A successfully functioning team requires a shared vision, mutual respect, and impeccable communication.
However, departments often suffer from tunnel vision when it comes to day-to-day operations.
It’s vital to recognize the importance of collaboration across your company.
Interdepartmental collaboration, in particular, is essential to create a healthy, high-functioning, and productive working environment.
For example, you must make sure you’re avoiding silos. These arise when different teams fail to work together.
Your company will achieve its goals more efficiently and to a higher standard by working cohesively.
The sections below provide tips on how to foster efficient interdepartmental communication, which will save you both time and money.
This should also lead to a happier and healthier workforce and a better customer experience.
What is interdepartmental collaboration?
Put simply, interdepartmental or cross-departmental collaboration refers to teamwork-based projects that involve employees from more than one department.
For example, a project might rely on sales, marketing, and IT to be completed successfully.
It’s crucial to note that during these collaborations, you don’t want teams to continue to work as disparate units.
Instead, you should encourage everyone involved to work as a single unified team, as opposed to separate entities.
To this end, dedicated software can be helpful when it comes to interdepartmental communication.
You might use document collaboration tools like PandaDoc, for instance, which make it easier for everyone to work together virtually.
Interdepartmental collaboration may be for one-off projects.
However, it might also be implemented on a recurring basis, such as seasonal collaborations that happen quarterly or even yearly.
The work resulting from these collaborations should be attributed to everyone involved, rather than being listed as something like “a marketing project with some input from finance”.
In short, it’s about working together toward a common goal.
How to improve collaboration between departments
If your various departments don’t regularly work together, it can be difficult to break down the barriers between them.
That’s especially true when employees aren’t encouraged to socialize or network outside of their department (or even team).
To start fostering a collaborative environment, you have to put in the work, since this workplace-wide cohesiveness is unlikely to come about on its own.
The following tips will guide you on your way to better business collaboration:
1. Bring teams together from the beginning
Whether you’re just starting your business or embarking on a new project, don’t wait to bring teams together.
Integrating them from the beginning will help avoid inefficiencies.
This way, your teams will know how they should be completing their workflows to help other departments complete theirs.
Teams will also be able to brainstorm ideas more efficiently and come up with more creative solutions.
If you can, bring teams together before the start of a project. Nothing is worse than a whole new set of people getting pulled in near the end.
This risks overloading the team with work and putting stress on the entire collaboration.
Worse, the steps completed previously may be incompatible with the tools used by the newly integrated team.
Make sure you identify important project stakeholders across your company at the beginning of the project.
Then, bring your teams together for a project kickoff meeting to make sure everyone is on the same page.
Especially if the project is part of scaling your business, everyone should know their roles.
Go over its scope, timelines, deliverables, and how to measure success.
2. Use the same or compatible tools
Uniting teams across departments is much simpler if you utilize the same systems and tools. At the very least, you should make sure different tools are still compatible.
Just as you want your team members to be able to communicate easily, you want your different tools to be able to talk to each other.
If you’re considering integrating new software, take an audit of the tools your company already uses.
Also, look at the 50 leading SaaS companies to find which software is most highly rated and best suited to your business.
Try investing in a single tool that can be used across departments. In doing this, you avoid wasting money by paying for multiple tools when one option can provide all the services you require.
For example, PandaDoc can offer benefits for your entire organization.
Plus, all documents are there ready for collaboration from everyone.
If you’re thinking about changing your tools or investing in new software, talk to your departments ahead of time.
While IT will most likely oversee the implementation of new systems, it’s vital to get other teams’ inputs, too.
Ask your employees what tools they’re comfortable using or familiar with and what features or capabilities might be helpful for them.
3. Create a collaborative culture
Your company should promote a culture of communication.
Make it a priority that your teams share information and develop relationships between departments.
Different departments should share timelines and select goals alongside other teams.
This will not only improve company efficiencies and project management, but also wellness in the workplace.
One step you can take is to create “homeroom” sessions.
Team leaders can meet to discuss team goals for the day and see where their aims intersect with other departments’ aims.
They can also ask if they should prioritize any of their tasks to help other departments complete their work.
However, a collaborative culture is born out of more than just work. Take some time each week to have departments interact with each other and create bonds and relationships.
You could try some team building games.
These can be played during weekly or monthly meetings or company social events. Carve out time each week that’s not about work but about creating a community within your company.
4. Make sure everyone is on the same page
You want to make sure all your teams share the same objectives and vision.
Explain each team’s role and how it will help you work toward your common goal.
This should be articulated in terms everyone can understand, but this only works if there is effective communication across your company.
Make sure no one is left in the dark about what they’re doing or why.
If you have a lot of team members working remotely, perhaps look into free web conferencing software. This will help your virtual teams keep in contact across departments.
Hold regular meetings about project progress and team goals.
This will ensure everyone is communicating effectively and staying aligned with your company’s vision.
You may also find that creating a shared language across your teams keeps everyone on the same page.
This can be technical or not and should help them understand the importance of the mission, their role, and why it matters.
5. Get to know other departmental processes
Team leaders need to acknowledge the places where their work overlaps with other teams.
Then, there must be an understanding of their roles to make sure this overlap is seamless.
All team members should appreciate the whole business process, not just their singular part in it.
For instance, if an IT department knows the processes of customer service departments and the agreements to which they must work, they can provide them with the right tools.
During projects, unnecessary frustrations can be avoided by having teams involved in other departments’ processes.
This ensures they fully understand how each of their roles aligns with the overall strategy and vision. Each team can also be supported by the expertise of other departments.
Make sure the outcomes and action items from team meetings are clearly communicated to your entire workforce.
Share what’s going on with your teams and what your goals are for the week.
Have your teams be proactive in teaching others about their roles and daily processes.
