UK employers are continuing to face economic uncertainty, with many looking for new ways to cut costs and cement long-term survival.
But such uncertainty inevitably generates a number of business pressures, from which HR directors are far from immune. Among other things, a key imperative is to ensure that the department is working at an optimum level in order to help sustain business performance. But another consideration is ensuring that different functions work together as effectively as possible for the greater good of the organisation. Unfortunately, however, all too many departments, including HR, effectively run as silos and cut themselves off from the rest of the business. The problem in HR terms though is that if the function operates as a silo, it ends up primarily interacting with itself rather than with others within the organisation. This situation tends to legislate against the sharing of useful information, which can affect not only HR’s own productivity, but also that of the whole organisation. It can likewise lead to inefficiency by breeding insular thinking and decision-making and prove costly to the business in terms of duplicated time and effort. Seeing the big picture For example, inadequate interaction with other departments means that HR may simply be unaware of their individual training or recruitment requirements, while a failure to communicate could result in IT failing to set up a computer in time for a new recruit’s first day. Taking more of a big picture approach, however, can help to affirm HR’s position at the heart of the business. A possible means of facilitating this situation is to implement common enterprise-wide processes and underlying IT systems in order to give users access to centralised data and ensure that information flows around the organisation smoothly. Going down this route also helps to discourage information-hoarding because, when systems interact, people tend to do so as well. Because the different steps of a given process are automated, it can likewise serve to ensure that things don’t fall through the gaps by making who is responsible for what more transparent. For example, when a recruitment request comes into HR and approval is given, an automated trigger can be sent to the finance, IT and facilities management departments to ensure that they undertake their necessary activities before the HR team undertakes final sign off. What is clear is that departmental silos hinder HR’s ability to succeed. Without a unified view of other business units, the department can end up working in the dark, chasing objectives that don't fulfil key business goals. Inclusive IT platforms and integration at the departmental level can help and HR directors have a key role to play in helping to lead such initiatives. Those that act will be in a position to exploit the benefits that technology brings, while the danger is that those who remain in their silos risk being cut adrift. James Gay is chief executive of service management software and services provider, ICCM Solutions.