Good-bye silos: Hello employee engagement!


I recently reflected on the time a few years ago when my dog had surgery. They put this cone or “halo” on her head to minimize access to the incision.

Ever seen an animal with this on?

It’s really sad.

As I walked behind her, I thought about her limited field of view.

How often do we also have this same limitation inside our organizations?

The problem.

I call this, “Silomania.” Silos destroy the trust that binds people and teams together. A silo is a “system, process, department, etc. that operates in isolation from others.” This means that you are alone.

Oftentimes, this is how employees feel. Organizations are organized so that employees are in isolation from one another. When this exists, they are all like my dog with the cone on her head. They have limited vision, and focus much of their time on what is right in front of them. Their department and their work is their main concern.

With this frame of reference, employees cannot understand one another’s strife, because they don’t spend time together. They are unable to see how they can work together to overcome business issues since they are too bogged down with their own departmental baggage. This is the silomania mindset that destroys trust and innovation.

Employees don’t feel vested in organizational or team success, and thus lose their motivation to do more than what is expected. This is disengagement.

Another example of “silomania” I see all too often is when leaders push forward incentives that drive their teams further apart. I find that often teams work better when working towards a shared goal rather than personal gain. When leaders encourage incentives that motivate the individual rather than the team, they have effectively placed metaphorical cones over each of their team member’s heads. Now everyone is isolated once again.

The solution.

Below are 4 ways you can eradicate silos from your workplace and drive increased engagement:

1. Opportunities to collaborate cross-functionally

Do you create opportunities for employees to collaborate cross-functionally?

One of the most effective ways to promote teamwork instead of silos is to create opportunities for diverse teams to work together to solve organizational issues. Action learning is a great tool to accomplish this. There are many ways to do this.

Curate opportunities for your people to connect for the benefit of your organization.

2. Create more open workspaces

Most organizations have lovely offices with doors and walls that separate teams. While this is necessary for some spaces, organizations need to configure work spaces that foster cross-collaboration and open discussion.

How is your work space configured? Have you asked your employees how they feel about their work space? Do they feel that it is limiting or expanding? This is even more important as we look at remote and hybrid environments. How are you designing more openness into their day?

Ask them. Then, work with them to improve their work space to elevate their experience.

3. Team-build across teams

I know that team-building gets a bad wrap, but it does serve a good purpose. In the context of employee engagement, cross-functional team building packs a great punch, because it builds bonds between teams. These bonds drive employees to do more and be more for their co-workers.

When organizational leaders are most inclusive in their team-building, they break down siloes and strengthen the bonds of trust.

4. Promote team-based recognition and incentives

One of the best ways to break down the narrow thinking that exists inside of organizations is to promote team-based recognition.

After you create cross-functional collaborative environments, build in rewards for team-derived results. This will elevate the importance of teams inside your organization and give employees another reason to love coming to work.

It is within teams that real innovation takes place. Involving a diverse set of employees in “mastermind-type” groups builds organizational muscle. Creating more open spaces makes teamwork more natural. Team-building across teams creates stronger bonds and curating team-based recognition highlights your organization’s focus on the larger team.

In what ways has your organization promoted collaboration and teamwork and stomped out those horrible silos?

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