Your Illustrated Guide to Silos in the Workplace [Infographic]

Madeline Jacobson
Madeline Jacobson
3 mins
silos in the workplace represented by office workers on separate pillars

Here’s a quick quiz: what’s a potential outcome of workplace silos (i.e. information becoming walled off in certain groups or departments)?

A.) Redundant work

B.) Misaligned priorities

C.) Missed opportunities for collaboration

It’s actually a trick question: the answer is ‘all of the above.’

Silos in the workplace can have far-reaching effects, from hurting employee morale to negatively impacting your company’s bottom line. In the infographic below (which you can click to expand), we explore the potential risks of silos and the rewards of encouraging collaboration across teams.

The Hidden Costs of Silos in the Workplace

As it turns out, the majority of companies are pretty bad about sharing information across departments and teams. Over half of companies report having siloed teams, and 40 percent of organizations admit that each different department has its own customer experience agenda.

Only 25 percent of senior executives say their organizations are effective at sharing knowledge. The other 75 percent are taking a financial hit: Fortune 500 companies reportedly lose an estimated $31.5 billion per year by failing to share knowledge across teams.

Silos Have a Cascade Effect

Workplace silos occur when organizations fail to share important information across teams and departments, leading to misaligned priorities.

For example, a marketing department at a B2B company might decide, based off their own team’s research, that their product messaging should primarily target HR professionals, while the sales department might independently decide that they should be targeting C-Suite executives only.  

This misalignment of strategies causes a lack of trust between teams, which can lead to individuals carefully guarding information for fear that others outside their department might use it out of context. This in turn causes their co-workers to miss out on information that could help them do their jobs more efficiently and avoid redundant work that someone on another team may have already done.

As operational efficiency drops, so does overall employee engagement. And when employees aren’t engaged, their work suffers, leading to a poor experience for customers.

Collaboration Matters Across Roles and Departments

Silos in the workplace affect everyone, regardless of role. For example, 41 percent of customer experience professionals say that workplace silos pose a significant barrier to providing a seamless customer experience. 8 out of 10 marketers say that silos prevent them from knowing how their campaigns are performing across different channels, while 86 percent of corporate executives, employees, and educators cite lack of collaboration or ineffective communication for workplace failures.

Meanwhile, 73 percent of sales teams say that collaborating across departments is critical to their overall sales process, while 7 out of 10 IT professionals view collaboration as a major priority in their organization.

Greater Collaboration = Greater Success

Actively encouraging collaboration is a common habit of high-performing organizations. In fact, high-performing organizations are 5.5 times more likely to encourage collaboration across teams than lower-performing organizations.

Even those who may not be collaborating efficiently yet still recognize its importance: 3 out of 5 companies say that the solution to reaching their goals is collaborating more across functions. And 94 percent of organizations say agility and collaboration are essential to their success.

So, what’s the solution to making your workplace a more collaborative environment? There’s not a simple answer, but the right technology can help. 83 percent of knowledge workers say they depend on technology to collaborate, and collaboration tools have been shown to improve productivity by 20-30 percent.

We’ve written a lot about how to improve collaboration and knowledge sharing through a combination of technology and change management. Here are a few resources to help get you thinking about how your organization can do a better job of sharing information across teams:

5 Ways to Increase Knowledge Sharing in Your Organization

How Cross-Organizational Collaboration Improves Customer Experience  

5 Strategies for Breaking Down Silos in the Workplace

6 Ways to Improve Communication in Your Company

If a silo mentality has taken hold at your company, or if you’re worried your lack of cross-functional communication could lead to silos, work with leaders across teams and departments to develop a plan to improve your knowledge sharing. Your leaders will need to work together to encourage employees to adopt collaborative processes and technologies.

Becoming a truly collaborative organization takes time, but the effort leads to improved productivity, happier employees, and a better experience for customers.

September 26, 2018

Harness The Power Of Knowledge Sharing With Digital Transformation

Companies that grasp what the digital workplace is really all about are willing to change the ways people and applications connect across their organizations. By fostering a digitally driven culture of collaboration, they break down silos, share knowledge more effectively and compete more successfully.

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