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14 ways to improve interdepartmental communication

Members of the Young Entrepreneur Council share advice on how to bring two distant departments together.

6 min read




The Young Entrepreneur Council is an invite-only organization composed of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. YEC has also launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses. Read previous SmartBrief posts by YEC.

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Q: How can you improve communication between departments that don’t typically interact much?

1. Avoid silos

Our team started developing silos at eight people. Silos are pervasive and toxic, limiting the flow of best practices and feedback. Ours formed around project teams. To combat this, we pushed project team formation back several weeks and instead pulled *everyone* into initial project planning. We find doing so establishes a foundation of communal interest in projects, in which silos can’t form. — Giles Ochs, Prospect Bio

2. Make them interact

I would make the two departments interact once a week at a set time and location. Then introduce the likes of Slack or Voxer or whatever communication platform and create a room for those departments to stay synced up. If the conversation still isn’t flowing you could always throw some heat into the chatroom or put them right next to each other or in the same room. — Engelo Rumora, List’n Sell Realty

3. Hold weekly leadership meetings

We keep a weekly leadership meeting on our calendar that we never cancel just so every team leader can have time together in the same room once a week. As your company grows and scales, it is crucial that you find time for every department to interact and discuss problems and solutions that affect everyone. — Jennifer Mellon, Trustify

4. Make it contextual

Collaboration or communication between departments can be a challenge when team members don’t understand the effect they have on the big picture. Give every department a holistic view of the company and let them partake in a common goal. Encourage sharing of information around the shared objectives by having interdepartmental meetings headed by the leadership of all teams. — Derek Robinson, Top Notch Dezigns

5. Set company-wide, high-level goals

A great way to improve communication is to maintain a few company-wide, high-level goals. By creating tasks and goals with fewer borders, employees are more likely to think of about a project from various perspectives rather than just their position and further engage with others outside of their department. —  Zohar Steinberg, token

6.. Form cross-departmental teams

Pulling a cross-functional team together to tackle a project is a great way to get departments to interact. When individuals from different departments work together towards a common goal, it can go a long way in fostering communication between the groups. — Douglas Baldasare, ChargeItSpot

7. Hire someone to act as a bridge

One way to increase communication between departments that don’t usually interact is to hire somebody whose job is split between the two departments. For example, between the marketing and business development teams, hiring someone that does both increases communication on both sides because that person needs to go to marketing and communication meetings. — Joel Butterly, InGenius Prep

8. Use general channels

Whether you use Slack, Telegram or an in-house chat system, it’s important to create a space where different teams can interact with each other. Beyond talking about productivity, this channel should enable teams to talk about general topics and build a rapport. There are various tools now that facilitate this, Slack and Telegram being two of the strongest. — Marcela De Vivo, Mulligan Funding

9. Create clubs

Clubs are great ways to meet different people in the company that you don’t work with on a daily basis. Come up with a short process to create a club and let your employees decide which clubs get formed. Before you know it, you’ll have a variety of clubs, from books clubs to gamers’ clubs, there will be something for everyone. — Jared Atchison, WPForms

10. Throw social events

To open up communication between departments with suboptimal interactivity, organize social events — from happy hours to offsite lunches to beach days — that employees will voluntarily attend and that will allow attendees to organically develop relationships and friendships with one another. When you have friends in another department, you will be in communication with that department regularly. — Adam Mendler, Beverly Hills Chairs

11. Set up quarterly retreats

Our company has a distributed workforce that spans three continents. We are constantly facing the challenge of getting our departments to communicate, challenge which is exacerbated by the fact that the team members are separated by thousands of miles. We solve this by organizing retreats where people spend time together having fun; this breaks down barriers and gets people talking. — Diego Orjuela, Cables & Sensors

12. Hold team lunches

When I organized company-wide complementary lunches every Friday, I was surprised at how many employees would show up and interact with each other. The promise of free food brings people together who would never otherwise interact in a professional setting. Once individuals from different departments began to eat together, communication improved immensely. — Bryce Welker, CPA Exam Guy

13. De-compartmentalize workshops

In the world of SEO, we deal with multiple departments, from tech to development to PR, which don’t typically interact with each other. In order to get everyone in the room and collaborate on an SEO strategy, we hold workshops and bootcamps. Our professional certifications result in high the participation and attendance since the teams perceive it as a benefit, not another “boardroom” meeting. — Matthew Capala, Alphametic

14. Schedule face time — literally and figuratively

If communication is breaking down, it’s a result of relationship breakdown. Audio conference calls do not build relationships. Human beings believe very little of what they hear. We believe more of what they see. As a result, get your people on video conference calls and insist that their camera is on. Visual cues and body language make people human, and only humans can fix a relationship. — Paul-Anthony Surdi, Academy of Responsible Tattooing, LLC