Embedding: What HR Can Learn From War Correspondents

By Les Hudson

What concept can HR learn from recent wars? Let me suggest that we can learn to adopt and follow through on the word “embed”.

Following the example of war correspondents, we can and should spend much more time with our client portfolios and far less time in our offices. HR is a service provider. We can legitimately provide our services where our clients work.

What are some practical examples of embedding? Here are a few:

  • Doing a ride along with ambulance staff or a ferry crew on a night shift.
  • Attending a health and safety tailgate session for a railway crew in a remote area.
  • Tagging along to a sales meeting for a large vehicle dealership before the doors open.

What all of these represent is HR professionals going to where our work is generated – not waiting for when it is convenient (or there is a crisis) for our clients to come to us in our offices. We need to earn our place at the Big Table, earning our title as HR Business Partner. One of the many ways is to build relationships with our clients and not just provide data for them. Knowing them helps us become more nimble, assisting or providing solutions at the ground level that reflect their needs and wants and legitimately being there in person to truly hear the concerns of all tiers of our clients.

Sometimes you will have to be bold by simply showing up at a local meeting or a gathering and saying “I am with HR and I am simply here to mix because I need to know you beyond an employee number.” Another approach would be “I am with HR and I am here to learn about you and your team beyond your employee numbers. I especially want to know how you work so I can more easily integrate my service to you while I improve on it.” It isn’t always easy. It takes time to be personally accepted and then have your HR role accepted. Be patient. Most of all—be present.

There are many benefits of adopting the embedding approach. You will learn the business of your clients more easily. You will build interpersonal relationships and credibility. You will have their ears when you suggest — versus send an email — how they can improve their working situations be it by shifting the hours from a job that is in the sunshine phase to the needs of a new and dynamic position or suggesting team appreciation events. By working across your organization through the various clients you become a bridge for them to break down the very silos that isolate them from each other.

You can become a courier for change and, let’s face it, who doesn’t like to get out of the office once in a while and meet the characters in our organization! One final thought: you will become examples for the other service units in your organization such as finance, safety, training, and your senior leadership team.

Embed yourself and win the battle for positive change.

Les is currently the HR Director with the Department of Community Services, Yukon and was the Chair of the Yukon AC for the last two years. After nearly 25 years in HR, he holds himself to a personal goal of sharing insights gleaned along the way.


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