Beware of silo re-forming because of remote work

Corporate silos are the enemies of collaboration, knowledge transfer, problem solving and innovation, contribute to its complication and undermine engagement and sense of belonging. In short, if it is not the only one, it is one of the major diseases of business.

With all the current debates on remote work, where companies and employees have discovered its benefits and limitations willy-nilly, the issue of silos is coming back to the forefront, even in organisations that have more or less eradicated the problem.

In remote work, cross-functionality is less natural when it is unorganised.

As we have seen during the confinement, remote work leads to a polarisation of exchanges and attention around missions and projects, a logical consequence of the culture of results it engenders and of the fact that opportunities for informal meetings and discussions are reduced.

Logically, as with the transmission of knowledge (and the two subjects are moreover close), what is not organized is happening less and less at a distance and the life of the employee is happening more and more at the level of the team and the project which, if we are not careful, will become the unique daily horizon of the employee and lock him or her into increasingly reduced perimeters and recreate silos between teams.

The risks: loss of the overall feeling of belonging to the company to the benefit of belonging to the team only, less innovation due to a lack of “cross-pollination”, less knowledge of other professions which in the end rubs off on collaboration, less efficient transmission of knowledge and information…

How can we remedy this? Experience shows that companies have tried to multiply the number of cross-functional meetings in a very logical way. But the approach has its limits: 20 people in a meeting is complicated, 100 is technically possible but illusory if the objective is to create discussions.

It is therefore necessary to recreate “organised transversality” and, if possible, productive transversality in order to re-engage employees across silos, starting from the principle that in remote work there is a tendency to concentrate only on productive tasks and to move away from informal interactions.

Saving in real estate but investing in “living together”.

This category can be made up of innovation systems or by having employees from different professions and specialties collaborate on cross-disciplinary offers. There are a host of mechanisms to be invented according to your needs, but one thing is certain: when it’s not a little forced and organized from a distance, cross-functionality is lost to the detriment of a life in silos.

Solutions that work when remote work is forced and permanent. When face-to-face meetings are possible, even if remote work is the norm or almost the norm, it is of course possible to rethink the reasons why we meet at the office, to think of the office as a place for socializing…and to organize more meeting times on a company-wide or smaller scale. For those who think that financial gain on office real estate is the one and only reason to favour remote work, one has to bear in mind that part of the gain will be absorbed by the need for more corporate events (but the balance will remain largely positive anyway).

Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler

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