by Georgia Drinkwater
A cross-functional team is a group of people with different functional expertise working towards a common goal.
Different departments will come together to set goals. The team’s job is to achieve them in the most efficient way possible. These could be corporate goals or ones set by one or more departments within a company.
It’s essentially how teams work in the agile methodology, which has been disrupting how businesses work.
When you first enter the workforce, you may find that you end up within a team of similar people. You'll work closely with them to achieve goals and divide up jobs to become more productive with your time.
But with smaller companies, like startups, you may come across cross-department teams which take people from different sectors of the company and get them to work as a team. When you're a small business, everyone has to 'pitch in' to some extent. For example, the marketing team may need to work closely with the sales team to figure out what is successful for the company advertising-wise and how to maximise sales/profits in the long run. This type of team seems to have many benefits but that can depend on factors such as the type of company, the size of the company and the willingness of the company and staff to adapt and put time and money into these teams for them to work efficiently. Often larger companies can lose this practice, as experts are allowed the time to focus on what they are good at.
Cross-department teams have benefits such as engagement of employees. A 2013-2017 study by Gallup shows that on average only 32% of employees in the US are engaged by their work. If a team is cross-functional, this can increase their range of work and can help to prevent employees finding work tedious and unengaging.
This isn’t a new concept. At school, the timetable is varied to prevent students from becoming bored and also allowing valuable time to reflect and refresh. Again something the workplace seems to have lost in a lot of cases.
Cross-functional teams can provide employees with opportunities for leadership roles that otherwise would not be available to them. It can also provide them with better opportunities for promotion and recognition, which for many people is the main motivator when entering the workforce. In the long term, this will increase the productivity potential of the business as the employees are more engaged and committed, so will, therefore, work harder and smarter within your company, enabling more success.
Cross-functional teams can benefit companies as a whole and can also benefit you as an individual in the workforce. It can help you stand out to employers when applying for other jobs down the line. This is because working in a team which consists of people with different expertise, you will have more opportunities to learn new skills from your colleagues.
Cross-functional teams are well-adapted to improving the productivity potential of a business and may help to increase the growth rate of new business in the market because they nurture diverse opinions, which can increase innovation. This can further aid the companies within the market.
Markets are crowded today, thanks to the growth in online-only businesses and cutting costs for firms. This means that companies will have to find new and exciting ways to find new recruits. The benefits of cross-functional teams are aimed towards the individuals, as well as having proven return on investment. This approach might help recruit new and intelligent workers, who are well-rounded, which in the long term will benefit the company by increasing productivity and profits.
Although cross-collaborative teams can be hard to implement, as it can be hard to get different sectors of the company to work together, and when they don't work it can be a big problem to the company. However, when they are properly funded and implemented, these teams can have large benefits.
It’s too easy for a business to work in silos and continue with antiquated processes because no one has challenged the status quo. It’s time to invite others into the conversation, even if they don’t know your area of expertise. Because that’s how we grow and come up with great ideas.