Although most leaders understand the importance of cross-functional team collaboration, it remains a major challenge for many organizations. Bringing together employees from different departments (as varied as sales, IT, HR, development, and logistics) and backgrounds to complete projects and drive innovation comes with unique advantages and hurdles alike.
Employees and teams are often used to working, communicating, and collaborating in a certain way. It can be a jarring experience when they become part of a cross-functional team and have to shift gears and behaviors in order to accomplish project objectives. Solving these problems and assembling a cross-departmental team that works like a well-oiled machine can be a challenging task, and the adoption of hybrid and remote workstyles add even more complexity.
Traditional methods of improving cross-team collaboration have been historically tied to in-person work setups. In remote work and hybrid work environments, not only do business leaders need to facilitate cross-team collaboration in their physical workspaces, but they have to do so virtually as well. To help you effectively address these challenges, let’s examine five methods that you can use to improve cross-team collaboration at work.
1. Ensure Leadership Buy-In & Support
A Harvard Business Review study reveals that 75% of cross-functional teams are dysfunctional because they fail to meet some or all of the following criteria:
- Maintaining alignment with the company’s corporate goals
- Meeting customer expectations
- Adhering to specifications
- Staying on schedule
- Meeting a planned budget
On the flip side, the report also indicates that cross-team projects enjoy a 76% success rate when they are led by a team of leaders from different departments or a high-level executive. These findings emphasize the importance of leading from the top-down when it comes to cross-team collaboration and the overall success of the organization.
Leadership behaviors and examples have a powerful influence on the ability of cross-functional teams to achieve goals and objectives. As such, organizations should ensure that management is visible, transparent, and accessible to team members.
While it’s not realistic for leaders to be present at all team meetings, it’s essential that they show up for high-level progress meetings, strategy sessions, and weekly/monthly project status reports. Also, various communication channels should be available for cross-team members to leverage in order to facilitate seamless communication between themselves and their leaders.
2. Reward Team Achievements and Celebrating Project Milestones
Team energy, excitement, and commitment are usually high at the launch of a new project but sustaining such momentum becomes difficult as time progresses. Once team members encounter the daily struggles and challenges required to complete a project, they can become demotivated, causing cross-team momentum to suffer.
Business leaders can inspire and boost cross-team collaboration by giving team members something to look forward to by recognizing project milestones, rewarding team achievements, and cross-collaborative breakthroughs. While recognition from management is welcome, employees feel more appreciated when fellow colleagues recognize and applaud their efforts. Peer recognition is a powerful motivating factor and can help build stronger bonds, promote goodwill among team members, and foster cross-team collaboration.
3. Build Trusting Relationships Between Team Members
Trust is an essential ingredient of high-performing teams. To be able to form such trusting relationships, cross-team members need to spend time together to get to know each other and build meaningful camaraderie in different settings. While several strategies can be used (in a physical office environment) to achieve this, today’s remote work setup requires HR personnel to think outside the box. Some strategies that can be used to boost bonding and build trust between cross-team members include:
- Hosting online social events and encouraging team members to play virtual reality games that facilitate bonding
- Using HD video conferencing solutions to allow remote team members to communicate with each other face-to-face, creating the impression that they are in the same room
4. Clearly Outline Team Goals and Objectives
Once cross-team collaborators get to know each other and build rapport, it’s a good idea to create a team charter outlining the purpose and overall goals of the team and the roles individual members will play in achieving the stated objectives. The charter should include:
- Mission & Objectives
- Team Roles
- Budget & Resources
When team members understand what the overall objective is and their part (and that of other team members) in making it happen, they feel more aligned with the organization’s goals and can collaborate more effectively.
5. Set Up Informal Communication Hubs for Remote, Hybrid, and In-Office Employees
Centralizing communications is a key step towards fostering team collaboration. Setting aside a dedicated space and equipping it with an “always-on” video portal can foster camaraderie by enabling communication between team members in the office and remote employees during shared work hours. Whether in-person, remote, or hybrid, creating environments that allow team members to communicate informally with one another and hold impromptu meetings — two elements that go a long way in facilitating innovation through spontaneous collaboration.
Although true cross-team collaboration is more about the people involved than software, the right solutions and tools in place can help make a meaningful impact. In a world where remote and hybrid work are increasing in popularity organizations require software that fosters communication and enhances cross-team collaboration by breaking down silos and simplifying teamwork. For those remaining in the office, it’s equally important to leverage tools and workspace designs that promote effective collaboration across teams in-person as well.
Most importantly, leaders must leverage the right data and analytics to understand how behavioral patterns and team collaboration impact business outcomes. Used correctly and ethically, these insights can uncover latent opportunities for business leaders and HR personnel to improve cross-team collaboration where it’s needed most. By uncovering what’s working and what’s not, organizations can make continuous improvements to facilitate seamless collaboration and maximize both the employee experience and team productivity.