Interdepartmental communication is one of the most important parts of business operations, but it is so entrenched in everyday office life that it is often not thought about unless something goes wrong. Interdepartmental communication is the regular collaboration and transmission of necessary information between departments that result in a more efficient and productive work environment.
Interdepartmental communication is very important in a successful business operation because it helps team members avoid disagreements and clarify accountability when something isn’t working. It helps build relationships and morale within the company because everyone has the tools they need to create goals, delegate tasks and establish boundaries.
Customer service is also improved because every department knows what is going on at the company and in each step in the business process. For example, Accounting can verify fee waivers offered by Sales very easily, and Manufacturing can make sure that supply adequately meets demand during a boost in sales. Better communication helps the entire process move more smoothly and ultimately results in a seamless process and a more satisfied customer.
How to Improve Interdepartmental Communication
When communication between departments breaks down, you lose time and money. Occasionally, physical distance makes interdepartmental communication difficult, but there are plenty of tools available to help you share important information in a timely manner. Smartphones and file-sharing apps make it easy to access or send necessary information almost anywhere.
Be sure to assess your communication system often, to look for flaws, solve problems and search for improvements. Some suggestions for improving interdepartmental communication include:
- Train your employees on the importance of communication and specify exactly what needs to be shared between which departments and how often. Sometimes, important information gets lost simply because someone didn’t know that it needed to be shared or how to share it. Establish how information will be shared, and make sure it’s traceable (e.g. send weekly email updates, post the information on a board or put it in a shared folder or network).
- Have more frequent face-to-face meetings with all the department heads, and make sure each of those officers is meeting regularly with their team. By getting everyone together more often, it is easier to communicate goals and spread necessary information. Don’t take for granted that everyone knows what is going on within the organization; help people communicate by giving them an outlet to learn and speak. Tip: If your meetings run too long, try to implement a daily “stand-up” where people stand in a circle and can’t sit until they’re finished speaking—this way, people will be motivated to get to the point.
- Host team-building exercises or social events for all employees. These types of gatherings help employees get to know each other and increase morale, which means they will have more motivation to work. It will also help develop relationships between employees from different departments, facilitating the sharing of information at work. Tip: An even more powerful approach to improve communication is to take your team on a business retreat. This will give employees the chance to collaborate, communicate and develop relationships outside of an office setting.
- Make sure all the departments are thoroughly interconnected in an assembly-line process. When each department relies heavily on one other, they are more likely to carry their weight and be more aware of how their actions affect other teams.
- Consider adjusting the layout of the office if your equipment isn’t stationary. Make room for group seating to encourage discussions, and move departments closer together that need to interact more often.
- Cross-train employees by letting them rotate jobs among the different departments. This will allow employees to learn the specifics of others’ duties, showing them the impact of each department and the importance of their coworkers. They will likely learn what information will need to be shared more often from their department. While this may not be possible with technical positions, it can be very fruitful to have employees work in a department like customer service.
- When your employees are separated by distance or are on the go, use file-sharing or other organizational apps like Google Docs or Basecamp. Basecamp is project-management software that allows you to organize tasks and track activities within a project. Trello and Asana are other good task-collaboration apps that combine to-do lists, notes and tasks. By leveraging cloud collaboration apps, everyone can see what is being done and what still needs to be completed, and they can access your company data from anywhere.
- Use a task board or whiteboard to visualize projects, and create lists of duties to be completed so everyone can easily see what needs to go into each project. Or consider the Apple app Taskboard, which can provide a digital visualization of project and task boards and allows for collaboration between multiple users.
- Finally, never underestimate the importance of regular conversations with the rest of your team. This is a simple and effective method that will set a good example for your company and help you keep a pulse on your employees. Send regular emails, memos or invites to meetings to keep people up-to-date. You should also make a point to have more casual conversations with your employees about things outside of work, so they feel more at ease when they need to approach you for work topics.