How to improve communication across departments
Friday, August 07, 2020
Good communication has always been an important aspect of a healthy, thriving business. And yet, with the coronavirus pandemic scattering countless employees, teams, and departments to the four winds, maintaining proper communication channels has never been more critical to success.
As the ongoing situation continues to drag out, remote teams must work to improve their modes of communication from afar in order to keep their businesses running smoothly. Nowhere is this effort more essential than in interdepartmental correspondence and collaboration.
A Trio of Tips for Improving Communication Across Departments
It’s good to address communication both externally with clients and internally within your team members. However, if you’re part of a larger organization, there is a third layer of communication that must be addressed.
If your company is big enough to operate with fully autonomous departments, it’s worthwhile to ensure that each department is maintaining an appropriate level of communication and collaboration with one another. Particularly during a crisis, department-focused priorities, competitiveness, and preferences must be set aside in the name of greater organizational success.
With that in mind, here are a handful of tips and best practices that you can implement within your company in order to make sure that your departments are communicating with peak efficiency.
One of the nice things about working with a team is that you’re typically all laboring towards a clear, shared goal. However, that uniformity can often break down when the concept is taken to a companywide level. Sure, everyone wants to work towards profitability and success, but the paths, activities, priorities, and methods can vary dramatically from one department to the next.
A marketer will want to spend money on ads while someone in research and development will want to use the same cash to develop a new product. An HR rep may want to invest in a training program whereas someone in IT could be focused on upgrading software.
With so many different forces pulling in various directions, it’s important for leaders and managers to avoid using broad stroke communication tactics as they attempt to keep everyone on the same page. Instead, look for ways to address the specific communication needs for each scenario.
For instance, the American Institute of CPAs suggests that accountants focus on interpersonal communication skills that can be communicated verbally and in a written format. Therefore, when you’re working on improving communication between accounting and other departments, make sure that these factors are present so that your financial staff can properly and effectively communicate with other departments who require accounting input.
Since the pandemic struck and people moved to work from home, a light has shone directly on the importance of transparency to enhance effectiveness and productivity within remote teams. In addition, articles addressing transparency between employers and employees were a dime a dozen even before the coronavirus was a concern. However, this emphasis on transparency should also be extended to interdepartmental communication as well.
As a larger company, it’s imperative that your departments not only correspond with one another. They must also use their communication channels to work together, too. This can be challenging when you’re operating remotely and everyone is focused on their own goals, objectives, departments, teams, co-workers, and projects.
However, leadership must encourage departments to actively strive to stay on the same page on a regular basis. Department heads should regularly meet virtually. Goals, targets, deadlines, and progress updates should be openly and proactively communicated between departments as well.
For example, if your R&D team is going to miss a deadline, the marketing and sales departments should be notified immediately to tailor their own plans going forward. By consistently remaining open, honest, and current with their information-sharing behavior, your departments can maintain unity and cohesiveness even when everyone is working on different projects from home.
Finally, once communication has been improved, it’s essential that you take the time to review the state of intercommunication between your company’s departments on a regular basis. With so much adaptation and innovation continually taking place, if this activity is left unaddressed, it can quickly lead to deterioration within existing, formerly robust channels. This can drag down productivity, cause frustration between departments, and even undermine the quality of your work environment — poor communication is one of the top causes for a toxic workplace.
It doesn’t matter if you’re working in healthcare, e-commerce, or any other industry, you’re bound to be impacted by the changes and repercussions of the COVID-19 crisis sooner or later (or even both) and will need to adapt your interdepartmental communications as you go along if you want them to remain effective in perpetuity.
Maintaining and Improving Interdepartmental Communication
The world has focused on the “new normal” for a while now. While there’s a certain inevitability to the concept, though, it’s what you choose to do in the uncertain times ahead that creates the “next normal.” In other words, while shifting circumstances may be out of your control, what you do to react to them is entirely within your control.
This doesn’t just apply to broad, sweeping concepts, either. It includes even the nitty-gritty details, such as keeping up healthy, productive interdepartmental communication, even when your staff is working from home.
If you can surgically address communication issues, maintain transparency between departments, and regularly update and review your policies as the situation develops, you will be able to perpetually improve your internal communication — and, by extension, your bottom line.
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