Are your staff living in silos? Here’s how you remove the barriers as a business, without breaking the bank!

Does the concept of a business silo seem familiar?

Because frankly it’s doing my head in and it’s so easy to change…

The biggest issue facing companies in the City and all across the UK today is their issue with the silo effect!

As a commercial & sales consultant I see this in companies day in and day out and have done over 14 years. Increasingly with pressure to achieve, less and less staff are willing to risk their job by putting their head above the parapet for fear of being internally ostracised or made to feel uncomfortable if they support the wrong initiative.

In our day to day lives we all make mistakes and we learn from these as best as we can, just as we do in a business, the only difference is that if you cost a CEO time, money or customer relationships, then you get fired. Often when you think outside the box and push boundaries for change, you get fired. And on many an occasion I’ve see those who could be the catalyst for a company becoming great, shelved, because the company are not willing to support their emotional issues and the ‘stress factor’ in roles at any level of the business…  fundamentally companies fear change.

The fear change, but they fear it because they worry that they might lose out and the devil you know, beats the devil you don’t!

Incidentally, younger generations of work horses have spotted this issue and they’re more inclined to hop from job to job to ‘rank up’ their salary and job title. Companies are often also trying to be flexible with job titles and I think if I see another 20 year old VP that can barely push out facial hair, I may be sick… that said, when someone comes into the business with this mindset it’s no different to a cancer and they’re never truly devoted to the business, so they’re either impressively happy, because they’re taking the p*ss and rinsing your coffers, or they’re depressed because they only doing this to ensure they can afford the flat they like and they’re looking for the next opportunity to jump into a new pay/job title bracket, neither of these scenarios is good for your business.

What’s more, is that there is so often a disconnect between departments, no one really values their colleagues, so they stick to their silo and focus on getting through another day. But that’s not how business or society will ever work well… because if we don’t value each other and within businesses if we don’t value each others roles without prejudice, then the environment becomes toxic and the following occurs:

Fact: If your staff don’t connect with other areas of the business well, then you get bottle necks…

Fact: Internal process bottle necks kill revenue, unnecessarily waste time and make everyone unhappy…

Fact: When departments in a business are compartmentalised, depression runs high and motivation runs low…

Fact: Staff within a huge proportion of London based companies are only working at 40-60% efficiency, again this effects the bottom line and in addition morale…

So how do you change this, without breaking the bank, to build the foundations of change?

Simple… start small!

1: The Leadership Team

If your leadership team are not on board with your company vision, you’re screwed! So the first focus for any business should be to meet and discuss how to improve the office well-being. Everyone in the business needs to pull in the same direction, or life gets territorial and silos strengthen.

If your leadership team understand the value of change and taking a new approach to connecting staff and departments on an emotive level, then you stand a good chance in change.

If your business leaders are on board, then morale is increased, along with the clarity of vision and the company tone of voice. This a fundamental in evolving your business to become successful in our ever changing climate.

2: Stick to the plan!

Obviously after any leadership team buy in, they still each have a role to fulfil, from the MD to the Ops Director, to HR and beyond, depending on how large the organisation is.

It’s important that they’re not just bought in to the idea of change, they’re given structured quantitative initiatives that they can focus on to develop their individual teams and then have a common goal as a unit, in order to create the bridge between silos.

So firstly as a management team you have a joint vision for the business, then you have the vision for the individual leaders/champions that they implement within their teams to ensure that each department had transparency and clarity of vision and alongside this there should be some analysis as to issues effecting each business department, that that as a senior team you can work as a unit to solve these issues and ensure that the day to day running of the business, is not hindered by anything easily solvable through communication.

3: The Motivations within the business…

It’s very easy for a Sales Director to sit down and think up incentive’s for their team that may increase sales, it’s not so easy for an HR Director, Ops Director, IT Director, to create motivation…

As a specialist in sales & commercial revenue generation I can tell you I’m slightly more confident in anything I do because I’m a fee earner, not a fee burner… as some might term it.

An incentive is not always the way to motivate a change.

In every business you have goals, targets, deadlines for activity in every department, so set these, focus the strategy within the silos if you ever hope to get out.

If you’ve followed steps one and two and by some miracle all of your leadership team agree on the same direction, then you’re half way there already, because step 3 and the motivating factor is essentially knowing that your line manager knows what they’re doing and knows how to achieve it.

It’s important for every member of the leadership team to take ownership over the translation for the wider vision, down the waterfall into their team, so people know where you stand as a business and where they stand as a unit. This inspires confidence and solidarity within teams.

And remember, motivation covers a broad spectrum, they could relate in the simplest form, to a sales commission, but if you learn about the individuals that you manage then motivation covers everything, from positivity and encouragement, to knowing what your staff want as an individual, from the role, or from their life… Very often you’ll find that when you care, or you ask how someone is, or what they want to achieve and ‘actually’ listen, then it’s much easier to find the driver that gives them what they need, while delivering what the business needs, so that everyone’s happier.

