Breaking Down Silos: How to Eliminate Work Silos and Promote Collaboration

Learn everything you need to know about breaking down silos and promoting collaboration in this article.

June 22, 2023
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Business silos occur when individual teams work in isolation and fail to communicate with each other. They not only harm employee engagement and productivity but waste time and resources to boot. 

So, it's no wonder a study commissioned by Airtable found that reducing silos is a top priority for eight in 10 decision-makers.

Breaking down silos is essential for organizations that want to innovate and stay competitive. In this guide, we'll look at how you can eliminate them and improve collaboration in your company. First, though, let's define what work silos are and look at their consequences in more detail.

What are work silos?

Work silos are essentially departments or teams that work independently and don’t share information. 

There are two main types of organizational silos:

  • Horizontal silos i.e. silos that exist at the same business level, such as between departments.
  • Hierarchical silos. These are between different levels, such as managers and their employees.

There are many reasons a silo mindset can develop—for example, when teams work on different floors or in different geographic locations. Without clear communication channels, such teams rarely, if ever interact. This can lead to isolation and a lack of understanding between groups.

The consequences of work silos

When employees have a silo mentality, they’re less likely to share information. They’re also more likely to focus on departmental goals and lose sight of wider company goals. This can have serious consequences. For instance, Airtable found that when silos existed:

  • Decision-makers lost an average of 2.4 hours a day looking for data and information to do their work.
  • On average, firms experienced a 24% drop in productivity due to disconnected and inefficient processes.

Silos don’t only damage productivity though; they can also lead to conflict and harm employee morale. This then increases the risk of exceeding the average employee turnover rates for your industry.

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How to break down work silos

Common indicators of work silos include:

  • Departmental inefficiencies and redundancies
  • A lack of communication between departments
  • A lack of cross-functional collaboration on projects and initiatives
  • Prioritizing department objectives over company objectives
  • Slow reactions to external changes
  • Competition or mistrust between departments

If your company is showing any of these indicators, you need to take steps to break down silos and remove barriers to collaboration. Below are some tips on how to do that.

Nurture team collaboration

Firstly, you need to nurture collaboration within and between teams. Create opportunities for employees to meet up and socialize, such as weekly lunches, shared breaks, and after-work clubs. Employees who get to know each other personally are more likely to collaborate at work.

Team leaders can also hold joint meetings and team-building activities (in-person or remotely) to further strengthen these bonds. This helps employees understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses, so they can work together more effectively.

Initiate cross-functional teams

You can also encourage cross-departmental collaboration by bringing together employees from different teams to work toward a common goal, like launching a new product line.

For instance, say you’re launching a new range of shoes. You could enlist individuals from your product development team, marketing, sales, and customer service.

Each individual will bring unique knowledge and expertise. They can share these with the team to create a winning launch strategy that gives customers a unified experience with your brand. They can also share what they’ve learned with the rest of their department, leading to stronger cross-team collaboration in the future.

You can find digital software solutions to aid collaboration on projects regardless of location. For example, accounting software for small business owners works in the cloud, so you and your employees have access to the same data wherever you are in the world. This also comes with various features to improve efficiency, like automated data entry and payroll.

With the right software, cross-team collaboration and communication are a breeze.

Keep communication channels open

It’s important to create open lines of communication between departments too—for instance, by investing in digital collaboration tools. 

Tools like Zoom and Microsoft Teams allow employees to communicate face-to-face from anywhere in the world, breaking down barriers.

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Document sharing and project management platforms also enable teams to work together in the cloud in real-time, while instant messaging platforms like Slack empower everyone in the company to share information without leaving their desks.

In addition, department managers can appoint a liaison to organize cross-departmental training and joint meetings. They can act as mediators if conflicts arise.

