silo mentality can also be the result of burnout or feeling undervalued.

How to recognize a business silo

Many times, the root cause of a silo mentality starts at the top because it is the business leaders who set the tone. Very rarely, though, are corporate silos created on purpose. Most silos occur when egos clash or when tension grows in an organization. Here are some of the tell-tale signs of organizational silos.

Poorly documented processes

We know that creating and documenting new processes can be tiring, but not documenting important information leads to confusion and a failure to deliver on tasks. Take a look at a sales team, for instance. If one of your sales reps just brought on a new customer, but they weren’t aware of a change in the implementation process, there’s no way they will be able to set accurate expectations for your new customer. As a result, the customer experience will take a hit.

Repetitive tasks

Corporate silos hinder communication and collaboration. So when teams aren’t efficiently communicating with each other, they likely won’t know what other departments are working on and potentially duplicate efforts—many times, without even knowing it.

Team isolation

How well do your departments know each other? In large corporations, there’s no way for every employee to know every single manager, leader, and person. (Although, employee profiles can certainly help!) Prioritizing strong internal communication and cross functional teams in your company culture will break down the silo mentality.

Us vs Them

When teams are siloed and not communicating with each other, departments might develop an Us vs Them mentality. Instead of departments working together, they operate separately from each other. This cliquey behavior can become incredibly toxic for the entire company by creating low morale.

Unengaged employees

A silo mentality can quickly make employees become unengaged. Since they don’t know how valuable their input is, they are more likely to feel unfulfilled in their role. They don’t feel like part of the team, and they are not going to contribute until their personal silo has been broken down.

10 Best Real-Life Internal Communication Examples to Improve Your Company Culture

How social intranet software breaks down business silos

What can help bring back sanity to an organization already struggling with silos within various departments?

Companies don’t always change because they want to. They change because of competition, customers, government regulation, and advancement in their industry. When it comes to breaking down silos, social intranet software platforms stand at the forefront in enabling organizations to share and collaborate across departmental units.

Below are 5 ways that social intranet software breaks through the silo murk:

It helps you create a unified vision

Silos, Politics, and Turf Wars - Patrick Lencioni

According to the book, Silos, Politics, and Turf Wars, by Patrick Lencioni, silos:

exact a considerable human toll. They cause frustration, stress, and disillusionment by forcing employees to fight bloody, unwinnable battles with people who should be teammates.”

According to Pat, company employees need to row in the same direction. It is also imperative that executive teams get engaged and help steer the boat in the right direction.

Social intranet software platforms help teams collaborate on projects and share resources.

When middle-level managers use these platforms to streamline processes within departmental units while also onboarding outside units, this breeds trust and helps cut wasted resources due to duplicated efforts and information. Such a platform becomes a place where knowledge, expertise, and efforts are shared.

It helps your teams to work toward common goals

In order to work toward one common goal, there needs to be many tactical smaller goals and objectives that teams have to achieve.

One ultimate goal may need to be broken down into smaller ones, each one then being delegated to different teams and units to work on, ensuring everyone correctly progresses to the final goal.

Effective teams are made of individuals who align their personal goals with those of the team. This includes timelines and the ability to monitor progress together. All of this builds trust among team members, another key ingredient toward working for common goals.

Team collaboration will be essential for any of this to take place. A place for project collaboration needs to exist to promote open and honest communication where individuals can share and interact to help build trust. Such a space needs to offer a productive work environment to help achieve goals and objectives of individuals as well as those of teams and the organization.

It helps to motivate and incentivize employees

In order to avoid the “It’s not my job” attitude, which is so common among siloed teams, managers need to encourage teamwork, team effort, and productivity.

Motivation varies across teams, and what may work for one unit may not necessarily work for another. That’s why identifying key components that motivate individual employees is important.

Know your employees’ interests, drives, and motivations. If you do not know your employees, this can be a problem. What do they share with their teammates? What type of content do they post on public-facing websites? What truly drives them?

Organizations that use social intranet software platforms have fewer headaches when figuring out what ticks with their employees. Since their profiles are already on the network and they are sharing valuable information with others, this can be used to determine what motivates and incentivizes each employee.

It helps to maximize collaboration and team effort

To create a productive team, knowledge sharing, collaboration, and confidence are necessary.

The exchange of knowledge between teams can help with breaking down business silos as teams interact and offer each other constructive criticism. This rarely takes place at meetings or other formal settings.

Since long and frequent meetings waste time and do not encourage constructive feedback, organizations should consider setting up an informal social intranet platform that encourages more open communication to take place. These spaces can help create thriving and productive teams that can encourage innovation and creativity, which is necessary for an organization’s survival in a highly competitive market.

The overall health of an organization is dependent on the health of employee relationships. When there is no trust and confidence among teams, this can be detrimental to the realization of company goals. When all employees are rowing the boat in the same direction, there is a very high chance that this team effort will help them achieve the ultimate common goals of the organization.

Break down silos with Axero’s intranet solution

break down silos with social intranet software

A modern employee intranet solution smashes through a silo’s walls and helps to reconnect a business network. With everyone able to share information and work from the same page, communication and collaboration in a company is much easier.

Axero supports smooth communication and knowledge-sharing across the whole company. Break out of your siloed departments and get everyone working together once more. Experience a way of working that aligns everyone, regardless of team tasks and overarching goals.


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Written by

Tim Eisenhauer is a co-founder of Axero Solutions, a leading intranet software vendor. He's also a bestselling author of Who the Hell Wants to Work for You? Mastering Employee Engagement. Tim’s been featured in Fortune, Forbes, TIME, Inc Magazine, Entrepreneur, CNBC, Today, and other leading publications.


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