4: Collaboration and being Creative

If you’re a director you’ll probably have seen motivation posters in your time the relate to 4 key attributes for any business leader. The consist of confidence, collaboration, creativity and most importantly knowledge…

But there’s no reason why these shouldn’t be the drivers behind your entire workforce.

If you encourage collaboration; if awards, company’s events etc. transcend job description then you remove the disconnect.

One innovative idea you might consider is to have a simple anonymous suggestions box, or for the tech savvy an anonymous survey online that staff are requested to complete (just don’t get carried away and send them 50 mundane questions about operational approach! Let someone creative lead this!).

Seems a bit trivial… but the irony is, that the simplest things, encourage the wildest change…

If you offer your whole workforce the opportunity to give their own candid feedback about the business and issues they see or face every day, then within 48 hours you’ll have most of the answers you need to evolve set down on paper.

Then what happens, you repeat suggestions 1 through 3 and the waterfall effect will do the rest… You see, by empowering everyone from the receptionist to the IT crowd, you’re letting people know that you actually give a sh*t about their opinion! And there’s no greater motivator than the feeling that people care!

5: Find some space for peoples well-being

This could be anything from a daily tea session where everyone has to step away from the electronics, to a massage therapist that comes in ones a week to give free massage…

Some of the most effective businesses work on the monthly methodology.

This is where every single month without fail there’s an activity afternoon, on occasions sometimes a day. In bigger businesses there are often multiple options within this concept.

For example: In April you find an indoor ski centre and everyone goes there on a Friday afternoon… In May you’re all hitting the bowling alley, In June you booked everyone a seat at the table of a posh restaurant…

You get the drift; the beauty is, that if you suggest 2 or 3 options every month and split the company up, then each individual can put their name down for what they want to do… in this instance you will immediately destroy your silos, because the IT Managers now interacting with Sales Manager because they both like skiing.

The biggest failing of any company is not to consider individuals on an emotional plain. We live in the company silo because we trained in sales, marketing, operations etc. but that doesn’t mean we haven’t both seen Machu Picchu, or climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, sunned ourselves in Goa, or dived in Egypt…  Those are the ties that bind your business together, but if I don’t get to ski with the IT guys, or east dinner with the HR crowd, then no one is enabling me to evolve and without evolution we only stagnate.

Frankly, most of the above are pretty cost effective to execute, so do the homework and find out what works for your company.

6: Measure your success

Anything you do in business should be measurable, otherwise it’s difficult to prove the point, that’s obvious to any of us who run a business or lead teams.

But how do you measure the effects of better well-being?

Well studies show that averagely, businesses who undertake some form of well-being initiatives, generally see an uplift as high as 12% in increased productivity.

That said, I have seen companies increase their individuals productivity by anywhere between 20-30% when the focus for the change is more diverse.

I work with a company called Abracademy for example,  who work with businesses to remove the disconnect, but while using the medium of magic, to create change and new thinking, creativity and enthusiasm.

The magic is just a catalyst to removing the stigma of a team building initiative or a mental health initiative, it’s there because within magic we lose ourselves and in losing ourselves and the societal pressure that burdens us, we find that we’re actually far less lost, because we’re not alone, in fact most of us feel the same, we just don’t talk about it.

There are many companies in the mental health space who are making waves like this, even Lego have hired a new Director to look after their staff well-being and I can only imagine how exciting his sessions are going to be! Maybe the Lego hour once a week is something for you? Get your staff to drop what they’re doing and give them each some Lego… but in being diverse, forget what your competitors CEO might think of your plans, because next year your diversity will ensure you kick their arse… so don’t just hire a mundane ‘change manager’ or do ‘team building’ do something different and own it!

Anyway, as it seems so fundamental and near on every company I visit suffers from the crippling effects of business silos I thought I’d try and simplify things.

You don’t have to spend a million £’s on change… start small and build up to the long term vision…

We are to used to worrying, as company directors, that any kind of change must cost a fortune, but the statistics show that if you invest in your staff and their happiness you’re going to make more money as a business, it’s just that simple!

So you may not be the CEO, but any great change only takes one individual, who see’s the potential in the simple activity of ‘being human’ and fighting for that humanity in the day to day…

25% of your workforce already suffers from anxiety or some form of mental health issue and over 40% of the UK’s mental health issues are due to the individuals working life or structure, so to those internally that suggest it’s a waste of time, by all means let them know that The Bipolar Businessman has a long terms fingers up approach to their attitude and crack on changing the lives of the people around you.

There’s no room for the haters, when so many people stand to be happier if you become their champion. They’re probably with you already, they just don’t have the strength to lead the charge, so take them with you.

In the words of a friend of mine, Geoff McDonald, when I told him I wasn’t sure what I was doing with my blog as it went viral… “Thomas, no matter how many people follow, if you’re honest and you try to be true to yourself and your message, then the next thing that happens, is that you’ve saved a life!” and frankly, on reflection, we all have the ability and responsibility to do just that if we can.




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