HR Operations in the lift

HR Operations
Illustration: Studio Fee Overbeeke

HR operations has been highly undervalued. The last years we have seen an upgrade of HR Operations. Most likely HR can add most value in the HR operations area. The requirements for the people in HR operations are different though, and probably we need a new breed of HR professionals who can run HR as a service organisation.

Everybody wanted to become a strategic business partner

Dave Ulrich Model

Twenty years ago Ulrich and Brockbank published their famous HR business partner model, in their book Human Resources Champions. Although not the intention of the authors, there were clearly perceived differences in status between the different roles. Especially on the dimension Strategic vs Operational, most HR professionals favoured strategic above operational.

For years the ambition of most HR professionals was to become a real strategic business partner. Unfortunately many HR professionals did not have the skills and experience to realise their ambition. Who wanted to become an “Administrative Expert”? With large organisations in the lead, we have seen a slow revival of HR Operations, and today the status of people who are responsible for HR Operations does not seem to be lower than those with more strategic responsibilities.

A typical HR organisation

Basic Architecture HR

Last year we outlined the basic architecture of HR organisations. Most people in HR are in HR Operations. For most people, managers and employees,  the HR portal is the first contact with HR. The first line operators in the HR Service centre are very important: they can help when online no solutions can be found.

HR Operations can often learn a lot from the hospitality industry. Happy customers, reflected in high net promotor scores, are key for HR operations.


Most of what HR does, can be captured under the label HR operations. World class HR operations are key, and many organisations are carving out and centralising HR operations. Outsourcing or partially outsourcing is certainly an option. Centres in Poland, the Philippines and India are delivering high level services at low costs.


A small group of high-level top HR generalists, working on HR strategy and the HR interventions that drive organisational transformation.


Helping employees and other people in the workforce to utilise their potential. People first, not the organisation.

This post was originally published in 2017


This website uses cookies to give you the best possible user experience.
Agree to this by clicking accept.

Cookie settings

Below you can choose which kind of cookies you allow on this website. Click on the "Save cookie settings" button to apply your choice.

FunctionalOur website uses functional cookies. These cookies are necessary to let our website work.

AnalyticalOur website uses analytical cookies to make it possible to analyze our website and optimize for the purpose of a.o. the usability.

Social mediaOur website places social media cookies to show you 3rd party content like YouTube and FaceBook. These cookies may track your personal data.

AdvertisingOur website places advertising cookies to show you 3rd party advertisements based on your interests. These cookies may track your personal data.

OtherOur website places 3rd party cookies from other 3rd party services which aren't Analytical, Social media or Advertising.