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How to Avoid Silos Now That We’re All Working Remotely

As U.S. states start to reopen and residents begin venturing outdoors, companies like Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Zillow are adopting temporary work-from-home policies. Most of us having been looking for that light at the end of the tunnel that would signal the end of pandemic culture and a switch back to our pre-covid lives, but like gratitude, working remotely is one culture that has emerged as a result of this pandemic that many of us are okay with keeping.

That means companies that adopt remote work and flexible work schedules for their teams have to now think about ways to ensure productivity remains high when a portion of the team has moved from working in the office to working from home.

One of the challenges The Shelf team has pretty much fixed is the silos that can form when remote team members spend more time engaging with the members of their departments without really knowing what’s happening with the other departments.

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These little silos can cause bottlenecks, redundancies, inefficiencies in how time and other resources are used, and make it impossible for teams to synergistically work together and help one another.

Why Silos Are Your Funnel’s Worst Enemy

According to the Gartner ReimagineHR Employee Survey, 41 percent of those surveyed don’t feel connected to their colleagues when working remotely and 26 percent of employees feel isolated when they work remotely. That disconnection can lead to higher turnover among your team members, AND it makes team far less efficient.

I’ll give you a good example: If your marketing team is building out a monthly or quarterly content calendar, it’s crucial that your sales team know what’s coming down the content pipeline and also chime in on topics that need to be addressed. These client-facing members of the team spend their days addressing customer pain points, and knowing what content has already been published and what content will be published can provide them with the tools they need to more quickly move prospects along the path to purchase.

For the marketing team, not having those regular powwows with the sales team keeps them out of the loop with what’s happening on calls. Without knowing what customer pain points are the marketing team may be slow to react to shifts in the market, which messes with brand messaging, conversion rates, sales, retention… basically, your entire funnel is compromised.

I hope you get why it’s important for your team to avoid silos, especially when you’re working remotely.

Let’s Be Honest: Silos Are Basically Cliques

The workplace is a lot like high school:

You have the deans (your managers), the cool guys (the water cooler crew), the geeks (IT), and the loners (cubicle thumpers). And because of this, organizations battle with issues involving cliques — or as we professionals call them, silos. 

You’d think that working from home would make a difference and bring teams together. But as you’ve learned throughout this COVID-19 pandemic — it’s the exact opposite. If you’re a project manager or team leader, then you’re likely wondering how you can avoid your virtual teams from becoming siloed. 

Let’s look at some tips for preventing this seemingly inevitable tendency.

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First, Learn How to Identify Silos in Your Team

Silos happen when your teams or departments separate into (unauthorized) sub-groups. Then, due to lack of communication, teams working on similar or identical initiatives bump heads and cause societal breakdown (okay, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the point). 

Now there are two underlying issues that lead to silos:

  • Silo mentality: This is when teams or individuals purposely withhold information from others in the company (hurting unification and long-term goals).
  • Team silos: When groups within your organization fail to share goals, information, tools, processes, or priorities with other essential teams. 

So, it’s up to you — the team leader — to nip silos in the bud. 

There are a number of warning signs to watch for when you’re managing a virtual team. So let’s take a look at a few of them.

 Redundancies and Overlapping Responsibilities

In a perfect world, your teams will know exactly who has to do what and when. However, when you’re dealing with silos, it’s anything but. In fact, you may notice two or more teams performing the same tasks and duties… All because there’s a lack of communication. This is a costly issue that can lead to frustration and disunity. 

Solution: Don’t leave it up to your team to figure things out. Assign tasks to specific people with due dates.

 Misalignment with Goals and Priorities

This happens a lot between marketing and sales — the two teams that should be working in tandem towards the same goals.

Unfortunately, this is a multi-departmental problem, so you’re likely to see this in other areas as well. Misaligned priorities and goals will have your teams all over the place and none of your objectives will get met because of it. 

Solution: Include your teams in the goal-setting discussions. This will ensure everyone’s on the same page and can ask questions to clarify any misunderstandings.

 Collaboration is Non-Existent

It’s not surprising that this occurs among virtual teams because of the human disconnect. You’re working alone in your home office and it can create the facade that you’re the sole person completing a task. So don’t expect your teams to naturally group together to tackle projects. 

Solution: Create a system that promotes collaboration. For example, create a workflow that requires teams to report to one another and share progress and information.  Studies show that formalizing collaboration can boost productivity and satisfaction by 15%, so it’s definitely worth a try!

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Tips for Making Sure Your Team Doesn’t End Up in the Silo Trap While Working Remotely

Silos are like chickenpox, measles, or any other contagious disease. You’ll never have just one silo disrupting the flow of things. Once one forms, you can expect more to pop up like annoying back acne. It can lead to duplicate work, misalignment, and hurt your business’s adaptability and agility. 

Here’s a look at some helpful stats about silos:

  • 39 percent of employees believe teams in their company don’t collaborate enough
  • 18 percent of employees are communication evaluations
  • Nearly 50 percent of millennials want social tools to improve collaboration (and they’re even ready to pay for it)
  • 86 percent of employees and executives believe poor collaboration and communication causes workplace failures
  • 90 percent of employees say leaders should seek other opinions before making decisions
  • 40 percent of employees say decision makers fail to seek opinions from others

With these insights (and the following tips), you should be able to overcome the hurdles silos create. 

Destroy the Silo Mentality

One of the top reasons remote teams become silos is because there’s no way to collaborate. So you’ll need to put tools and platforms in place that enables your teams to work together. This includes using online software that integrates with your organization’s tools, streamlines marketing and sales, and that improves project management. 

Some popular options include Wrike, Trello, Asana, and Zapier

Address Geographical Silos

Not all silos form voluntarily. You’ll find it can occur when you have team members from all over the world. Geographical silos can form due to differences in time, languages, and cultural differences. 

This is all the more reason to find ways to get everyone communicating on a regular basis. Platforms like Slack are excellent because you can organize conversations into channels. 

You can have one for “water cooler” talk and others for work-related discussions. 

Here are several other tips to help eliminate geographical silos:

  • Time zone differences: Schedule meetings at times that work for everyone (if possible). Otherwise, use real-time collaboration/communication tools (i.e., Slack, Basecamp, or Asana) that highlight new conversations and changes. This way, those who were asleep or busy at that time can catch up once they log back in. 
  • Language barriers: Written language is easier to understand or translate. Plus, using visual elements can help with demonstrations and breaking down topics. 

Prevent Information Silos

Do you have data and information that’s locked behind usernames and passwords? Then you’re going to eventually run into issues with information silos. You need to find a way to share necessary data across departments virtually. You can still use security protocols and databases to ensure only authorized people are accessing the information. 

Once again, collaborative tools are a must-have for your virtual teams. 

Make Transparency the New Culture

If you don’t already have a transparent company culture, then now’s a great time to implement one. Using virtual tools, you can ensure there’s consistent open communication, project collaboration, and personal accountability for tasks. 

With transparency, everyone knows what’s going on and why. It makes it impossible to be out of the loop and sheltered into a silo. 

Keep Your Remote Teams Happy, Sane, & Productive

We’re traveling through uncharted waters. So it’s up to you to navigate your team through the COVID pandemic (and the toxic silos). With the right methods and tools, you should have no problem keeping your team members happy, sane, and productive. 

Let us know in the comments if you have any other unique ideas for removing silos from remote teams!

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