As we know, the world of work has been turned on its head in recent years and continues to change every day. The traditional org structure – that sees hierarchies of managers and reports – is no longer an accurate reflection of the way employees connect within and across teams, and how relationships are built and maintained. In addition, the rise of the millennial generation in the workplace sees multi-talented people working across functions and following their interests across a career.

The value of interconnected teams

In an organization that promotes and encourages this diversity, a person might belong to one team and be connected to another, they could serve as a mentor, friend or co-ordinator to multiple people across different departments, creating deeper connections and promoting the exchange of ideas, knowledge, and skills.

Teams will benefit from those who are able to flex between different projects, problems, and functions and bring diverse viewpoints. Additionally, employees who feel bonded to their co-workers are more physically and mentally fit, leading to better productivity outcomes.

What does a modern cross-functional team look like?

A cross-functional team may be spread out across multiple roles or even sites. for example, a data analyst might be embedded within a satellite sales team to help them respond agilely to results, or a finance team member could be seconded to HR to assist with number crunching. A cross-functional working group may come together from across the organization’s departments and seniority levels for a specific project and then disband upon completion.

Rather than sticking to rigid role descriptions and departmental hierarchies, organizations that promote cross-functionality are better able to keep up in a volatile and changeable business arena. They can direct headcount to where it’s most needed and maintain a workforce that values collaboration, co-operation, and learning.

The power of the strongly linked individuals

This kind of flexibility and flow across business units not only benefits projects, teams, and the organization as a whole but is also extremely powerful on an individual level. Those who feel connected to their workplace are more likely to be more engaged and loyal.

Additionally, highly networked individuals within your organization will be influential when it comes to culture – for better or worse. The individuals with the strongest links to others in the organization may influence workplace motivation and others’ feelings of connectivity to a team, an organization, or its mission, as well as their opinions and information.

How to understand modern employee networks

So, how can you identify these individuals and keep them engaged? While there is a huge opportunity here for HR departments to gain value from understanding these networks, they are often informal and much more difficult to chart than a traditional structure. The answer lies in making smart use of data and people analytics to uncover how people communicate and with whom, which employees are the most networked in the organization, and how information flows around those networks.

It’s important to note, that employees will not lose a sense of self or their identities by working in a cross-functional environment. Personal interests, for example, may have the power to bring networks and tribes closer together, while improving communication, but an individual has the power to further enrich their hobby or skill level by feeling motivated and inspired alongside others who they share a common interest, collaboration or connection with. 

Once mapped, it’s possible to adapt employee networks that optimize your human capital, identifying and retaining those highly networked individuals, leveraging intangibles like the spread of ideas, the sharing of advice, mentorship relationships, and social connections.

With these individuals and their influence measured, issues like succession planning become illuminated – those individuals who show leadership potential, who are connected with their colleagues, the organization and its aims, are easier to identify and therefore nurture. 

At Hibob, we understand the modern way of work and built our platform based on this knowledge. Our dynamic org charts provide a complete picture of the relationships between people, teams, and departments to help you make data-driven decisions about your people.

From Nora Stark

Nora is Product Marketing Manager at Hibob. She brings her background in psychology and passion for storytelling to her role. Often confused with the Starks from the North, Nora is also on a mission to travel and explore other cultures. An avid reader and podcast listener, she can be found discussing the latest pop culture news around the office. Nora is thrilled to discover where the future of work is headed through bob.