You hired every employee for a reason. But when they’re all working separately, your company isn’t so much a team of superheroes as a group of vigilantes taking care of their own block. If you want big results, you need to fully assemble your team of Avengers for some ultra-effective problem-solving action. 🦸🏽 Cross-functional collaboration is the key to making this happen.
Even if your small business only has a handful of team members, it’s easy for everyone to get stuck in their realms of expertise. Each person is so focused on creating their own results that they forget to communicate until the end — which means they may be taking on some roles that they may not be the best fit for.
We’ll explain how cross-functional collaboration can help your team function better and how you can implement this practice in your organization.
What is cross-functional collaboration?
Cross-functional collaboration occurs when a group of people with different areas of expertise work together to achieve one common goal. Imagine people from your marketing, customer support, and web development teams joining forces to create the best user experience possible for your website visitors. Or imagine if your sales team worked with your finance team to set the smartest budgets. Instead of working solo or within their own teams, they’re all collaborating with different departments.
It’s like you’re Simon Cowell forming the perfect boy band. You can’t just have sopranos on your team. Sometimes, you need people who can harmonize while bringing fresh perspectives. 🎶 Creating a cross-functional team ensures that you get the best chance of success.
Here’s another example: When working together, a copywriter and a graphic designer can develop the language and design of a social media ad. When working separately, one would be waiting for the project to trickle down to their team — after which, it may still need to be sent back up the ladder for edits.
Cross-functional collaboration eliminates “silos,” which occur when different teams don’t communicate with each other, often leading to double the work to achieve a single company goal. Bringing teams together can make you far more efficient than before.
6 Tips for effective cross-functional collaboration
Together is always better. ✨ But how do you get to that ideal place where cross-team collaboration is happening constantly? Here are six tips to help you connect your diverse group more effectively.
1. Identify challenges first
When you’re first diving into cross-functional collaboration, figuring out what challenges your organization as a whole is facing can be a great first step. Where are the roadblocks that are slowing you down? What projects are your team members working on in silos that they should be coming together for?
This will help you figure out what outcomes you want from your new collaboration efforts. You’ll be able to pinpoint what skills you need on your cross-functional team and exactly who you need to recruit from each department.
2. Set objectives together
When cross-functional collaboration occurs, it should have a clear purpose — and every collaborator should be on the same page about that ultimate outcome. The only thing worse than working toward the same goal in silos is not working toward a specific goal at all!
Members of your newly formed team should unite to come up with specific and measurable objectives (with deadlines). Expand on the challenges and needs you identified to create greater clarity, which will help you make decisions more effectively.
3. Define how cross-functional teams will work
When you’re uniting people from different parts of your company, they won’t magically know how to work together. Different departments often have their own workflows and brainstorming processes (and maybe even secret handshakes). Each person’s ideal path to the finish line could be completely different. 🏃♀️
When you create a cross-functional team, it’s like everyone’s a new employee. Many will be working with each other for the first time, so they all need to learn how to mesh together as a team. You don’t want everyone to think with the exact same mindset, since diverse ideas and skill sets are what make cross-functional collaboration work so well, but you do want everyone to follow the same, organized decision-making processes.
Be clear about each person’s role on the team, including if there’s a team leader. Outline what steps your cross-functional team needs to take to brainstorm ideas, communicate, report back to their individual departments, and more.
4. Use a project management tool
Creating a central hub for your cross-functional project can help you complete it with ease. Project management tools like ClickUp, Trello, and Asana allow you to create a dedicated space for your project where your new team can create and assign tasks, loop in the right people, and collaborate with ease.
Not sure where everyone’s at? Just jump into your project space to take a look at the latest status update or tag a team member inside a task with a follow-up question!
5. Drive communication with OpenPhone
Making team communication easy is the best way to encourage people from different departments to intermingle. If your team members have to keep five different tabs open just to chat with people across your org, they probably won’t go through the hassle — and if they do, they won’t be able to do so efficiently.
OpenPhone makes it easy for your team members to DM any coworker, all on one platform and from anywhere. ⚡ Whether they’re using a smartphone, tablet, or computer, they simply need to tap on a team member’s name to start connecting about a project or to ask a question.
Each user can even set their own status, so when someone’s in a meeting, you’ll know to wait before setting off their ringtone. Streamlined cross-functional collaboration without the embarrassing moments? We’re here for it. 🙌
With OpenPhone, you can also easily forward or transfer calls to members of different teams, so your cross-functional collaboration can create the best possible client experience, too.
6. Make cross-team collaboration part of your culture
Cross-functional collaboration doesn’t always have to be an official effort. In fact, when it’s part of your culture, members of different teams will come together more naturally. Co-workers should always be comfortable asking each other for opinions and ideas, even if they’re just shooting each other quick DMs on OpenPhone.
One way you can break down the silos and the lack of trust between departments is by hosting team-building activities. Set up fun activities that get diverse groups to practice teamwork, or simply host team socials to help everyone understand each other as people. Who could resist making friends at a company happy hour, even if it’s virtual? 🥂
On a day-to-day basis, make an effort to recognize your team members for effective collaboration. Highlight their efforts during one-on-ones or use a remote work tool like Zestful to easily give your employees actual prizes (like gift cards and PTO) for their great work.
And of course, don’t forget to practice what you preach. Take the time to touch base with everyone on your team, so your dedication to cross-functional collaboration bleeds into the rest of the organization.
Get your team to intermingle
Helping your team reach their max potential starts with encouraging them to work together — beyond their assigned departments. From implementing collaboration tools to hosting work socials your team will love, your efforts will allow cross-functional collaboration to bloom, so you always have the right people working on the right tasks. As your employees begin to communicate across team lines, you’ll no longer be doing double the work to achieve one common goal.
See how a great communication tool can help you improve inter-team collaboration with a free trial of OpenPhone.
Emily is a freelance business and marketing writer based in the desert, though her writing is anything but dry. Her passion is writing compelling, human-friendly content that helps growing businesses perform better.