Foster knowledge sharing 

Here are some tips on how to encourage knowledge sharing within and between teams:

  • Encourage communication. By encouraging communication, management teams can create a corporate culture based on sharing. Employees will feel more comfortable sharing their ideas, leading to greater innovation and creativity.
  • Have regular meetings. Hold weekly or monthly meetings where employees from different departments share information and pool their knowledge. This is a great way to problem-solve and makes sure that everyone is working toward the same goals.
  • Create a knowledge base. Invest in a knowledge management platform where employees can document and share their knowledge. Everyone will thus have the same information, eliminating duplicated work and fostering collaboration.

Break down barriers

Finally, breaking down physical barriers in the office makes it easier for employees to see and talk to each other. Instead of discrete departments, you could have an open-plan office with no partitions. This will help employees feel and behave more like a team instead of autonomous departments.

If your offices have more than one floor, house complementary departments in the same area. For example, you could have your sales, marketing, and customer service teams on one floor and finance and HR on another.

There are also smaller changes you can make—for example, you could have shared break rooms or areas where individual employees can socialize with each other.

Overcoming challenges

Depending on how entrenched your work silos are, it can be challenging to break them up. This is especially true when setting up cross-functional teams. Below are some common challenges and how to overcome them.

Progress tracking

To break down silos and keep them from reforming, it’s vital to track your progress. You can do this by gathering feedback—for instance, by using employee surveys and meetings. You should also track performance metrics like employee engagement and productivity.

One way to do this is with software for time tracking. You can track attendance, productivity, work performance, and engagement in real time, giving you full visibility into your workforce. If any of your metrics start to slip, you can review your processes and find solutions.

Time tracking software gives you and your employees access to data anywhere and at any time. Plus, you can track projects, check availability, and manage your resources more effectively.

Progress tracking not only makes sure you achieve your goals but helps you identify ways to improve collaboration in the future.

Benchmark and goal setting

The final step is to set long-term and short-term goals and communicate these to everyone in the company. These should be SMART i.e. specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.

You can create specific objectives for each department, but be sure to emphasize how they’ll help achieve the company's wider goals. If everyone is working toward the same strategic ambitions, it will help to prevent silos from reforming.

You’ll also need to create relevant benchmarks to measure the achievement of goals. For example, if you aim to increase company revenue by X amount per year, your benchmark will most likely be last year’s revenue.

Case studies

Below are three examples of companies that have successfully broken down silos and improved collaboration throughout their organizations.  

  1. The New York Times 

The New York Times team consisted of various different technology groups, like a digital tech group and a print and corporate tech group, which inevitably led to the formation of data silos.

To better leverage its data, The New York Times created an overarching data science and engineering group. It also created an online dashboard of all the company’s metrics so everyone could work from the same data.

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  1. Elavon

Elavon wanted to eliminate the silo mentality from its organization. Together with BraveSpace, it designed an experience-based training program to promote collaboration, resilience, and interpersonal skills.

Using improvisation techniques, employees could practice different behaviors and experience alternative outcomes. Elements included:

  • Building trust with active listening
  • Suspending judgment
  • Looking for non-verbal cues
  • Affirming a message
  • Being present in the moment

Afterward, employees applied the techniques they learned to their everyday work, improving communication, trust, and collaboration company-wide.

  1. Procter & Gamble

Procter & Gamble aimed to break down silos and promote cross-functional collaboration. In 2001, it launched its “Connect and Develop” program, which connected its internal teams with external partners like startups, suppliers, and universities. This gave it access to a greater range of expertise and resources, helping to foster innovation.


Company silos can hinder productivity, stifle innovation, and lead to conflict and mistrust. This damaging mentality is usually the result of poor communication and geographic isolation. To combat it, companies must foster collaboration and trust between teams. How? By removing barriers and promoting open communication with knowledge-sharing tools and techniques.

By breaking down silos, you too can create a happier, more efficient, and more profitable organization. To create a truly connected culture, though, you must continually assess and improve your performance to prevent silos from returning.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is Assembly SOC 2 compliant?

