While silos may still serve a purpose in agriculture, in the corporate world, we’re constantly being encouraged to knock them down.

The phrase “operating in a silo” has become a business catchphrase over the past decade, typically referring to different departments within the same company that don’t interact with each other. The rise of technology, social media, online brands, and the changing demands of a multigenerational workforce have all converged to reveal to management and employees just how little they know about what other departments are doing in their organizations.

It’s often more difficult for executives to see the problem because their position at the top gives them a broader view of the company as a whole. However, some executives are starting to understand that siloed departments spell failure in the long term.

Recruiting, Meet Marketing

Company brands have become fundamental factors in recruiting and retention initiatives, yet HR and marketing rarely interact outside of filling open roles in the marketing department. Increased collaboration between the two departments is key to ensuring the health of an organization’s external and internal brands.

In a recent Bullhorn survey of 100 marketing organizations at staffing companies around the world, more than 75 percent of respondents reported they did not have marketing leadership at the vide president or CMO level. The survey also found that having such leadership can make a world of difference when it comes to a staffing company’s sourcing efforts.

“The companies that did have marketing leadership at the vice president or CMO level had a very different approach to their marketing strategies [than the ones that didn't],”  says Gordon Burnes, Bullhorn’s chief marketing officer. “Their top two marketing initiatives were marketing automation and email marketing. The organizations that had less-experienced marketers relied on social media and job boards for driving candidate engagement. The lesson here is that more sophisticated marketing organizations are relying on their existing candidate pools and redeployment versus relying exclusively on net new candidate engagement.”

Brand management is another area where siloed organizations are missing valuable opportunities. Many companies struggle to recover once damage has been done to their brands online. Bad reviews from employees and customers can scare away top talent before they even apply. While the marketing department can help HR brainstorm brand recovery efforts, brand damage can often be avoided in the first place if HR and marketing simply collaborate from day one.

That being said, negative reviews do happen. As a first step in repairing a broken brand, Burnes recommends organizations begin by addressing the underlying issues responsible for the employee’s or candidate’s negative experience. Pay equity, benefits, career development, or a combination of all three are common pain points that often lead to bad candidate and employee experiences.

Once these underlying issues have been addressed, Burnes recommends HR and marketing work together to “go on the offensive.”

“This means opening up channels of social engagement for employees and customers to amplify their positive experiences with the company and brand,” Burnes says. “Current employees’ anecdotes about their positive work experiences at a company can go a long way in turning the online sentiment from negative to positive.”

Marketing and Recruiting, Meet Everyone Else

Silo-breaking shouldn’t end with collaboration between HR and marketing. Finance, payroll, IT, sales — all of these teams have ideas and input to offer all of the others, and opening up avenues of collaboration among them is guaranteed to spur innovation.

“Marketing is a team sport,” Burnes says. “Successful marketing departments must be able to collaborate across the entire organization, whether it’s with each other or with other functions. Strong corporate cultures are built through establishing connections … and dismantling silos between departments.”

Rather than waiting for collaboration to emerge organically, organizations can intervene directly. While such interventions may make collaboration seem “forced” at first, organic partnerships are likely to form as a result.

For example, Bullhorn recently launched a program called “#BreakingSilos,” wherein volunteers were randomly assigned to meet with employees in different departments.

“They can go out for a coffee or go have lunch, but the idea is to build connections at every level and function of the organization,” Burnes explains. “We’ve already seen tremendous success from #BreakingSilos as numerous colleagues have publicly shared their enthusiasm for meeting new team members and the conversations that they had with them.”

Bullhorn also hosts regular company-wide events to foster socialization among employees across departments.

“We also actively build cross-functional teams to address specific business issues that require input and coordination across different functions,” Burnes adds. “These kinds of ad-hoc teams improve interaction across the organization and help address customer issues more quickly.”

There are many ways to encourage collaboration. You can imitate Bullhorn’s initiative or come up with your own creative ways to promote interaction between departments. Whatever you decide to do, one thing is clear: The time for siloed departments is over. Start breaking down silos at your company, and you might be pleasantly surprised by the results.

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