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Improving the Relationships Between HR and Other Departments

In many organizations, individual departments operate independently of each other. Where there should be alignment and collaboration, instead silence or even fiction can fester. This “silo mentality” can inhibit the company’s ability to achieve business objectives and lead to self-defeating internal strife.

The Human Resources department can play a pivotal role in bridging inter-departmental gaps. HR is the perfect function to bring together employees and managers from different business segments. But to do that, HR must itself have good inter-departmental relationships.

That’s often not the case. HR often operates separately from other departments, focused on transactional tasks and behind-the-scenes work. How can HR itself close this divide?

Research from Google may offer a clue. Since internal and inter-departmental teamwork is so crucial to optimal business functioning, Google has studied this question intensively to understand why some working groups are successful while others struggle. Specifically, Google began a research initiative called Project Aristotle, where it studied hundreds of internal teams. One of the key findings from this research was the importance of psychological safety.

According a review of Project Aristotle in The New York Times, “Google’s data indicated that psychological safety, more than anything else, was critical to making a team work.” Psychological safety means that all team members feel accepted, respected, and able to take risks and offer honest ideas and feedback without fear of negative consequences.

How can employers foster that kind of environment? Research shows that participatory management, a clear team structure, and strong relationships between team members all help to foster psychologically safe teams. That means HR departments trying to work more closely and effectively with other departments should take several concrete steps.

First, HR needs to be able to clearly articulate and communicate the value it delivers to other departments. Beyond the transactional tasks of making sure everyone gets paid on time and empty job roles get job postings, HR should be able to define and sell its ability to help managers be more effective in their roles and more capably solve people-related problems. HR should be able to provide advisory services that can address pain points related to productivity, turnover, engagement, and other workforce-related issues.

Second, it requires an organized, orchestrated approach. If HR wants to work more closely with other departments, HR leaders and workers can’t expect success if they are trying to do so in a haphazard or off-the-cuff manner. Success comes from trust, which is itself built on that sense of psychological safety described above, and that safety benefits from structure. HR leaders should reach out to other department heads and try to establish a clear plan of action for improving relations.

CoAdvantage, one of the nation’s largest Professional Employer Organizations (PEOs), helps small to mid-sized companies with HR administration, benefits, payroll, and compliance. To learn more about our ability to create a strategic HR function in your business that drives business growth potential, contact us today.