Steve Jobs said: "Great things in business are never done by one person; they're done by a team of people". At deskbird, we could not agree more and many companies are also realising the power people can have when they come together. Teamwork has so many positive outcomes, such as organization-wide success. As a business, you have a greater chance for success by building a collaborative workforce than by letting people work in silos. Now, imagine what can happen if you don’t only encourage people from the same department to work together but also create cross-functional teams.
What does this mean? What are the advantages of a team working cross-functionally? This is what we are going to talk about in this article. Say goodbye to the old hierarchical working structure and welcome a more people-centric approach that may totally change your vision of the way you work!
What does a cross-functional team mean?
A cross-functional team is a group of employees from different departments working together on a common project. For some of you, this is nothing new. If you are a small business, you might even use this concept without even being aware of it. However, the more your company grows the more silos can appear.
The goal of creating a collaborative workforce is to avoid isolation and gather workers with complementary sets of skills to achieve a shared goal.
In practice, this entails creating a group of diverse people with one person from each functional area of your company for example. This way, instead of having different teams working on the same project but separately, one leader represents each department. Consequently, all of them are collaborating on the same project. This way of working creates many positive outcomes for your employees as well as for your business. Let’s talk about the benefits of a cross-functional team.
➡️ Are you interested in new ways of working? Read our recent article about flexitime.
What are the advantages of a collaborative workforce?
Shorter and faster communication - working closely makes communication a lot easier between every department working on the project. The sharing of ideas, doubts or information is smoother and miscommunication issues are minimised. Connectivity is the keyword here.
Employees sometimes may minimise the missions of other departments, working together helps them appreciate the roles of their colleagues from other areas.
With a collaborative workforce, people get the chance to discover how their colleagues are working, what their job consists of and why both their tasks are important to achieve their common goal.
This motivation to have a common purpose, while also better understanding the responsibilities of others, enhances team alignment.
Employees are working cohesively, following the same plan and all looking in the same direction. In addition, promoting a more collaborative culture instead of a hierarchical model helps people share their ideas more freely and therefore increases creativity.
Flow of creativity
Allowing employees from various backgrounds, with different personal and professional experiences, to work together can create amazing outcomes. When always working with people of the same field (marketing, sales, data, customer service, etc.), team members may sometimes struggle to think out of the box and find new ideas. Discussing with colleagues that have a totally different way of seeing things can lead to amazing ideas.
Engagement and performance
Being part of a cross-functional team enhances the feeling of recognition, appreciation and connection to one another. Employees are more engaged and, as engagement is strongly linked with productivity, their performance also increases.
Moreover, even though hybrid work has more pros than cons, isolation and lower engagement can be happen. Creating a collaborative workforce is a great way to overcome this issue.
Development of leadership skills
Thanks to this working approach, every employee can get the chance to learn leadership skills. Cross-functional team leadership encourages them to discover different aspects of this role such as the importance of communication, collaboration, prioritisation, conflict resolution, etc. It is a great way to bring value to every employee’s skill set.
Positive conflict resolution
Disagreement should not be seen negatively. We are all different and may have different points of view about how things should be done. This is the biggest benefit of making people collaborate and having a diverse team with various backgrounds. Raising ideas and issues can actually help a project to evolve and succeed even more. Obviously, this has to be done in a constructive and positive manner.
How to make this concept work?
Gather your best talent for this project
Depending on the project, some of your employees may be a better match than others. Of course, you need to take into account their professional skills but don’t forget their hobbies, values and personality.
In each department, pick the person that fits the best for this project and your cross-functional team. For instance, you want to become a more sustainable company and you know that Martin is spending all his free time learning about how we could help our planet? He could be a perfect match for this project!
Create and share a clear guideline for all the team members
Bringing all expertise together is a powerful strategy. However, in order for everybody to be aligned and know which direction to go in, you need to create a guideline they can always refer to. As each person and department may have their own way of working, this helps your team to work in cohesion and understand what their next common goals are.
Choose the communication tools that will answer your team’s needs
Since Covid-19 has entered our lives, many businesses have adopted a hybrid working model and are enjoying its positive impact. However, one of the downsides of more flexibility in the workplace can be the decrease in communication. For a collaborative workforce, this can get really tricky. Therefore, providing the best communication tools is key for this concept to succeed.
Encourage the use of terminology that everybody understands
A very important point to share with your teams when making them work cross-functionally is to use vocabulary that other team members understand. Quite often, people are used to certain terminology and may not realise that it may not be understood by others. One of the main aspects of cross-functional leadership is to make sure everybody is included and understand what is being discussed.
Make a detailed plan and timeline schedule
People working collaboratively not only need a common goal but also need to know what steps are needed to reach it. Thus, one of the few downsides of a cross-functional team is the risk of working aimlessly without knowing how to reach the objective. Therefore, making a detailed plan and a timeline schedule is a very important point to support your team with their project.
Embrace an agile way of working
There is no road without bumps. One of the most powerful aspects of working collaboratively is the ability to adapt to change. People from different backgrounds and with various skill sets are able to bounce back by finding solutions and being creative. A company that wants to evolve following the trends of the future of work has to be agile. This is not only because technology and digitalisation are constantly improving but also to be ready for any unforeseen challenges.
In conclusion, letting knowledge flow between top talent is a powerful way to elevate your workforce and your business. Therefore, working with cross-functional teams is going to be a crucial element for business in the upcoming years. How do you imagine the future of work? How is your organisation adapting to the new ways of working?
Paulyne is a hybrid work specialist, who writes about sustainability, flexible work models and employee experience.