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How to Foster Cross‑Functional Collaboration for Business Growth

Cross‑functional collaboration can help organizations innovate and improve employee productivity. Learn more about this business structure here.

Most businesses have siloed departments that work on specific projects with little communication or collaboration with other teams. While this traditional business structure can work for some companies, it can hinder growth for others.

Cross-functional collaboration can fuel business growth, enabling teams and individuals with different types of skill sets and experiences to work together to complete a project. This model might only be effective for some projects, but allowing teams to work together allows employees to step out of their comfort zones while maximizing productivity.

But what is cross-functional collaboration, and should your business use it? Keep reading to learn more about this collaborative effort, including its benefits and how to implement it in your business today.

What is cross-functional collaboration?

Cross-functional collaboration is an internal business process where employees from different teams or departments work together to complete a project or reach a goal. It involves eliminating the silos in a traditional business structure and promoting communication and coordination across various internal business processes.

You already know the benefits of team collaboration. Encouraging employees from the same teams and departments to work together toward a common goal can make some initiatives more effective. For instance, within your marketing department, you might have separate teams: social media, search engine optimization, content, multi-channel, and so forth.

When these teams work together, they can reach marketing objectives much faster and more efficiently. At the same time, this collaborative team structure supports overall customer success by creating more cohesive and comprehensive strategies.

Cross-functional collaboration works in the same way. However, instead of teams within the same department working together, individuals across departments —or functions — form a team for a project.

In these teams, employees with different backgrounds, jobs, and skills work together to achieve success by collaborating on various projects.

How does cross-functional collaboration encourage business growth?

If you're used to a more traditional business structure, you might wonder how cross-functional team collaboration can fuel business growth. After all, you train employees for specific roles within a team. However, there are benefits of cross-functional teams for businesses and their employees, such as:

Improve employee engagement

Cross-functional teams can boost employee engagement and morale by allowing workers to collaborate and share their knowledge, fostering a positive work environment based on a shared goal. Allowing employees to step out of their comfort zones can enhance overall satisfaction, and satisfied, happy employees are often more productive.

Promote innovation

Since cross-functional collaboration brings individuals with different backgrounds and experiences together, it can promote innovation within a company. These individuals can challenge each other and provide diverse ideas that lead to innovative business development, products, services, and strategies.

Streamline processes

Cross-functional collaboration streamlines efficiency in the workplace by promoting better coordination and communication among different departments and teams. This eliminates redundancies and can help optimize resource allocation in ways that save the company time and money.

Gain insight into different departments

Not all of your employees want to stay where they are. Some might want to make lateral moves or learn more about what other departments do to determine whether they want to remain on the same career path. Cross-functional collaboration shows employees the important tasks other departments work on and can help them decide which department is best suited for them.

Better business adaptability

In a competitive marketplace, businesses must adapt quickly to consumer demands, competition, and overall market changes. By collaborating with cross-functional teams, you'll have different perspectives and expertise businesses can use to identify new strategies.

Limitations of cross-functional collaboration

The traditional business structure is still around because it has its purpose and works for most companies. While cross-functional collaboration sounds good in theory, several limitations can prevent organizations from using it effectively, such as:

Remote teams

It can be challenging to promote collaboration across departments when all your teams are remote or work different hours. Different priorities and conflicting schedules can slow down collaborative efforts.

However, cross-functional collaboration is still possible in a remote setting when you create a strategy that allows teams to collaborate more efficiently. It may be as simple as scheduling regular meetings at the same time every day or as complex as using project management tools to track progress alongside meetings, leveraging private messaging groups, and continuously aligning and re-aligning goals.

Misunderstandings and lack of communication

Many businesses deal with misunderstandings and poor communication on a daily basis. This issue is nothing new for you, but it can be frustrating for your employees.

Luckily, you can resolve this issue by ensuring every team member knows how to communicate effectively with everyone else, documenting project progress, meetings, and deadlines, and providing regular updates to keep everyone on the same page.

Inadequate conflict resolution

There are many different personality types in the workplace, but finding ways to work with diverse individuals is crucial. Collaborative leaders must have conflict-resolution skills that enable them to solve problems quickly. Conflicts are bound to arise when working in teams with individuals with mixed backgrounds.

However, they don't have to impede project progress. Instead, leaders can avoid conflicts by using clear communication and taking conflict resolution classes to help them solve problems between team members faster.

Conflicting goals

Individuals from different departments have different responsibilities and goals. For example, employees from the marketing team might have the goal of generating leads, while those from the development team aim to finish an app. These 2 teams might work together to launch the app, but their end goals differ.

To solve this potential limitation and bridge the gap between departments, clearly communicate how each team member contributes to the project's overall vision or objective. Promoting effective communication, providing training and support, and addressing barriers ahead of time can help you avoid some of the common challenges of cross-functional teams.

Tips for cross-functional teams

The entire cross-functional team needs support and tools to help them communicate and collaborate, whether or not they work remotely. Team leaders should be able to provide everything the entire team needs to work together toward a common goal.

Here are a few tips to help you build an effective cross-team collaboration strategy:

Use technology

Technology and tools like project management software can facilitate communication across various teams. Since diverse teams work on cross-functional projects, you must ensure your goals span across departments but don't interfere with other important work. By using technology, you can properly schedule projects and enable managers to work together to foster a collaborative environment.

Ensure effective communication

Effective communication is crucial. Project leaders must keep all tasks current and consistently check in with team members in various departments. Since these individuals have plans for their cross-functional projects and individual departmental goals and functions, they'll require consistent communication to ensure everyone is on the same page.

Work toward one goal

Cross-functional projects require that team members work toward a single, specific goal. Otherwise, the various duties involved can quickly get muddled. Team members come from different departments where they're used to a specific type of objective. However, when they collaborate, that goal changes and becomes something everyone works toward.

Therefore, not only should your cross-functional project have a single purpose, but it should also be specific and understandable for everyone on the team.

Standardize workflows

Standardizing workflows is crucial when you have employees with different perspectives and personalities. You should assign roles, tasks, and processes before the project begins and ensure everyone understands how their work affects the overall goal and the efforts of their peers.

Use team-building activities to bond

Working with a new team can be stressful for employees. Effective cross-functional collaboration requires staff to trust one another. Team building activities can help new cross-functional team members get to know each other and problem-solve together, creating opportunities for them to build more personal connections with each other and their work.

Provide structure

All cross-functional teams need a leader who can help guide them and explain their roles, responsibilities, and individual tasks. Assigning a team leader to ensure the work is being completed on time, set priorities, and support every team member will keep the project running smoothly.

Improve your business with cross-functional collaboration

Cross-functional team collaboration can improve your business by allowing individuals with diverse backgrounds and expertise to work together toward a common goal. By bringing your employees out of their silos and into collaborative environments, you can solve problems in new and innovative ways while engaging them and promoting productivity.

The key to cross-functional collaboration is communication. A strong internal communications strategy ensures all team members from different departments stay up to date on the latest news and updates. In addition, you should use tools that allow team members to work together. Mailchimp's marketing tools make it easier for teams to collaborate, measure their results, and optimize their campaigns. Try Mailchimp today.

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