Yes, at Assembly, security is a top priority. Each quarter, we have ongoing security work that is everyone’s responsibility. While we maintain a strong security posture, it was important for us to prove to our customers that we do everything we claim to do. This led us to pursue a SOC 2 Type II report that would provide evidence of our compliance with industry gold-standard security practice.

What's the ROI for employee recognition?

There is study after study showing that employee recognition leads to increased engagement. This in return creates an environment where employees are happier and more motivated which increase productivity and reduces voluntary turnover significantly. In order to filled critical roles, companies tend to spend nearly twice the value of an annual salary. Assembly is an investment in your employees that supports your bottom line.

Does Assembly offer longer-term contracts?

Yes, we will offer contracts for companies with longer-term agreements to help larger customers have more certainty around future costs.

The minimum agreement term is a 12-month subscription.

Does Assembly offer onboarding support?

We do and for FREE! Any new customer needing further support to get started with Assembly to ensure you're set up for success can request custom onboarding support. Improving your employee experience is about much more than just using our amazing software; it’s about transforming your business to create a workplace that people love. That’s much easier to do with the personal support and advice from our passionate people experts.

Is there a free version of Assembly?

Yes. We offer a completely free plan for up to 50 team members. This plan is intended for teams or organizations that are looking to get started with an employee engagement tool. Keep in mind, this plan is limited in features.

All customers can open an Assembly account for free and get started without a credit card. Then you can change plans as necessary.

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At the time of redemption (when your employees exchange their points for a paid reward) you'll pay face value. If a reward is a $10 Amazon gift card, your cost will be $10. All paid rewards are billed for on a monthly basis.

The good news is that you don't have to pay for rewards upfront because we only charge you when points are redeemed, not when they're earned.

Does Assembly offer discounts?

We offer discounts or educational or charitable organizations. In order to secure a discount, you'll first need to book a demo with a customer support specialist.

For all other organizations, we are willing to consider longer-term agreements in exchange for discounts. To set up annual plans or longer, you will need to book a demo with a customer support specialist.

How do I cancel my plan if needed?

If you're on a month to month plan, you can go here and cancel anytime. If you're having concerns or need help setting up your account for success, you can always book a demo with a customer support specialist.

If you're on a longer-term custom plan, you'll need to reach out to your customer support specialist to cancel your account or email us at

What customizations are available?

Great question! You can customize your core values to match your organization's to boost and track alignment. You can change your currency from the 🏆 emoji (our default) to any emoji of your choice. You can swap our logo for your own. You can also set up company culture rewards such as, "Lunch with the CEO," "Buy a book on us," and so much more!

Who can give or receive recognition?

While we recommend a peer to peer set up where anyone in your organization can give or receive recognition, you can set up Assembly however you want. If you need to limit the people who can give or receive recognition, that's perfectly fine and can be done from your Admin, here.

What integrations are available?

Assembly connects to the tools your employees use every day to offer an easy, seamless experience with minimal change management.  

Assembly has integrations with HCM/HRIS systems like ADP, Google, Office 365, and Slack. We also integrate with communication tools like Slack and Teams so you and your employees can access Assembly wherever they work now.

What's your average adoption rate?

That depends on the company's permissions set up. That said, over 90% of the employees on Assembly's platform are recognized on a monthly basis. That means nearly every employee across all of our customers are receiving regular recognition from their peers, managers, or leadership. We're extremely proud of this.

Must rewards be set up to use Assembly?

They are not required. You can use Assembly without having rewards set up. However, we don't recommend it if you intend to have a high adoption and usage rate. You can always keep the costs down by offering internal culture rewards that are fulfilled by you internally.

Are points required to use Assembly?

No, you can remove allowances from anyone or everyone. It's up to you but we do recommend using points whether they're worth a real dollar value or not. Companies that use points have a much higher engagement rate even if those points don't exchange for real dollars.

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