How to overcome a silo mentality in your organisation

A black bull stands next to a tall silo in rural Illinois.

Most leaders within the care industry will agree that the fragmented and increasingly complex nature of the sector in which we operate often leads to a state of fragmentation, whereby some stakeholders retract into their own self-imposed groups – or ‘silos’.

We all know that a silo mentality exists, the question is what can care leaders do to breakdown these barriers and encourage greater integration across health and social care departments?

The effects of silos within organisations are well documented and range from a waste of valuable resources, a lack of inter-departmental communication, opportunities for growth lost by the non-sharing of best practice, low levels of productivity and a disengaged workforce. All of which have a negative impact on the organisation’s bottom line. But what causes silos in the first place?

Some companies actually encourage inter-departmental competition, resulting in individuals being of the opinion that their work is of greater importance that that of their colleagues elsewhere in the organisation. This has been shown to see some employees report feeling undervalued by their employer, which often leads to resentment and in some instances staff leaving the organisation altogether.

It’s easy to dismiss departmental inefficiencies and poor cross-functional communication as a result of immature employees, a lack of training or even colleagues not liking each other. However, although these factors inevitably contribute to silos, they are not root causes in themselves.

So what can be done to breakdown these silos?

A silo mind-set does not appear accidentally. More often than not it is the consequence of a disjointed and non-aligned senior management team.

Organisational leaders need to do just that – lead. They need to set an example and instil a culture that proactively supports strategic alliances between teams, joint ventures and all-round cooperation and collaboration both at departmental and individual level.

They also need to effectively communicate the positives to be gained by forging these mutually beneficial relationships. By understanding the vision, mission and goals of the department and how they are aligned with those of the organisation as a whole will create an element of trust between ‘partners’ who share common goals.

Having made headway on a joint project, for instance, it is important to review what happened and disseminate the findings and key take-aways across all teams involved. Long-term partnerships can only be successful if there is a clear management of each other’s expectations but also an acute awareness of those areas in the relationship that may need to be developed further.

A unified leadership encourages trust, creates a united vision and breaks down managers’ ‘my department’ mentality into ‘our organisation’. All employees need to be made aware of how they can make an impact as individuals with frequent meetings held to review progress against each assigned task.

Think routine and constant reinforcement. Identifying what motivates employees, and incentivising them accordingly, will help to eradicate any ‘it’s not my job’ mentality and encourage teamwork.

Overcoming silos is not an easy task but avoiding these issues is certain to have worse repercussions to employees and the organisation itself. After all, there are few things more powerful than a unified team working hard towards the same goal.