There are some interview questions that require not only intelligence, but diplomacy. When a prospective employer asks, “How would you increase communication across departments?” it reflects that there is a problem within the organization. Even as you offer potential solutions, you must be aware that those who have created and perpetuated the problem may be in the room. Here are three ways to offer effective approaches while being respectful of an organization’s current leaders.
1. Start by listening. Before you can shape solutions, you will need to understand the current challenges. Explain that you would want to gather information and speak with key stakeholders. It’s important not to overlook what is working even as you suss out what has gone awry. Where are the different parties feeling frustration? Frustration indicates where processes are breaking down. Emphasize that one of the reasons that communication deteriorates is that employees are overworked. Validate the effort that departments are putting in while pointing out that new leadership is the perfect time to reevaluate practices.
2. Underscore unity. Sometimes communication is thwarted by a cutthroat organizational culture. Leaders must shape a framework of the institution’s values and enable employees to find their place. Empower individual departments to see how they contribute to the overall mission of the organization. Employees need to see that they are collaborators, not competitors.
3. Create connections. In order to be sustained and successful, communication cannot be only C-leveled. You must facilitate interaction on multiple institutional levels. While it is vital that department heads regularly meet together, it is not enough. Middle managers and front-line workers should also sit in on each other’s meetings. Seek employees input to determine rhythms of communication that are feasible without being burdensome.