The Silo Organizational Structure: An office where no one communicates, everyone hordes their knowledge and best practices, and where no one works together to enhance the client experience. While some organizations are structured purposefully as silos to enhance competition rather than collaboration, in many organizations, a silo culture can develop unintentionally and gradually, until it becomes an environment where individual teams think and act unilaterally, working against one another, inhibiting a company’s ability to achieve its goals. This lack of collaboration in the silo structure impedes productivity, erodes employee satisfaction, and ultimately causes clients to question whether a company champions a united front.
Eliminating a culture of silos is not an easy undertaking. However, with the right tools, support from the top down, and a strong strategy, silos can be dismantled and a culture of collaboration and learning can take hold. When you break down silos, you enable individual teams to function independently, while working together as one cohesive team.
OVERCOMING SILOS As a global provider of supply-chain services with a footprint of more than 400 stocking locations operating in 90 countries, we at Choice Logistics are expected to meet clients’ time-sensitive service level agreements. It’s essential that we collaborate internally and with vendors and clients to ensure alignment of goals and expectations. We must manage and move parts all over the world and must communicate and collaborate effectively to achieve the required results. We’re relentless in our efforts to help clients achieve success, since they rely on us to act as a partner, part of their team, when servicing their client base. Working cohesively is essential to our success; collaboration is key.
Indeed, two of our core values are collaboration and educating one another. We believe our success is dependent upon the collective knowledge and growth of our employees. We strive to build an environment where employees can reach their highest potential, and work with them to identify and support individual and collective growth. Last year, we recognized that not all departments were working from a common set of goals, nor were they fully informed about the business, clients, and operations. Silos were beginning to take hold and, without a unified focus, our organization was unable to provide the best client experience. While functional departments are necessary to centralize team efforts, we needed a strategy and the right technology to help break down these silos and improve collaboration and learning across the organization.
In 2015, we made a concerted effort to eliminate silos, using a people, process, and technology approach. There were many goals with this program, but the overarching one was to break down silos by restructuring the organization to improve client focus and employee engagement; by evaluating current processes to eliminate inefficiencies and redundancies; and by utilizing Salesforce to support these efforts and to improve visibility and collaboration across the organization.
Strategy 1: People
Organizational Restructuring: We reorganized our teams as a more clientcentric model. Although we continued to be function-focused, by making crossfunctional information more readily available, teams became better equipped to share and collaborate on the best solution for the client. With Salesforce, teams also have more centralized information at their fingertips. The end result has been a better client experience. Constant and Consistent Communication: To support employees during this change, and as an extension to the company’s open door policy, executives hosted dedicated open office hours. These forums provided a safe, individualized environment for employees to share their concerns and provide the executive team the opportunity to remove any obstacles that may be impeding employees’ abilities to perform. We also hosted a variety of focus groups, organized by function, to open up the lines of communication and help employees understand the change, and feel part of the process.
We hosted quarterly town hall meetings to keep employees updated on the state of the company. We used common marketing strategies to gain buy-in, reinforce our message, and keep employees informed. We continue to use this forum as an additional opportunity to reiterate strategies, progress, and future goals.
Strategy 2: Training
Employees, through structured training and organic learning, continue to break down silos by using Chatter, Chatter Groups, and other functional processes within the Salesforce platform. Additionally, we refocused our monthly People, Process, Technology training series to facilitate knowledge sharing around core departmental goals and functions, and how they are aligned in support of the company’s overall goals.
Strategy 3: Process
We chose Salesforce as the tool to support our processes. Though we already had a few licenses for our sales team, we expanded the number of licenses to include all operational and client-facing team members. We began by introducing employees to the account information, so they could gain a deeper knowledge of clients and their business.We then expanded by moving the internal task management system, a custom-built SharePoint tool, into Salesforce to improve user adoption.
The rollout, and continued development of the company’s Salesforce platform, comes with constant communication and training, helping employees understand how to maximize the tool, and constant reinforcement of the importance of collaboration. As employees become more aware of the capabilities within Salesforce and the processes it has already built into the platform, they are providing new ideas to expand its use.
By integrating processes into a unified platform, we were able to reinforce teamwork and support the behavioral change needed to move from a culture of silos to a culture of collaboration and learning. Employees have become more invested in Salesforce, and are embracing this transformation.
Strategy 4: Technology
Choice Logistics began the process of eliminating silos with Salesforce. Though traditionally thought of as a CRM, Choice Logistics envisioned a platform where all departments could operate together on a daily basis, despite their particular focus in the overall process. We continue to customize objects and move operational processes into Salesforce to support our goals. Two examples of growth within the platform are value-added meetings and internal meetings. Value-added meetings are records of meetings with clients or vendors where value is brought to the relationship; issues and opportunities are identified and next steps are planned and actioned. Internal Meetings are where we record functional or cross-functional meetings. Both of these meeting types are distributed to key stakeholders, and are also visible across the organization. This helps to further eliminate silos and pave the way for collaboration. The more employees know about what is happening with our clients, the more they are able to improve the client experience.
The results of our Salesforce implementation are far reaching. Breaking down silos in a service organization not only improves internal operations, communication, and collaboration, it also improves working relationships with clients and vendors, and their overall satisfaction. It has also positively affected employee engagement and employee satisfaction overall. A few key highlights are:
>> Enhanced collaboration
>> A 33-percent improvement to our Net Promoter Score
>> Improved employee satisfaction
>> More timely and complete client deliverables
>> Better access to information
>> Enhanced learning environment
As we continue to build on this collaborative learning culture, more employees are identifying operational processes to integrate into Salesforce. Visibility into what the organization, departments, and individuals are doing is improving collaboration and learning. We’re now in the process of migrating our current learning management system into Salesforce, utilizing Redwing and Appinium, to further centralize our efforts and enhance our ability to provide just-in-time learning to our teams, improve their overall learning experience, and gather real-time data to help make informed decisions and track progress.
“Since we are in the service business, our success is largely dependent upon the strength of our people, and the Salesforce platform has introduced a new world of communication, training, and cross functional collaboration to our workforce,” says Anne Yarmark, EVP Human Resources & Administration, Choice Logistics. “All relevant client data is shared and captured instantly so there is internal visibility on all client initiatives across all functions. Since its inception, Salesforce has given us a customizable tool to enhance the overall client and employee experience because it has helped us to execute at a higher level. The platform has increased our productivity through efficient and effective process management, instantaneous information sharing, and core communication governance. Ultimately, the Salesforce platform has given us innovative and exciting paths to training and for preparing our workforce to be successful.”
Using Salesforce has helped us create a more collaborative approach and boost its already robust learning culture. In this more team-centric environment, employees are sharing not only information, but knowledge and experiences — key components in the company’s core values of collaboration and educating one another. With the right strategy, continued communication, and Salesforce as a tool, employees are now better enabled to function independently within their teams while coming together as a cohesive unit to support corporate goals and provide the best possible client experience.
— Kate Kearney is Director of Organizational Development & Training at Choice Logistics, Inc. Choice Logistics is a six-time Learning! 100 organization.