If you belong to a large company or have worked at a large company, it is likely that you work more closely with some colleagues than others. Divisions, groups or teams need to be created to manage certain tasks, and this is necessary for businesses to operate. However, if these divisions, groups or teams become too entrenched or lack clear leadership, these workers are unlikely to socialize, problem solve or share workplace ideas or priorities with other affected stakeholders. This occurrence has been documented in the business world as the ‘silo effect.’ The silo effect can be seen in companies where divisions, groups, or teams within an organization are not sharing information, knowledge, or goals openly with other divisions, groups or teams within the same company.
A lack of communication between these entities and other affected parties is problematic on many levels. One common example of the problematic nature of silos in the workplace is tension between conflicting leadership styles resulting in poor communication. Health and Safety Management Systems thrive in work environments where there is a culture of open and ongoing conversations between all affected parties in a company. Given that companies with a silo-mentality display characteristics that are the opposite of this, it is clear that workplace silos present a real threat to leading health & safety management systems. Another common example is redundancies that result in management system information (policies, procedures, forms, initiatives), technologies, software’s, and company health & safety resources, resultant from siloed decision making made separate of the greater good or with one’s division, group or team only in mind.
So how can companies ensure that their divisions, groups or teams are not operating within a workplace silo, but instead are part of a cohesive and collaborative workplace? The primary solution lies with the leadership team. Executive teams should work to push a top down management style where workers are expected to buy in to a singular health & safety management system and have associated accountabilities to meet the confines of that management system. Consistent delivery of this expectation will ultimately result in barriers going away, and collaboration resulting. The aim is to change the perception from an us vs. them, to an all for one and one for all!
A collaborative approach will help to ensure that safety is a shared priority. This is important, as a misalignment of ‘bigger picture’ priorities has been documented as a classic indicator of a silo-effected workplaces. Even if numerous teams are involved in the same project, all individuals should have more or less the same priorities. In this case, this means that in order to reduce the existence of a silo-effect, between divisions, groups, or teams, the goal of “everyone goes home safe everyday” must prevail.
To mitigate a workplace with deeply entrenched silo effect; research suggests that positive encounters encourage team-work, foster positive relationships, and encourage open communication. This means that as well as making an effort to work collaboratively with stakeholders from all divisions, groups, or teams to create a culture of strong workplace safety, it is also important that team members make an effort to engage positively in building trust and relationships with team members from all areas in the company to break down barriers. Ultimately, relationships and trust are the most meaningful way to mitigate the barriers associated with silos! All efforts failed, it is vital to challenge and change the perception of team members who are toxic to progress. You are only as strong as your weakest link.