Fixing the silo mentality: 3 Critical steps HR leaders must take

By Lars Hyland

Every HR leader or executive knows that breaking down the silo mentality facilitates a high-performance, cross-functional organization. But how do you actually go about doing so?

Is talent experience technology the answer? How about workplace culture?

The truth is there’s no single shortcut to breaking down organizational silos. However, there are key strategies and technologies that help correct the silo mentality and empower company-wide collaboration.

In this post, you’ll learn why the current approach to HR fails employees (and how in some instances, it can harm employee productivity) and how to actually fix organizational silos in your organization.

Fixing the silo mentality: Why the current model doesn’t work

In most organizations, human resources, learning, engagement and performance teams work in isolation.

While this isn’t always a problem, it does increase the likelihood of conflicting information, confused communications, duplication of effort and missed opportunities.

For instance, your learning team launches a new training program. Unbeknownst to them, this launch clashes with an upcoming performance review period. At the same time, the HR team is leading an initiative focusing on employee wellbeing (which involves lengthy surveys).

The result is that employees feel like they’re being bombarded; everyone loses out as employee energy (and attention) is pulled taut in multiple directions.

If this sounds familiar, the good news is that there is a solution.

Breaking down organizational silos between your learning, engagement and performance teams is key to unlocking greater productivity and better results across your organization.

Below, you’ll learn the benefits of fixing the silo mentality and the steps to take to achieve a united, cross-functional team.

Aligning employee development, engagement and management

Getting your HR team on board with uniting your learning, engagement and performance departments as a cross-functional team enables your entire people management function to accelerate progress towards common goals.

A united team will also naturally think more holistically about supporting employees.

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Instead of thinking of your people as learners or people to be managed, breaking down the silo mentality ensures that your people are considered from all angles to better tailor your people practices.

Additionally, combining your learning, engagement and performance functions means that you end up with one source of data.

Instead of splitting your data across separate teams, systems and objectives, all three functions unite to provide broader and more sophisticated data sets, which is only going to become more important for increasingly digital and data-reliant organizations.

3 effective ways to beat the silo mentality

  1. Integrate your HR, learning and performance technology

An integrated team is best supported by integrated software.

A Talent Experience Platform, for example, combines the best of learning, engagement and employee performance management software for a friction-free user experience, aligned communications and a single source of data, improving accuracy and reliability.

This unites your team’s under a unified system for:

  • Learning management: Allowing you to upload, deliver and track formal learning courses and programs

  • Performance management: Allowing your HR team to track performance over time and link it to various aspects of your learning, behavior change and communications initiatives

  • Learning experience and collaboration: Allowing the support of informal learning, collaboration and knowledge sharing across the organization

The Talent Experience Platform you trust to fix the silo mentality in your organization must adapt around your current and future processes, workflows, content and people.

For instance, your learning team may identify a growing skills gap among your employees. As skills requirements evolve, your platform must adapt to encompass your new initiatives.

Your Talent Experience Platform, then, must adapt to your new process to ensure everyone in relevant roles receives the new training, and is linked to each employees’ performance goals.

In the world of work, anything can happen. You may merge with a competitor tomorrow, or your entire industry may be subject to new, strict compliance legislation.

You may ditch annual appraisals and instead adopt continuous performance management, or your CEO may announce a complete rebrand of your organization.

Whatever happens, your Talent Experience Platform must be able to change with you, and not hold your team back.

  1. Use unified data to streamline cross-team collaboration

If you have separate learning, engagement/communication and performance management systems, here are some of the struggles your organization faces:

  • IT and admin departments are more likely to encounter technical issues and struggle to resolve them. Can you imagine how time-consuming (and costly) it would be to customize, connect or correct three non-integrating systems from three different vendors?

  • Departments become disconnected. Separate, non-integrating systems create technical and operational barriers between teams and prevent departments across your organization from working together

    For example, non-integrating technology means the management team can’t see how the training team’s content links to performance and vice versa

    Management might know that better training improves engagement, but they can’t prove or show that to HR because of their disparate systems. This, in turn, places extra pressure on L&D, who are now unable to determine the skills that employees need for the uncertain future

Holistic technology and data sharing across and between teams encourages innovation and broader thinking at the intersections between learning, engagement and performance.

Cross-functional teams can take collective ownership of initiatives with close collaboration and teamwork, helping you instill true behavior change.

To enable cohesive integration between all critical departments powering modern workplace performance—learning, collaboration and performance management— must be able to operate as one system.

This starts with a unified, flexible technological foundation that connects different teams and organizational pillars together.

  1. Share a strong organizational mission

If you are going to inspire and motivate people across your organization (covering many departments, roles, and geographical locations,) you need to communicate your vision and mission with precision.

Too vague, and the vision likely won’t mean anything to anyone. Equally, a vision that’s too specific might also fail to resonate across your entire workforce.

Aligning your people around linked, consistent performance objectives (using learning initiatives, certifications, internal communications, OKRs and more) ensures that every department is working towards a common goal.

Ensuring everyone has a shared purpose means you should see better results across the board as your people work towards a collective, meaningful mission.

Continuous performance management example vision for managers

Fixing the silo mentality: A real-world example

In light of the global pandemic and travel restrictions being eased, Luxe Stays Group (a global hotel chain) is rolling out a new set of stringent health and safety standards, requiring the upskilling of all hotel employees.

The HR team launches a new health and safety course, with e-learning modules leading to a certification, which must be renewed annually.

The course is supported by performance support resources. All of these items are uploaded to the Luxe Stays Group LMS as a program.

A dedicated collaborative workspace is set up within the LXP, where employees around the world can share useful resources (such as official government advice in their region, handwashing videos and tips for speeding up the guest check-in process), ask questions and collaborate with their coworkers to solve problems.

The learning course is added to hotel employees’ learning plans, and managers add a new competency to reflect their understanding of the new health and safety standards.

Performance check-ins with managers help to embed the new knowledge, establish a mentoring relationship that leads to long-lasting performance success.

Uniting learning, engagement and performance management functions within a single HR team provides everyone with better, richer data.

This, in turn, supplies the HR team with better evidence of the impact of their initiatives on workplace performance, which uncovers opportunities for further improvements and opens the door to agile iteration processes.

The basics of breaking down organizational silos

The new world of work is only going to become faster-moving and more uncertain.

This means you must equip your workforce with the skills, knowledge and resilience they need to perform at the required level both now and long into the future.

Alongside the foundational steps above, paying closer attention to employees’ underlying motivators, especially the need to:

  • Improve and develop

  • Feel part of a team aligned with their own values

  • Exercise skills within an environment of mutual trust

Will also prove essential to breaking down the silos between your teams to work cross-functionally.

Supporting your people with flexible, integrated technology will not only allow you to create a friction-free workplace experience but will also ultimately help your organization and its people succeed in the volatile times ahead.