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6 Tips for Fostering Cross-Departmental Collaboration

Posted By Administration, Thursday, July 21, 2016

For a tight team of workers with similar backgrounds, collaboration might come easy. But what about projects that bring together professionals from your IT and finance divisions? A recent Robert Half Management Resources survey found that CFOs and CIOs are working together more today than they did three years ago. Cross-functional collaboration is also occurring more often at the staff level.

 

Working closely with other departments offers many benefits, such as less red tape and more streamlined processes. That’s not to say you won’t encounter differences along the way, such as friction among staff with unique viewpoints on approaches to problems, distinct work styles and skill sets. So how do you, the manager, go about facilitating collaboration between a group that includes an opinionated auditor, an introverted IT professional and a particularly spirited business analyst? Accounting managers can play a major role in fostering cross-departmental collaboration. Here are six ways you can bring a diverse group together:

 

Collaboration tip #1: Minimize industry lingo

 

Ask your staff to minimize accounting jargon and industry shorthand. For example, if the finance and tech departments are working on customizing your enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, go easy on potentially confusing terminology like contra accounts and AR/AP. Similarly, if the other department starts throwing around an alphabet soup of acronyms, step up and ask for clarification.

 

Collaboration tip #2: Strengthen inter-departmental bonds

 

To promote collaboration, consider including some fun activities so people get to know one another, such as this icebreaker: Have each participant email you a picture of their spirit animal in advance of a group meeting, and then put the images into PowerPoint. As everyone introduces themselves, display their image and have them explain why they identify with that particular animal.


Other ways to foster collaboration:

  • Offer a brown-bag lunch topic such as, “Everything you wanted to know about accounting but were afraid to ask.”
  • Plan social events — off-site lunches, bowling nights, catching a baseball game — and invite one department at a time to join you.
  • Team up with other divisions on company-wide volunteer projects.

 

Collaboration tip #3: Give all workers a voice

 

Typically, when you gather people together — some will dominate the conversation while others will hang back. Do your best to encourage more introverted members of the group to contribute to the discussion. You can do this by simply suggesting, “Let’s listen to some ideas from someone we haven’t heard from.” In addition, remind your team that you welcome feedback via email, in person or by phone.

Collaboration tip #4: Show staff the bigger picture

 

Some of your accountants may have a hard time understanding why they need to collaborate with other departments or how their role factors into the company’s success. Help them break out of this silo mindset. Encourage collaboration by asking a leader from another department to give your team a presentation on what their group does, and include a Q&A afterwards. Or, if a finance staff member needs to work closely with IT, sales or marketing, arrange a job shadowing experience so they can learn firsthand about their colleague’s role.

 

Collaboration tip #5: Nip conflicts in the bud

 

Team members are bound to disagree now and then, especially if they come from different departments. Individuals can work out small conflicts on their own, but bigger ones may require management to step in. If you observe a conflict taking root, step in before it escalates. It may require that you reassign teams.

Collaboration tip #6: Celebrate together

 

A party is a great way to mark major milestones or the end of the completion of a big project. Be sure to recognize the entire group’s efforts and acknowledge their hard work. Give kudos to outstanding staff — from accounting as well as other departments — who went above and beyond. Celebrations and gratitude can boost morale and improve job satisfaction and retention.

 

With cross-departmental collaboration, your team might include a mix of wallflowers and social butterflies, critical thinkers and creative types, planners and spontaneous decision makers. But they all share one ideal: They’re professionals in their respective fields and they’re here to make the company and its product better. Your job as a manager is to highlight their strengths and foster collaboration that is pleasant, productive and profitable.

 

This article is provided courtesy of Robert Half Management Resources, the premier provider of senior-level accounting, finance and business systems professionals to supplement companies' project and interim staffing needs. The company has more than 145 locations worldwide and offers online job search services at www.roberthalfmr.com. Follow our blog at blog.roberthalfmr.com.  

 

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