Knowledge Silos: What Are They and How To Avoid Them?

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Many companies struggle with sharing data across departments and teams. According to Forbes, around 54% of companies say their customer service operations are siloed. McKinsey & Company reports that only one-fourth of senior executives think their teams are effectively sharing knowledge across the organisation. What exactly is a knowledge silo and why are so many businesses falling short? Read on to find out.

What is a Knowledge Silo?

A knowledge silo is a situation in which one person or team has data that’s not shared with other people or teams. Rather than communicating and collaborating across the organisation, every team or department is working in isolation.
In some scenarios, silos can be a good thing. For instance, if you are working on a project that only needs the input of one team, it often makes sense to only discuss that project within that team so everybody can work as efficiently as possible.
However, there are many other examples where projects need knowledge that exists across the organisation, and the lack of accessibility negatively affects the quality of work and efficiency of your team.

Why Knowledge Silos Exist?

Generally, knowledge silos develop silently due to inaction instead of deliberate isolation. They often form when organisations fail to support the transfer of data across teams and departments. There’s no single point of failure. In most cases, silos are due to several faults, such as:

  • Lack of alignment around company objectives and visions
  • Poor communication and cross-team collaboration
  • Inadequate onboarding of new employees
  • Lack of tools and technologies that foster knowledge sharing

The Harmful Effects of Knowledge Silos

Knowledge silos can wreak havoc across your entire business. Here are a few reasons why silos are so dangerous:

  • Teams become more isolated as they miss opportunities for cross-functional collaboration.
  • Each team creates its own goals and objectives, which results in a lack of alignment.
  • Silos create a lack of trust between teams, causing individuals to carefully guard information for fear that others outside their department might use it out of context.
  • When teams don’t know what others are doing, they’re likely to repeat some of the same efforts, creating expensive inefficiencies.
  • Employees are unable to effectively coordinate their projects across departments and maintain consistent brand messaging to the public.
  • Silos create a lag time between when a new worker is employed and when they’re self-sufficient, productive, and profitable.
  • Employees waste precious time and, in many cases, never find what they need. This results in poor employee engagement and, ultimately, poor experience for customers.
  • Knowledge silos can cost you time and money. In fact, teams lose up to 20 hours each month because knowledge tools are not being integrated or centralised.

3 Proven Ways to Break Down Knowledge Silos

Let’s take a look at a few strategies for breaking down silos and avoiding new ones from developing:

1. Encourage cross-functional collaboration

According to a Deloitte report, businesses that prioritise collaboration are twice as likely to be lucrative and outgrow competitors, and five times as likely to experience an increase in employment.
To enhance cross-functional collaboration, you need to ensure that all employees can instantly access the information they need all while being able to share any new updates on the projects they’re working on. The easiest way to do so is to invest in a robust collaboration tool like C-WORK, which supports real-time chat and video conferencing, desktop sharing, meeting recordings, document attachments, and more.

2. Prioritise knowledge documentation

Documenting your knowledge is a foolproof way to ensure every team receives the same messages, leverages the same information and insights, and provides the same high-quality customer experience.
Moreover, make sure all documentation is readily available to your entire workforce with a consistent enterprise file sharing and sync (EFSS) tool. It helps teams work together in one office or across the world easily without any disruptions.

3. Encourage feedback

Encourage feedback between team members by setting up regular performance reviews. Allow team members to give feedback through peer-to-peer sessions, anonymous forms and surveys, and appreciation chat topics.
You can use a tool like C-ASK to share surveys and gather feedback via weblink, integration, QR code, email, and more. You can even use filters to create pie charts and all types of graphs to better visualise your collected data.

Key Takeaway

If a silo mentality has taken hold at your business, or if you’re concerned that your lack of cross-functional communication might lead to silos, it’s time to work across teams and departments to focus on improving your knowledge sharing. Also, encourage employees to adopt collaborative processes, tools, and technologies. Keep in mind that becoming a truly collaborative organisation takes time. However, the effort improves efficiency and results in happier employees and better customer experiences.

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