“Silos” and “tribes” are both terms to describe groups within an organization who become insular in their thinking, behavior, and processes. Such functional separation is detrimental to cross-company productivity and a positive corporate culture. So, how can you overcome organizational silos and promote collaboration?

Collaboration is not just a set of tools – it’s a mindset. If you just throw a bunch apps and other various technologies at employees, you can end up causing confusion and distractions, impairing productivity even as you spend more money. For companies trying to improve the communication and cooperation between coworkers, teams and departments, establishing a cohesive, defined collaboration strategy built around expectations, policies, processes, and training can help make collaborating part of your corporate culture.

Here are 10 common practices of companies who take collaboration seriously:

1. Leading by example: Employees often model their behavior on company leadership, so if you want employees to engage with each other and communicate, you need to demonstrate transparency at the top of the organization. Frequent and unambiguous company-wide communications and centralized access to information show that you place value on sharing and openness.

2. Asking employees what they want: Let your staff provide feedback and input on collaboration policies. Conduct surveys, roundtables or interviews to see what has worked well in the past to foster cooperation and where communication is lacking. Find out how employees prefer to communicate and on what devices.

3. Formalizing the “why” before embarking on the “how”: Put your collaboration goals, processes, and metrics into writing before selecting tools. Communicate expectations and clearly define policies (e.g. placing limits on communications outside of work hours or establishing guidelines around remote work).

4. Balancing planned and ad hoc teamwork: Sometimes collaboration needs to be defined and regularly scheduled, such as for a large project with a deadline. However, sometimes collaboration needs to happen in the spur of the moment. Recognize that these are two different ways of working and may require different spaces and technologies. Be sure to have large conference rooms and video conferencing technology to support structured collaboration, as well as team-centered work areas and huddle rooms for collaboration on-the-fly, such as brainstorming and critical problem-solving.

5. Providing options and training: Each employee has their own unique habits and preferences – they don’t all like to work the same ways. Give your employees flexibility with the communication technologies you offer and be sure to cover all the bases – from email to phone to video to messaging, so that employees can work in the ways that best suit them. Additionally, with any new collaboration app, service or feature that you roll out, be sure to provide in-depth end user training for your employees so that they can get off the ground running with the new technologies, rather than wading through the frustrations of a steep learning curve.

6. Knowing when to hold back: For all the talk about collaboration, not all work requires a team to get accomplished. Be sure to give employees space to work on their own –cubicles or quiet focus spaces that allow for concentration and private work.

7. Checking in – and actually making improvements: Periodically take the pulse of your team to see how new collaboration policies and technologies are faring. And use that information for improvement! If something is not working or is sitting unused, go back to the drawing board to discover where and how you need to make changes.

8. Fostering interpersonal socialization: One of the best ways to lay the groundwork for that trust that is needed for optimal collaboration is to improve the interpersonal relationships among your teams. Set up cross-departmental and company-wide socials so that everyone can get to know each other better – which creates a broader community beyond insular functional teams and makes people more willing to communicate and work together.

Need help figuring out what collaboration tools can help your company productivity? Allied can help! From VoIP phone systems to mobile solutions and Unified Communication features such as video, instant messaging and screen sharing, we have the tools you need to boost collaboration.