Cross-Departmental Collaboration: 12 Tips To Foster It at Work

Updated June 24, 2022

Strong teamwork is a vital component to successful businesses and companies, and cross-departmental collaboration is one way to strengthen teamwork. Partnering with teams across a company helps you find new ideas, solutions or opportunities to enhance productivity, earnings or employee satisfaction. Understanding what cross-departmental collaboration is and how to apply it can help you in your career, no matter the industry or field. In this article, we discover what cross-departmental collaboration is, the benefits of it, an example of how it improves business and 12 tips on how to use it in the workplace.

Read more: Workplace Collaborations: Definitions and Methods for Improvement

What is cross-departmental collaboration?

Cross-departmental collaboration is when a group of people with different job responsibilities or functions come together and work towards a common goal, project or solution. Collaborative teamwork often leads to more ideas, shared workloads, significant process improvements and a culture of continuous learning.

Collaboration is more than cooperation—it requires a shared vision, mutual respect, understanding each other's roles and responsibilities and a common goal. Through collaboration, team members develop a level of comfort with one another, learn to communicate more effectively and gain a deeper appreciation for the responsibilities and functions of each other's positions.

Cross-departmental collaboration is important, no matter the size of a company or its industry. You can have cross-departmental collaboration with two employees from different departments or entire teams from several departments working on a project. A successful collaboration often results in cost savings, revenue increases or a benefit to the customer.

Related: How To Increase Collaboration in the Workplace

Benefits of cross-departmental collaboration

Cross-departmental collaboration often improves communication and business performance and has these significant benefits:

  • Innovation: Creative ideas and thoughtful solutions often come from fresh perspectives, offered when there is a diverse group of people working on a project. A collaborative environment can challenge the standard way of doing things and find efficiency improvements, cost savings or revenue opportunities.

  • Continuous learning: When teams work together and better understand each other's roles, there's a deeper learning of the business all together. For example, when a human relations representative learns more about the IT department's process for delivering devices to a new employee, they can improve the hiring process and setup for items like computers, cell phones or other technology pieces.

  • Teamwork: Cross-departmental collaboration encourages all ideas, regardless of titles or salaries, and can strengthen team building within a company or business.

  • Project ownership: Teamwork helps promote project ownership, and there is often more productivity, enthusiasm and a greater level of commitment the more vested in a task someone is.

  • Employee satisfaction: Collaboration can also support team and company morale by showing employees you value their input, ideas and work ethic. When employees view their workplace positively, it can increase job satisfaction and improve retention rates.

Example of cross-departmental collaboration

Here is an example scenario of cross-departmental collaboration in the workplace to help illustrate how it promotes better business:

An airline changes snack and beverage offerings

A national airline wants to change its free snack and beverage offerings and add meals for sale to increase revenue. They organize a project team and invite members from these departments: marketing, communications, product and development, IT and the flight attendant work group. Through the teams' collaboration and ideas, they discover the following suggestions, questions and actions:

  • Find cost savings through new snack and beverage partnerships

  • Differentiate product choice, like offering a nut-free option

  • Source storage solutions for meals for sale, including how to keep them cold

  • Discover vendors for meal production and compare pricing

  • Plan which flight routes have enough time for service delivery of sale items

  • Work with IT to develop customer payment collection and inventory programs for flight attendants

  • Create new marketing campaigns to educate customers

  • Update all marketing materials, like company website, seatback menus and onboard television advertisements

  • Draft communications company-wide and to the flight attendant work group to prepare them for the change

  • Write onboard announcement scripts to be shared on flights

Through cross-departmental collaboration, the airline can better plan for this change and gained key insights from all teams to have a seamless transition that prepares for challenges, finds solutions and reduces costs and risks.

12 tips for cross-departmental collaboration

Collaboration develops over time and requires effort. Here is how you can foster cross-departmental collaboration through these 12 tips:

Foster collaboration

Collaboration can happen spontaneously, though it more often requires nurturing at all levels to ensure it is effective across teams. Be intentional in fostering collaboration within your own team and across teams and prioritize it, knowing the benefits carry over to other aspects of the business.

Related: How To Demonstrate Collaboration in the Workplace

Lead with direction

Managers and other top-level leaders should employ cross-functional collaboration regularly and visibly for others to see. Lead by example, setting formal or informal meetings, events or team-building activities to foster collaboration. Watch for project isolation or hesitancy to collaborate and help build connections and encourage engagement in the workplace rather than waiting for colleagues to initiate on their own.

Improve communications

Establish procedures or systems to keep everyone up-to-date on project milestones, accomplishments, changes or risk assessments. Whether a weekly email summary, task tracking spreadsheets or project management software, open communication helps team members know the status of a project, important dates and details to maintain productivity and collaboration.

Related: Guide To Improving Team Communication in the Workplace

Gather the team

Find engagement opportunities besides work to get together and socialize with one another, letting people get to know each other beyond being coworkers. You can organize events like monthly luncheons, happy hours, book clubs, coffee breaks or volunteer and fitness events. They can be optional after-hours functions or held during the workday. This is important because familiarity leads to new work relationships, which can foster future cross-departmental collaboration opportunities. Team-building activities also help understand each individual's strengths and weaknesses.

Celebrate accomplishments

You can cultivate trust, respect and motivation across teams by celebrating accomplishments and acknowledging the work that went into them. Keep momentum and motivation going by recognizing smaller accomplishments, too, not just the final project completion. Celebrations can range from simple to elaborate. A small luncheon allows people to get together, mingle and celebrate the achievement, for example.

Create a recognition program

Recognizing individual and team talents, achievements and ideas helps foster engagement, job satisfaction and continued success in collaborative projects. Consider developing a formal recognition or rewards program to highlight the efforts and capabilities of others and remember to acknowledge them personally, too.

Have a common vision

Uniting around a common goal is an effective way to foster cross-departmental collaboration. It gives teams a focus on what to achieve and can help establish functions for each group or member to get there. Offer clear objectives to ensure everyone understands the project, actions and responsibilities. Consider sharing reasons for personal involvement to help motivate everyone's efforts.

Offer clarity

Communicate expectations clearly and ensure everyone knows what is expected of them. Talk about and document roles, responsibilities, plans and progress and include timelines when applicable. Be transparent about roles, expectations or limitations and how the team's work adds value to the project.

Meet mindfully

Collaboration often works better when people are together, like on conference calls or with in-person meetings. Hold organized and efficient meetings that are productive and leave enough time in the day for colleagues to handle their work. Have an agenda, a note taker and time for questions. Be mindful when scheduling follow-up meetings, too, and allow for tasks to be completed before meeting again.

Shadow or cross-train the team

Consider establishing a job shadow or cross-training program where colleagues can learn more about the work each other does, particularly on job functions or projects that involve more than one department. This can help teams understand the impact or amount of work required when they make requests of each other and can lead to deeper appreciation among the workforce.

Start more cross-departmental projects

Continue the momentum of developing stronger teamwork and collaboration by initiating other cross-departmental projects. Even the work of small teams can benefit a company and the more frequently teams collaborate, the easier the process becomes and the more ideas or solutions get created. Consider each project carefully to determine if organizing a group has added value.

Encourage feedback

Collaboration often brings about great ideas, and feedback can do the same. Consider establishing a system for team members and leaders to share feedback formally, either confidentially, privately or with project closure meetings. This can help project leaders know what's working well, what isn't and how to make improvements for the betterment of the team and its goal. Allowing teams to share feedback and opinions can empower them and help streamline processes.

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