Going from a one-woman marketing consultancy to a burgeoning agency is not something one plans, but a couple of years ago, I found myself hiring talented people and plugging them into my own workforce plan and in time, to those of my clients.

Because I wanted to ensure top-quality work from my team, my initial plan was to make the each an SME (subject-matter expert) within a specific area. One person handled social, another e-mail campaigns and so on. This worked wonderfully until digital ad management became an offering and overlapped with social, and marketing automation grew over email marketing, and feathers quickly got ruffled.

I had worked my team into a corner. Business was booming, but my workplace was a morgue. If I didn’t act quickly, our effectiveness was going to suffer. As workplace collaboration specialist, Jacob Morgan says: “Collaboration should never be seen as an additional task or requirement for employees. Instead collaboration should fit naturally into their flow of work.” This is exactly what I wanted to achieve when I set out to foster collaboration in my team.

What we did:

Break bread together

We now have a mini-party Friday afternoon called the “eatin’ meetin.’” The whole team rounds off the week with a glass of wine, and light snacks. The tone of the meeting can change from week to week, but I always lead the meeting with the same general outline. We share our weekly output and what we wish we’d done better, thank each other for contributions and get excited about internal projects (that never get done). It’s at these meetings that people’s passions really bubble to the surface.

Often, this creates a fantastic cross-department brainstorming session. Step one, completed.

Green eggs and Yammer

We have a work-flex environment, and someone is always traveling. To stay on the same page, we needed a communication solution beyond email. Yammer is our tool of choice and it serves as our company intranet. Our designers can get feedback (even from non-creatives) and our e-mail blasts get the benefit of extra eyes. Everyone can see what to promote on social from our #Pleaseshare hashtag and we keep client-specific requests accessible and searchable with hashtags.

Clinked.com reveals that seven out of 10 Internet users are using social networks to connect, share content and stay informed. We all use social media in our everyday lives anyhow, so it became a natural part of our work environment.

Work together? Get together.

Did you know that despite the popularity of such professional social platforms, workers are not likely to collaborate if they are more than 50 feet apart?

Sometimes in order to break down silos, you have to force people together. It’s easy for cliques and teams to become rather insular if they never interact with other folks in the workplace. So, moving desks and scooting chairs is a daily occurrence in our office, and we like it that way. Working with people you aren’t used to not only “ups” your game in that particular skillset, it makes it easier to know the professional capabilities of that person. Great ideas and fun collaboration don’t happen in the body of an e-mail, they happen between two like minds.

Eyeballs up here

I don’t believe in sitting back and letting the magic happen — it won’t. But process and policies will quickly become old, so we put our own Red Branch twist on standard “HR” stuff like process improvement. Whenever anyone finishes a piece of work or project, it is uploaded or shared so everyone can see it, comment on it, share it and make it better somehow. We even suggest alternative headlines.

It doesn’t take a genius designer to catch a misspelling in an article and it doesn’t take a brilliant content creator to identify a lackluster infographic. If something can be improved, it doesn’t matter where that feedback comes from. We all understand that this is about getting better at what we do together.

We also started the RedBranchReview, which is a totally transparent, face-to-face performance review that happens every two months. Not only do we talk about total changes for the employee, we work on teammates, bosses, everyone. Sometimes the best ideas for changing someone’s challenges come from these meetings.

Collaboration is vital to good work. Silos can be hard to break down but the end result is well worth it. At Red Branch, we turned good work into great work, and now the office is buzzing with activity.

Maren Hogan is a seasoned marketer and community builder in the HR and recruiting industry. She leads Red Branch Media, an agency offering marketing strategy and content development. Hogan has built successful online communities, deployed brand strategies in both the B2B and B2C sectors and has been a contributor of thought leadership in the global recruitment and talent space. Her clients include Fortune 500 companies and SMBs around the globe. Red Branch Media was formed in 2006 as a simple consultancy. Today, the firm is a full-service B2B marketing agency that serves clients in the U.K., Africa, China, Israel, Europe and North America. Primarily focused on the human resources and global workforce vendors, Red Branch Media handles clients of all shapes and sizes.

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