If your business has multiple departments or even just employees who do vastly different tasks, you must be aware of interdepartmental communication. Even at small businesses, where it’s easier to communicate with co-workers, there are ways to improve communication between departments.
What is interdepartmental communication?
Interdepartmental communication is communication between a business’s departments. Departments might need to talk about shared projects, new promotions, changes in goods or services, sales projections, or anything else that might affect multiple departments. Interdepartmental communication can be as simple as a departmental email update or a more complex meeting about a shared project.
Communication between departments is sometimes called cross-departmental communication.
The importance of interdepartmental communication
Your business will perform better when your teams communicate with each other.
Effective interdepartmental communication keeps information moving. A team doesn’t keep all its information to itself. Instead, it shares information with other teams so everyone can do their best work.
For example, when your marketing department begins advertising a new promotion, the marketing team should tell the sales department. The sales department needs to know about the promotion, such as the start and end dates, so it can make sure customers receive the deal they saw. If the sales team doesn’t know the details, there will likely be frustrated customers.
Once the sales team makes a sale, it must communicate with the people who handle accounts receivable. If they don’t know about the sale, they won’t know that they need to collect money, and your business will lose income.
Customers receive better service when your business has good interdepartmental communication. When teams communicate, everyone has the same service, offerings, and billing.
When people or entire departments are only focused on speed and self-promotion, communication will break down. Important information will not travel. People will lack the knowledge to best complete their tasks. Customers will not receive the best service. And when customers aren’t served well, they’ll take their money elsewhere.
Lack of communication can lead to conflict. People will fight. Teams will distrust each other. Finger pointing will happen as teams blame each other for mistakes and inefficiency.
Your business must develop positive interdepartmental communication to prevent conflict, increase efficiency, and satisfy customers.
How to improve interdepartmental communication
Improving interdepartmental communication can benefit your business. Use these interdepartmental communication strategies to get your employees talking.
Employees should build relationships with people outside of their departments. Stronger relationships increase trust, which leads to an improved ability to work together.
Employees might grow relationships by inviting co-workers for coffee or lunch. They might also do activities together after work.
You can organize events where employees can get to know each other. You can host holiday parties, seasonal get-togethers, or achievement celebrations. Encourage employees to talk to people outside of their departments. To promote interdepartmental mingling, you can assign seating.
Encourage your employees to meet regularly. If you need to, schedule regular times when employees across departments can meet.
When employees meet, they should seek out ways to help each other. Employees should share their needs. They can ask co-workers to help on projects.
Train employees to think about others, not just themselves. Selflessness will promote communication and cooperation between departments.
Create action items
Communication shouldn’t end when an interdepartmental meeting ends.
Meetings shouldn’t just be information dumps where employees spew facts about what they’re working on. Your employees should use meetings to also create goals and action items.
Employees should leave the meeting with tasks that will help their co-workers and improve the business. Employees can divide up tasks, or you can assign tasks to each person.
Use familiar terms
Each department uses their own terminology. While everyone in the department might know what the terms mean, it might be jargon to employees in other departments. Unfamiliar terms can cause confusion and alienate those who don’t understand.
When employees from different departments work together, they should explain their terminology. In some cases, it might be better to leave behind departmental terms and use other words that are familiar to everyone.
Remove physical barriers
Sometimes, communication can struggle if there are physical barriers in the way. For example, if one or all of your employees work remotely, it’ll be more difficult to have regular communication. Flexible work arrangements can be great for individuals, but bad for teams if the proper systems aren’t in place.
Give employees the things they need to communicate effectively. If you have remote employees, make sure everyone has access to email, online chat tools, and video conferencing software. For employees in your workplace, make sure they have meeting places where they won’t disturb others.
Focus on company needs
Your employees will be tempted to think about themselves and ways they can grow. They will want to compete for personal advancement. When employees are competing against each other, they won’t have strong communication. They will only communicate when it helps themselves.
Teach your employees to think about the business’s needs. Make sure they regularly think about how to advance and improve your business. Show employees that there isn’t an “us vs. them” battle. Instead, there is only the company and what is best for it.
When employees are focused on the single goal to improve the business, they will work better together.