Case Study

HR Transformation That Lasts

The Problem

A United States based healthcare organization was performing well. Profits were consistent, and growth—mostly through acquisitions—was steady. Despite this positive performance, the C-Suite believed there was significant potential for better growth and results if they could better optimize the organization.

The CHRO could see that his department would be pivotal in enabling the necessary moves to fix the problems. It would require a complete transformation prioritizing two purposes: to enable the wider organization’s realignment and to become more like the transformed organization-to-be.

Not unpredictably, the acquisition-based growth strategy had resulted in an HR organization that was “too decentralized.”  More specifically, the challenges hampering performance included:

  • Unacceptable variation in HR systems, policies, procedures, benefits, and pay philosophies across business units
  • Inability to leverage technology and data to support the business
  • Variable, inconsistent approaches to talent management and development
  • Inconsistent distribution of HR expertise and support across the system, exacerbated by limited resources

The Solution

With the goal to transform HR’s focus from activities to business relevant outcomes, and to create a more nimble and agile organization in the process, the CHRO worked with RBL to identify the organization’s “advantage work” and clarify a coherent strategic model that defined the structure of its portfolio of services, the direction of its growth, its key competitive differentiators, and the cultural capabilities that would sharpen those market differentiators over time. The resulting single-sentence value proposition required three cultural capabilities for success: Service, Collaboration, and Talent. 

These three capabilities would serve as a North Star for the work that followed: building, implementing, and optimizing an HR transformation that would help eliminate nonessential work, maximize the efficiency of essential support processes, and optimize strategic support work for maximum leverage and responsiveness to business needs - all in support of developing best-in-class technical capabilities (“advantage work”) to best position the organization for success.

Based on the groundwork described above, the team created and executed a three-year transformation plan:

In Year 1, with the building blocks of the unified HR vision structurally designed at the macro level, and the organization’s executive HR leadership in place, the design team sketched out the newly defined and streamlined HR function’s structure. Key to this structure were three people-centered platforms responsible for delivering integrated HR support: HR Shared Services, Centers of Expertise, and HR Business Partners. All three platforms would be overseen by an HR Executive Council responsible for HR strategy and governance. Council membership included the lead system CHRO, regional CHROs, and the system-aligned executives responsible for COE and HRSS functions. Major deliverables included:

  • Establishing the HR Executive Council
  • Standing up the COEs
  • Expanding the HR service center to accommodate the HRSS model
  • Establishing HRBP linkages to align policies and practices across disparate HR units, with the ultimate aim of reducing variability in HR activities and outcomes
  • Planning for HR workforce changes and service transitions
  • Rolling out Workday, the organization’s HR information system
  • Putting additional service technologies in place, including a colleague-facing user portal

In Year 2, the focus shifted to implementation. This phase brought the unified vision to life and discarded the old way of doing things. Major deliverables included:

  • Extending the build to the entire organization
  • Transitioning business units to the new framework
  • Transitioning specific HR functions to the new integrated framework
  • Using learnings from previous HR go-lives to facilitate an iterative, maximally efficient implementation
  • Refining leadership, governance, and service delivery models, as needed

In Year 3 and beyond, the focus is on optimizing.  This phase will see the unified HR vision fully implemented in practice, with HR stakeholders principally responsible for refining, improving, and optimizing it in accordance with the organization’s business needs. It is well underway today; continuous improvement never ends, after all.

The Outcome

  • One of the clearest outcomes thus far — and one of the most positive — concerns how HR colleagues work. “People are working differently,” says the head of Organization Effectiveness. “They’re more collaborative, more efficient, and better positioned to advance the three capabilities that define the organization: Service, Collaboration, and Talent.”
  • The reimagined HR organization has led to critical advances: (1) HRBPs having more time for strategic support work; (2) COEs increasing strategic support capabilities and supporting more such projects - including organization design, culture change leadership/employee engagement, and HR analytics; (3) provision of self-service HR technology for day-to-day transaction/services to 100% of employees (4) streamlining and standardization of HR policies, programs, and practices in keeping with integrated corporate strategy. 
  • By building nationally-aligned capabilities within geographically distributed operating units, HRBPs empower local and regional HR essential and HR strategic support personnel to solve their own problems. Simultaneously, by establishing whole-organization communities of practice dedicated to specific functions, such as clinical and supply chain, HRBPs enable the efficient sharing of solutions that deliver business outcomes.


*An in-depth version of this client story is also available.