Reframing Human Resources as a Strategic Business Partner

What can be done when Human Resources must lead a change initiative, but resistance is strong?


The Human Resources function was not effectively linked to the business, and the HR organization was struggling to frame HR issues in business terms. In order to bring silo’d divisions together and create one, unified platform for HR business processes, this organization outsourced its HR systems and processes, creating an urgent need for members of the HR function to reframe their role and capabilities.

The HR function lacked a plan, not only to engage HR itself, but to engage the wider organization. The biggest source of resistance to change was coming from members of the HR organization itself. People knew that because of the outsourcing jobs would be eliminated, and they were struggling to visualize their new roles, and how to prepare themselves to be successful in the new organization. This meant that everyone must get aligned on the HR business case for change and internalize it, learn new skills aligned with business needs, work as a newly formed cross-organizational team, and ensure that HR’s history of “false starts” wasn’t repeated.

How Interaction Associates Helped

This collaborative change effort was characterized by its complexity and scope. It was a short-term implementation with long-term, sustainable change expectations attached to it. It was an effort that touched the work, processes, systems, roles, skills, and structure of HR service delivery – a complete transformation of the HR model.

By using Interaction Associates’ Collaborative Change Management Framework, the HR organization was able to transform itself from a transactional cost center to a highly effective strategic business partner. IA consulted with the change leaders on three key drivers for sustainable change:

  • Setting direction for the HR organization.
    • IA worked with HR change leaders to build alignment among senior executive change sponsors around a clear vision, case for change, goals and metrics, the change strategy, key leadership behaviors, and decision-making processes and authority.
  • Gaining commitment both from within the HR group and from internal clients.
    •  We created an involvement strategy, using stakeholder involvement on the front-end to reduce the cycle-time of resistance that often derails major change efforts.
  • Developing the skills needed to tackle new responsibilities.
    • We helped to build both individual and organizational skills to lead and implement collaborative change, and to operate as internal, valuable consultants and thought partners for business leaders throughout the organization.

Return on Involvement

As a result of our partnership, our client was able to:

  • Exceed the desired cost savings laid out in the business case for this change initiative. This achievement helped each HR leader become a visible partner in the business and increased the HR organization’s credibility because they could show their results along with everyone else.
  • Implement a new organization structure and increase HR’s flexibility via an interchangeable structure that has both a COE focus and a shared services/regional focus. As a result of this new structure, the organization was able to integrate a new acquisition seamlessly, in record time, and support it from an HR perspective.
  • Become a model for how to design, lead and implement a successful collaborative change initiative inside the organization. Not only did the HR function build its own confidence and competence as change leaders, but business leaders throughout the organization began to make requests of HR to lead subsequent company-wide organizational improvement efforts. There were two key business process improvement projects that followed the HR transformation that were fully led and managed leveraging the new capabilities and partnership HR had forged with business leaders (internal clients). 

IA Services Provided

  • Collaborative Change Consulting.
  • Skill Development.


Project at a Glance

The world’s largest medical device company dedicated to less-invasive medicine.

More than 25,000 employees.

26 manufacturing, distribution & technology centers.

More than 13,800+ patents in over 45 countries.

$8.5+ billion in revenues.