HR Roundtable: How Do We Integrate HR Throughout the Organization?

While the attendees bustled into the room for the February HR Roundtable in Cincinnati, you could feel that it was going to be a very lively discussion!

The forum was tackling a tough topic this month by looking at “How do we integrate HR throughout the organization?” The fact that HR is siloed in most companies makes this difficult. So, the following questions were posed to see what would come out:

  1. Why isn’t HR integrated in companies?
  2. What actions does HR do to shoot itself in the foot?
  3. How can we turn this around and integrate HR?

The small groups buzzed as they jumped into their conversations. It was difficult to reign them in and get them to share, but we finally did and their responses were magnificent!

Why isn’t HR integrated in companies?

Moderator’s note: The answer “they don’t know the business” was stricken from this forum. It’s become a catch phrase for people outside of HR to diminish their reach and impact. So, take a look at what folks in the February roundtable discussion came up with since they weren’t “allowed” to use the catch phrase.

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  •  It depends on how management views the role of HR in its structure. This is the cornerstone to this entire topic. If a company wants HR to be the compliance police, or the administrative arm, then it will never be integrated. If management doesn’t want to view HR in a strategic manner, it won’t be “allowed” to stretch those muscles.
  • HR doesn’t generate revenue. Whenever this comes up it sounds like it’s an AA meeting — “Hi, we’re HR and we’re overhead.” “Hi, HR!” There is no denying that HR is an overhead function in a company. Amazingly, the fact that great HR does phenomenal work to reduce liability and risk, which may result in a loss of bottom line profitability, isn’t valued. The visible folks who bring revenue in get the spotlight. They should. However, it doesn’t mean that HR can’t truly affect the bottom line of a company.
  • HR isn’t involved in the full scope of the business. If HR chooses, or allows itself, to be siloed, then the company will let that happen. It may not be what they want, or expect, but they will let HR stay down the hall and have people trudge to them. Inactivity will be seen as a means of accepting isolation. (We’ll address this later in the notes …)
  • HR can’t quantify what it does. Ahhh, the HR metrics issue. The fact that businesses run and work from data needs to be embraced by HR. It doesn’t mean that we should just pop out numbers and statistics, but there are great ways to bring that quantification aspect to HR and be very vital and vibrant with our information.
  • HR has a risk mitigation (keeping their distance) mentality. Even though this is a skill that company’s want from HR, they don’t want HR to be risk averse. If HR is paralyzed by fear of what “could” happen, then it’s a detriment to take a distance approach. If everything from HR starts with a, “No, we can’t do that” response, then they won’t be involved in the overall business. Businesses need solutions not rebuttals.
  • What the hell does HR do anyway? Sorry to be harsh, but there are many people in companies who don’t know what HR does in the least. So, they put us in the stereotypes that beleaguer our profession. If we aren’t visible and vocal about the value HR adds, then people will cloud us in ambiguity. This lack of clarity rests solely on the shoulders of HR.
  • Is HR paying attention to the “right” things? Great question. Are we evaluating what we are bringing to the table in our companies? Or, are we just trying to play the game to be accepted. We need to change our approach and expectations of ourselves. If HR tackles, resolves and measures the items that matter to the company as a whole, they will be seen in a better light.

What actions does HR do to shoot itself in the foot?

  • We’re “too busy.” Who isn’t busy these days? And, how do you quantify this? Really, people can fill their days with a multitude of endless tasks and “To Do” lists. Just because a person’s day is full, it doesn’t mean it’s adding value. It just means that you’re staying busy.
  • Not enough bandwidth. We live in a beautiful silo that is both tall and deep. However, our reach is minimal. If you think that your job is everything about HR, then you’re not about the business. One thing that we need to ask is, “Are we too comfortable in our silo?” If we are, then we have a bigger issue to overcome .
  • We’re afraid of our own shadow. Risk taking is healthy. It’s needed to see where boundaries can be stretched and extended. Employees want to grow and not shrink. If they feel that shrinking is their future, they’ll leave. So, HR needs to be the group that encourages risk as well as taking risks itself.
  • We hoard information. Have you seen the show “Hoarders”? Not a good light to be in. We do have tons of information that we take in, process and utilize. However, it’s not “ours,” it’s the company’s. If you’re using information to leverage your efforts against others, cut it out. Information can be powerful when it’s used, not hoarded.
  • My desk is more important than people. If this is your approach, forget the possibility of ever being integrated. Things are critical, but they are just “things” without people. Jump in and get messy. People want HR to be involved with them and not just to correct them.
  • We don’t want to be integrated. There is a huge number of HR people who are very content with the place they have in companies. Granted, they may groan and bemoan how they’re treated, but they will do nothing to move out of their situation. Remember, you get what you ask for!

