HR can facilitate cross-functional collaboration

Cross-functional collaboration is essential for today’s multi-layered, large scale businesses. All too often, different departments have little to no alignment with the next, and few employees have a thorough view of the company’s overall goals and the big picture as a whole.

To remedy this, HR teams and departmental heads need to facilitate and encourage communication, to try to achieve cross-functional collaboration.

Why is cross-functional collaboration important?

Cross-functional collaboration is essentially when employees from different departments or with different skills and understanding, work together. There are a number of significant benefits to this style of work, from achieving business goals efficiently to improving staff morale.

Achieve interdepartmental alignment

When business departments are unaware of how other teams are working, and what they are working on specifically, it’s easy for strategies to become disjointed and non-cohesive. For example, a sales team might not be aware of specific messaging being used on marketing materials, or the marketing team might not know if certain creative ideas are even possible in IT terms. With more interdepartmental understanding comes a more streamlined and efficient service in general.

Avoid conflicting goals

When departments don’t work closely together, the lack of awareness of the different work can end up causing problems. In most businesses, targets and KPIs are broken down from the top level, to department heads, then on to teams and eventually individuals.

Where communication is lacking later on in the chain, it’s easy to end up putting in place goals which do not align with other teams. An example of this could be a blogger being tasked with achieving x number of ‘click-throughs’ on a blog. This might not be achievable if they then find out that the channel in which said blog would usually be pushed out – for instance an emailed newsletter – is being axed, replaced or reworked, leaving no room for the blog.

Build mutual respect

Another key benefit of implementing cross-functional collaboration is to ensure all employees have mutual respect for one another. It’s not until all staff members are aware of the hard work that goes into maintaining the business as a whole, that they can be entirely respectful of each individual cog. So often there is animosity between different departments, when there is a lack of awareness of what actually goes in to their day to day.

Educate staff on the bigger picture

Making sure that all team members are aware of the overall goals of the business will have positive effects on both productivity and morale. When all departments know how they all fit together to achieve a bigger picture, all employees should find it easier to feel valued and respect one another.

How to achieve cross-functional collaboration

The HR team plays a key role in motivating and rewarding employees, and should work to encourage collaboration in order to best use the skills of every individual to achieve results. Cross-functional collaboration is something that should be ingrained into a company’s culture. If this can be achieved, a collaborative approach will become the go-to methodology applied in all projects and company goals. Ways in which HR professionals can begin to stimulate this cultural change include:

Regularly issued newsletters

Newsletters are a great method of communication for businesses, as they can be distributed to all members of staff simultaneously. This means there is no question or doubt regarding departmental hierarchy when it comes to obtaining information. Newsletters should be used to outline evolving business goals and strategies, and should also include a highlight of what each department has been working on. This will help to bring about awareness of the bigger picture to all teams.

Host frequent open meetings

While department heads might not be entirely conducive to this at first, they should hopefully see benefits when it comes to morale and the stimulation of ideas after just one or two meetings. The meetings should be seen as an idea-exchanging platform in which all employees are invited to speak up and voice their opinions and concerns. It also allows them to find out more about the company’s work as a whole.

Offer job-shadowing opportunities

A very effective way to facilitate collaboration, conversation and overall understanding is to enable employees to job-shadow their colleagues. So as not to drastically disrupt the day-to-day, this could take place on a quarterly or monthly basis – for instance the last Friday of the month. The idea behind this is that those who job-shadow a colleague will receive a thorough window into that person’s work. With fresh eyes can come new and innovative ideas, plus the experience is likely to lead to increased understanding and respect.

Provide adequate collaboration tools

To help facilitate collaboration, HR teams should spend time researching appropriate collaboration tools. By implementing shared boards, folders, and apps, co-workers can easily access each other’s work, communicate, and share ideas. Before putting such software into place, HR teams should facilitate training on these and make sure everyone knows how to access them.

Achieving successful cross-functional collaboration in a company is likely to have considerable positive effects for any business. With interdepartmental understanding, respect, and teamwork, all employees will become motivated to work together in alignment with company goals. Achieving cross-functional collaboration should, therefore, make HR easier, as there are likely to be fewer conflicts and problems between staff.

Gary Webb is Marketing and Communications Director at London-based FMP Global, a leading global provider of payroll and HR services to SME organisations.

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