It’s an odd, but fairly common phenomenon. Information flows pretty well from the top down, but information from the ground level doesn’t often make it up to company leaders. Similarly, teams silo information instead of exchanging it. Communication doesn’t happen the way it should, and that can lead to short-term frustrations as well as long-term setbacks. The good news is companies can make small changes to significantly improve communication and the flow of information.
Effective decision making starts with effective communication
If C-suite executives could be a fly on the wall and listen in on some employee conversations, many would hear criticisms about the company’s decision-making processes, or complaints that the leaders are out of touch with their own business. While these remarks sting, they’re not untrue. In fact, leaders are generally aware that there is room for improvement when it comes to communication and decision-making.
A global management consulting firm conducted a major study about behavioral strategy and strategic decision making. It found that only 28% of executives believe their leadership team consistently makes solid decisions. 60% of executives felt that leaders made bad decisions just about as frequently as good ones. The remaining 12% thought good decisions were altogether infrequent.
Even with the best data available, strong analysis is useless unless it is subjected to a fair and complete decision process. So, if management is making all of the big decisions without soliciting feedback or input from their teams, chances are they’re not making the best choices for the company.
Silos must be broken down
Silo mentality occurs far too often in business. Teams value the data and information they collect, but they are the only ones to get value out of it. “Siloing” limits a company’s growth because key information may be inaccessible to the rest of the company. Sometimes information is withheld intentionally, but information is usually siloed because there’s no good sharing system available. To release that information to others, someone would have to spend extra time organizing and exporting the data (and few people want to do that).
When information isn’t freely shared, organizations can’t act quickly or take advantage of opportunities. Inventory, supply chain, distribution, marketing, and sales suffer when teams don’t collaborate.
Remember that you’re part of a team
Changing silo mentality begins with management. Team leads need to be more connected so that individual managers don’t end up setting goals that benefit their department but conflict with the goals of others. Instead, department managers must set company goals first, and then figure out what their teams can do to achieve those goals. Part of sharing information across silos is sharing specific pain points and motivators. When the entire organization understands what each department does, departments can more easily set and agree on company goals.
The free flow of information will help the entire organization prosper. The leadership team must understand and support the company’s long-term goals before they start working on their individual department’s goals. They will move away from the “my department” mentality and transition into an “our organization” mentality.
Decisions get better with employee input
When employees feel leadership is out of touch, it may be because leadership has insulated staff from the business. They hear the final decisions, but are not included when ideas and strategies are being brought forward and debated.
A 2017 Harris Poll reported that 91% of employees felt that their leaders did not communicate effectively about the ongoings of the company. 52% of participants believed the reason communication was lacking was that management simply didn’t block out time to speak with employees. Bosses and team managers have an endless to-do list, so if they don’t plan to make time for something, it’s not going to happen.
Most employees would appreciate daily one-on-one communication from their manager. That isn’t always possible, but management does need to find a way to communicate with their team members frequently and effectively.
Building communication practices into the beginning, middle, and end of initiatives is how organizations become better at communicating. Furthermore, these practices must extend beyond who “needs to know;” leaders are encouraged to operate under the assumption that every employee, or at least each team member, is a stakeholder in what the organization is doing.
Even if staff aren’t familiar with the details of some responsibilities or functions, frontline employees are experts when it comes to the day-to-day nuance of the business. They’re more aware of particular and potential problems that the C-suite execs may not even consider. When staff are involved in a project or initiative from start to finish, they can confidently ask questions, make suggestions, and help the company make smarter decisions. Moreover, they’re often better equipped and more willing to engage in problems on their own.
It might take a bit longer to get through the process, but a truly collaborative process yields better results.
Embrace collaboration tools
Technology that facilitates productive communication has become a must. Now that several offices have adopted a hybrid work model, it’s rarer that teams will all be in the office at the same time. Companies must use programs and tools that exist to help teams work together and stay connected. Some examples include Slack, Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Box.
Management could even look into a facility management software system that allows for companywide document sharing. This way, key information is always available, no matter where team members are working from.
Meet in person
While we’ve all proven that we can work from home just fine, most studies have found that it is still beneficial to go into the office for the purposes of collaborative work.
Companies could have designated “team days” at least once a month, but there should be attempts to get people from different teams in on the same day, too. Cross-sectional collaboration means having fresh eyes on a topic. Employees might ask questions that seem obvious or hadn’t occurred to a department.
Training together in cross-departmental exercises has also proven to be beneficial. Because companies already factor training costs into their budgets, collaborative training across divisions is a way to dovetail continued learning with collaborative practices.
Finally, coming into the office can be good because it gives staff and management a chance to talk. It’s easy to overlook an email, but it’s hard to ignore someone when they’re standing beside your workstation.
When businesses can share information within the entire company, the business is much more likely to succeed. Consider, for example, a retailer that shares a free flow of information on inventory, customer service, costs, and shipping. Potential problems can be avoided or resolved in less time, and customer service and satisfaction can be improved because everyone sees the data. There will be more than one solution put forth if everyone has an opportunity to think about how to address issues.
Effective strategies that facilitate better communication and information sharing include creating a unified vision as a company, working toward common goals, cross-department education, communicating often, and taking advantage of tech and software designed for information sharing.
Your people are your greatest asset. If you want them to perform to the best of their abilities, it’s important to give them the information they need, as well as give them opportunities to help keep the company moving forward. If they don’t like where things are going, they won’t stay long.