How can we turn this around and integrate HR?

  • Think differently. Don’t follow the crowd – set the trend. HR must, must, must be proactive and forward thinking in its approaches and its actions. Being passive is not a leadership characteristic. Being a leader means putting yourself in other areas on purpose.
  • Evaluate how HR adds value. Assess the current functions that your HR department offers, and then see if (a) that truly adds value today or (b) it can be tweeked to add value with some changes. If you use the benchmark of only having efforts that add value first, you’ll eliminate the nonsense that you’re wasting time on now.
  • Champion the business. Back to the moderator’s note. “Knowing” the business is only learning things in your head. You need to jump in and be passionate about what your business does. When this passion goes to your heart, you will act differently and you will absolutely be seen in a better light throughout the organization!
  • Be a salesperson in HR. We are responsible for moving our companies forward. You should be out there sharing the products and/or services your company offers. If your first introduction to someone externally is, “Well, I’m in HR,” then you aren’t where you need to be. You should be talking about what your company does first and that you get to practice HR there. Not HR first!
  • Defend the tough position. Take a stand on issues. Don’t be wishy washy and hope that someone else lands on a good answer. You have a say in things, so speak up. Leaders have to make and defend tough positions on a regular basis. Join in and emulate this.
  • Rebrand HR and then sell it! Stop living with others’ definition of what HR should be. Own it. Create it. Drive it. It doesn’t make you pushy, it makes you relevant
  • Socialize. This really should be the first item, but it made sense to end on it to remind everyone that you can only be integrated if you’re surrounded by people. Try this as a new mantra to get integrated – “If a department has people in it, then HR needs to be there.” It works.

This was a phenomenal session. When HR is integrated throughout a company, the company does better. It’s a fact proven over and over.

So, take these notes and see where you can start breaking down the silo!

Steve Browne, SHRM-SCP, is the Executive Director of Human Resources for LaRosa's, Inc., a regional pizzeria restaurant chain in the Greater Cincinnati and Dayton, Ohio area with 16 locations and over 1,200 team members. Steve has been an HR professional for more than 30 years in the manufacturing, consumer products, and professional services industries. He facilitates a monthly HR Roundtable in Cincinnati and runs an Internet message board for HR pros that reaches 7,800 plus people weekly. Steve joined the SHRM Board of Directors in January 2016. You can contact him at, or on Twitter (@sbrownehr). You can also read more on his personal blog, Everyday People.



4 Comments on “HR Roundtable: How Do We Integrate HR Throughout the Organization?

  1. Great post and so true your comment “If HR chooses … to be siloed, then the company will let that happen” … Thats the key – choice, we chose to do or not to do or go or not to go int he right direction.

  2. HR is a service and unlike other business units within a company, HR interacts with every employee and therefore every business unit in the company. So, the question “Why isn’t HR integrated in companies?” does not make a lot of sense – strictly speaking. It is a different matter whether HR gets the respect they deserve for all the work they do. And that is something that needs to be driven from the top.

  3. Excellent post. I’ve worked in places where HR was valued and where it was not. In all cases, there were HR people who made a difference and those who were less effective. My take-away? It is always possible to increase your impact, although it won’t always be welcome. And perhaps the real underpinning question is, am I willing to risk rejection? Something to ponder.

  4. It is the great post. HR is able to be more active and effective. However, it should have strong support and commitment from the BOD. It is not easy for HR to be valued if the BOD only thinks HR is a supporting services and paper works only.

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