Don’t have them wait to be asked what they wish other teams knew about their work.
6. Provide context
It’s harder for a team to feel committed to a project if they don’t know the ways in which they’re vital to the big picture.
Teams should have visibility and an understanding of the project objectives and vision.
This way, they’ll not only be motivated to complete their team’s objectives but can provide input on how to optimize their work.
Your company should build feedback loops so employees experience the impact of their role.
For example, if you set out to improve your e-commerce brand strategy, make sure you keep your teams up to date with your progress.
Marketing, IT, and sales teams should get feedback after each step they complete. This will show them how their role has influenced the final product.
7. Encourage feedback
Across your company, make sure you also encourage your teams to give feedback.
You need to build an environment in which they feel comfortable sharing their opinions.
Don’t just put a suggestion box out; actively seek feedback by sending out regular surveys and enquiring emails. Ask your team what’s working and what’s not.
Regular feedback can help streamline intersections between departments.
It can also help teams perform better, which will improve and ease the work of other teams.
You should store all data from this feedback in the cloud to make it accessible to managers and team leaders.
However, since it could contain potentially sensitive employee, customer, and company information, make sure you look into the best CASB vendors. This will ensure the safety of your data.
8. Lead by example
Don’t ask your employees to do things you aren’t practicing yourself. Communicate, practice transparency, offer supportive feedback, and collaborate with other departments.
Also, make sure to hire managers and team leaders who will actively participate in your collaborative culture.
Prioritize these skills in your digital recruitment, and find leaders who will be team players. Executives need to champion whatever change they want to make in their companies.
Relationships among company leaders have a significant impact on how well team members collaborate.
If managers aren’t presenting a united front, it’s highly unlikely their teams will either.
Initiate meetings with managers and team leaders to understand their progress and challenges. Foster a community of group problem-solving and brainstorming.
This will make your company more innovative, help you develop effective sales strategies, and ensure customer service best practices are followed.
9. Celebrate wins
Make sure you celebrate wins and acknowledge the role each team has played in your successes.
These celebrations don’t always have to be for large milestones. Celebrating small wins can help sustain momentum and motivation while breaking down barriers.
Acknowledge these small wins and be holistic in your praise.
Celebrate success as teams, not as individuals. This will build trust and respect across departments and among team members.
Rewards don’t have to be extravagant. You can offer company-sponsored happy hours or catered lunches as a reward.
Such opportunities will give employees from different teams the chance to intermingle in a low-stress, positive environment.
You should use human resources software to keep track of the time your employees put in and their progress.
The utilization of software to monitor teams and employees will help you recognize what they’re doing well.
It will also allow you to easily celebrate things like employment anniversaries and team milestones.
10. Cultivate empathy, trust, and wellness
Mutual understanding between departments can make collaboration more efficient and effective. Encourage your teams to shadow other departments to see the challenges they face.
This will allow them to visualize your company and its mission from a different perspective.
Make communication easy for both your employees and your C-suite and management team.
Ensuring active communication will help build a culture of wellness and transparency.
Also, prioritize trust-building. There are many factors that trust is built around, from integrity to ethics and competence.
Show your employees what you’re doing to ensure the integrity and transparency of your business. This might involve putting policies and procedures in place to ensure they’re left in no doubt of your good intentions.
Consistency is important in building trust as well, so when you make policies and procedures, follow them.
Don’t surprise your employees with new policies or the enforcement of those you normally don’t recognize. Being consistent will promote a feeling of psychological safety.
Promote the idea of openness, too. There’s no such thing as a silly question or suggestion, and you should be encouraging teams to stretch their imaginations.
Make a safe space for interpersonal risk-taking that poses little danger to the business’s day-to-day functions.
Drive productivity by fostering interdepartmental collaboration
Efficient inter-departmental collaboration is vital to business success. It can improve processes and lead to innovative solutions that push your company to new heights.
Fostering it requires strong leadership, understanding, and positive communication.
Make sure your teams know their goals and how they fit into your company, encouraging feedback and curating a collaborative culture.
With all your teams working together, you will improve sales figures, customer experience, and employee wellness.
If you make interdepartmental collaboration your main objective, you can also encourage your teams to aspire toward more ambitious goals.
This creates a community of people working hard to make your company succeed.
A holistic document workflow solution like PandaDoc can support your company’s drive to interdepartmental collaboration.
It’s easy for your teams to create, comment on, and customize business-critical documents, and to use them for their cross-departmental projects.
Sign up for a free 14-day trial today to learn more.
Frequently asked questions about interdepartmental collaboration
The most important thing to bear in mind here is that employees need to see each other as colleagues and co-workers, regardless of which team they’re part of.
By fostering this open-minded culture, you pave the way for interdepartmental collaboration to become an integral part of your company’s approach.
Sales collaboration tools can also be hugely helpful in this regard, with the right technology making all the difference.
Interdepartmental collaboration helps break down barriers between groups.
This brings everyone in the company closer together while allowing different teams to learn from each other.
It’s also a great way to ensure that departments see themselves as part of a greater whole.
This promotes group thinking over individualism and drives decision-making that benefits everyone instead of a select few.
Unfortunately, this can lead to the formation of data silos and isolated thinking within teams.
Both of these make it more difficult for future collaboration, while also meaning company-wide efforts are highly challenging to pull off.
Without cross-team collaboration, each team ends up working for themselves instead of toward a common goal or under a united banner. This creates a more hostile company culture.
Collaboration means more experts weighing in on decisions.
This can slow the process of finalizing choices. However, it also means any conclusion the team reaches is likely to incorporate lots of perspectives.
When teams collaborate, they benefit from the strengths of each member.
This makes for a more productive outcome and a greater chance of success—provided the collaboration is managed effectively.
Originally published December 15, 2021, updated February 13, 2023