Why cross-functional teams can enable better performance
By: Mady Peterson
Throughout my time in Seattle, I’ve been fortunate enough to be part of numerous cross-functional teams: a successful football program at the University of Washington and various internships, including Limeade. The similarities in cross-functional collaboration have given me some great insights on what can make better performing teams.
What is cross-functional team collaboration and why is it important?
Cross–functional collaboration occurs when a group of people from different departments within an organization work together to achieve a common goal. For example, on a given project, a cross-functional team may include employees from marketing, sales, operations and human resources departments, who all work together in order to achieve their team goal.
In a football team, not only do we collaborate as athletes and coaches, but we also emphasize building strong relationships with everyone in our community — whether it be our equipment managers, athletic trainers or our classmates on campus. Knowing who and what you are playing for results in higher trust within the team, leading to higher performance.
I’ve noticed the same type of collaboration at Limeade, where we have department offsites, team happy hours, “Anything is Possible” day, company meetings and many other company-wide events that brings employees together.
Here’s how you can encourage cross-functional collaboration for your employees:
1. Create mentorship opportunities beyond direct managers
As a corporate communications intern at Limeade, I’ve had the opportunity to schedule time with various LimeMates across different teams. When employees get exposure to people from other teams, they’re able to learn and understand their potential career interests. According to Harvard Business Review, “as many as 32 percent of employers expect job-jumping.” Encouraging cross-functional communication between teams will help employees find the role best suited for their strengths, without having to leave the company.
2. Recognize new employees
TINYpulse found that only 24 percent of employees feel connected to their peers at work, leaving a lot of people feeling alone at their jobs. At Limeade, we publicly introduce every new hire during company meetings. Each new LimeMate has a PowerPoint slide dedicated to them with their job title and a few fun facts. Employees are more likely to collaborate with one another if they know who each other are.
3. Host a hackathon
Limeade hosts “Own It Day,” where employees work in teams to tackle a business problem and then present it to the rest of the company. This day gives everyone in the company, no matter their role, a chance to own, innovate and present their ideas. Events like “Own It Day” will help employees collaborate and solve problems within your company as a team.
4. Encourage collaboration beyond typical work tasks
Never underestimate the power of meeting outside of work. At Limeade, we have monthly brown bag lunches with our CEO, book clubs and even company sponsored happy hours to help engage everyone with new teammates that they may not be used to interacting with. Encouraging conversation and collaboration between employees from different teams and seniority levels will help build trust within the workplace, which correlates to higher performance.
5. Reach out to customers
Your customers can also teach you a lot about cross-functional communication. After a few of our Limeade employees came back from our customer conference, Limeade Engage, it was inspiring to hear that our customers gave us the greatest insights. Hosting events that celebrate customers gives them the opportunity to voice their opinions and discuss market trends and insights about your product that you would have never known or thought of.
Cross-functional collaboration is incredibly important. If you are new to a company, try meeting at least one new person every week. The more people you are familiar with, the more resources you will have when you need to solve a problem. It worked for me at UW, and it also worked for me at Limeade.