HR operating model

HR Operating Model

New views on the HR Operating Model

An HR Operating Model is the abstract representation of how your HR function is organized and how it operates to deliver outcomes to the stakeholders inside and outside the organization. Stakeholders being not only employees, contingent workers and managers, but also candidates, external providers or tax authorities.

The HR Operating Model needs to be grounded in the business outcomes that HR must drive for the specific company and should, therefore, be built upon:

  1. What outcomes HR is committed to delivering
  2. Who delivers the outcomes
  3. How outcomes are delivered

The way that HR can meet this strategic importance was first presented in the ‘Ulrich HR Operating Model’ from the year 1997. Ulrich stated that HR needs to focus on both future strategic opportunities and day-to-day operations, while differentiating between people and process driven HR activities. Over the years, most large companies have implemented the HR Business Partner, HR Center of Expertise and HR Shared Service Center role in their company. And although the Ulrich model still dominates, let us have a look at what other HR Operating Models are worth considering.

In the first, more traditionally shaped, HR Operating Model we have elevated the Ulrich model to this decade, adding the Line Manager into the equation. This is the era where cloud tooling and self-service drive the key role that managers play in today’s HR outcomes and employee experience and should therefore be part of the model to show who delivers what HR outcomes to the company.

In the second, more agile, HR Operating Model the HR function is organized around required roles and changes, supporting the goals of the organization at a specific moment in time. There are roles with a strong business connection, roles with a focus on centralized services or expertise. But at the same time teams will be formed topic based or project based, working on continuous improvement or delivering the project objectives in an agile way.


At Quintop HR consultants we know that no two companies are the same and no two HR functions will be identical. We advise companies to design their best ‘fit-for-purpose’ target operating model and help to build and implement in the well-known Quintop way.

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