Help, I’ve Fallen Into A Silo

On March 2, 2011, in HRExaminer, More2Know, by John Sumser

hrexaminer-silos-webHelp. I’ve Fallen Into A Silo

The other day, I was talking to a colleague who is trying to solve a very difficult problem. Essentially, the core objectives of the business are creating a tidal wave of attrition. What the leadership wants to do comes at the expense of the people who work there.

The solution to one business issue is creating a very reasonable unpleasant backwash among key people. They, with good reason, imagine that their blood sweat and tears will result in the end of their employment.

So they leave first.

One of the many things I do is to connect people. I’ve worked hard to get to know a lot of really smart people. They all come at the industry’s problems with a variety of perspectives. I often act as a gateway, helping people understand why they want to talk with each other.

I told my colleague that he needed to talk with ‘a guy I know who does employment branding’. He responded by explaining to me that this wasn’t an employment branding problem, that it could be solved by more clearly defining performance requirements. The response was so quick, it made my head spin.

(This is where my goatee becomes really important. At moments like these, about all I can do is stroke it and mumble, “Hmm, very interesting.” So, I stroked my beard and mumbled, “Hmm. Very interesting.”)

The trouble with HR in general and the silos of HR in particular is that very few real business problems fall into neat functional categories. People who are actually good at solving business problems similarly don’t fall into neat categories. Finally, the solutions to complex business problems never fall into neat categories.

When you ask for help, the appropriate response to help that is offered but seems wrong is to make sure that you understand what you have been offered. Allowing the blinders of your silo to cloud your approach to solutions is to effectively limit those solutions. Really big problems require really open minds. The answer is almost always that you assumed something incorrect. Big solutions require you to interrupt your assumptions.

Employment Branding (which we’ve been talking about all week), can be a holistic view of the company’s relationship with the workforce, past, present and future. It is the cumulative effect of the way that employees are harnessed to meet corporate ambitions. Employment Brand is the aggregate of all employee experience.

Changing it can only be done by starting from where you are.

If you want to change the way that the relationship between the organization and its members works, you have to change the brand. While it may or may not be the primary focus of your intervention, it will be the net result of the work. Industrial employment branding initiatives involve the entire organization, from the board on down, starting with the board.

But, if you want to imagine that Employment Branding is only the development of an ad campaign and some messaging, you are welcome to miss the boat. That should have been the title of this piece: “You miss the boat when you stay in the silo.”

The biggest flaw in the current rush to discover ‘best practices’ is that ‘best practices’ rob their users of the mistakes necessary to have good judgment. Without some doozy mistakes under your belt, you are left in the position of believing that answers are simple and come in a box (with the crackerjack prize). Really tough and interesting problems are not solvable with best practices.

  • Mark Hornung

    Amen and hallelujah, Brother John. Thank you for your witness!

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