HR Target Interaction Model: Unlocking the employee experience  

31 August 2022

A people-centric HR operation model can transform your organization and engage your workforce. 

Worldwide trends have elevated the importance of satisfying the workforce. The pandemic accelerated the adoption of new technologies and flexible ways of working. Talent shortages drive a race to reskill. Employees expect support to be physically and mentally healthy, with work/life balance and free time. A new premium has been placed on social sustainability, including calls for increased diversity, equity and inclusion results. 

All of this calls for a bold HR transformation that centers the function around the employee experience, creating a Target Interaction Model to serve as a blueprint. 

New business environment calls for a new HR model

HR has a significant impact on the employee experience, so improving the function to better address people’s needs makes sense. 

For many decades, HR has modeled itself around business efficiencies and cost savings, leveraging a trinity of HR business partners, centers of excellence and shared services. This streamlined and outsourced HR services, but it didn’t achieve the intended cost benefit and it negatively impacted employees. That traditional standard target operating model failed to address needs along the employee lifecycle sufficiently and identify gaps or obstructions in processes. It wasn’t effective then, and it’s now more antiquated than ever. 

Placing people and their needs at the heart of human resources calls for HR transformation to be guided by a Target Interaction Model (TIM) before designing the target operating model. In the TIM, HR transforms around people; focusing on relevant services and providing exceptional interactions that yield measurable employee satisfaction. 

While the TIM is based on a fundamental philosophy and common design archetypes, it’s customized for every organization based on its needs, culture, and people dependency. It’s important to understand the population and its preferences: For example, a given workforce might value the personal touch more than another whereas other use cases put full automation above all. 

Regardless, a key component of any TIM-driven HR transformation is digitalization, a sometimes unappreciated but critical way to support the business and enhance the employee experience. People expect simple, user-friendly digital experiences at work, just as they do in their personal lives. 

Investing in top technology and designing a TIM, focusing first and foremost on creating an exceptional employee experience, improves business results. When companies become people-centric, they’re rewarded with increased attraction, retention, and engagement; a better experience for customers; greater trust in the organization and higher productivity.

Exemplary target interaction model

An exemplary target interaction model is one focused on interactions

In the first column, you have customers of HR including candidates, the external workforce, employees, people leaders, and top management. The second column are the opportunities to use people operations platforms (like a self-service tool). In the third column, you have areas where people will need personal support. These include people operations, advisory and administration, leadership partners, and people strategy advisors. HR can then organize itself with an agile HR pool to cover areas with functional expertise as noted in the final column. There are two main categories: HR customer-facing communities for talent acquisition and talent development, and enterprise-serving communities including project portfolio management, compensation and benefits, Diversity, equity and inclusion, and HR analytics. This full target interaction model is supported by an HRIS platform.

Client success story: Human-centric HR transformation at PVH

PVH, a retail (fashion) organization with $9.7 billion in revenue and 30,000 employees — highly diverse in its business, locations and workforce.

PVH was approaching Workday implementation, and it wanted to create an agile HR model for its highly diverse business, regions and workforce. It had ambitious growth plans, intending to increase head count by at least 40% over three years.

The business gave mixed reviews about their satisfaction with the services HR was providing, especially citing a lack of closeness to the business reality. On the other side, HR was reporting to “run hot” with the amount of work and more than 100 ongoing projects.

Upon consultation with Mercer, PVH decided to re-imagine HR as a customer-centric people function that supports the business as a strategic partner and serves their business by:

  • Developing a new HR strategy and service portfolio, including new roles and an interaction model designed for HR customers
  • Redesigning core processes like talent acquisition and management, improving on moments that matter along the employee lifecycle, strategically leveraging HR business partners and digital systems
  • Check feasibility of Workday integration on an ongoing basis, ensuring its aligned with the global template

Using a TIM approach for the HR Transformation, Mercer followed these steps:

  • Embark: Align on a future vision and strategic priorities, establish a collaborative project foundation 
  • Discover: Assess the current state, pain points and maturity in a rapid manner, focusing on the aspects relevant for a re-imagining 
  • Shape: Design the future state with a TIM, future role descriptions and HR services based on the actual customer needs and user journeys
  • Drive: Develop a multi-dimensional and prioritized roadmap and start the change implementation 

PVH implemented a completely transformed HR organization including some newly established roles. Not only did they successfully and smoothly complete their Workday implementation, but they also achieved their ambitious growth plans with a strengthened Talent Acquisition function and state-of-the-art content and processes. They introduced agile ways of working and prioritize and manage projects with an agile project pool. Mercer is a sparring partner for them to this day and we worked together on a variety of other engagements.

Five steps to adopting a TIM

Evolving from an operational to an interaction-based perspective calls for HR truly adopting a mindset embracing people-centricity and business value contribution as well as significant change management.
  1. Conduct a thorough, honest appraisal of HR
    Create an holistic view of the current HR service portfolio with a combination of interviews, questionnaires, workshops and data.
  2. Establish a baseline user experience
    Consider the employee experience for different persona groups and envision the HR experience through their eyes.
  3. Consider the interactions that will deliver the service portfolio
    Some should be automated; some should be personal and high touch.
  4. Establish the target interaction model
    Form a new HR model that empowers people to achieve the business strategy.
  5. Deliver the TIM service portfolio holistically across the organization
    Successful transformations rethink strategy and content, processes, organization, and systems leveraging technology to simplify tasks and improve results.


  • Offer a customized, fully digital experience
    When HR is primarily transactional and focused inward, human resource information services tend to make talent processes more chaotic than streamlined. Simplify by paying attention to how the people experience works, including reducing the number of disparate systems that don’t talk to each other. Introducing new systems in tandem with change management, training and communication increases successful adoption.
  • Change traditional mindsets 
    Pave the way for an employee-friendly TIM by getting the business to think differently; to become invested in whether employees say HR interactions enhance their work experience. Improve perceptions of HR by shining a light on the function’s evolving role and the value it delivers.
  • Make technology a positive employee experience
    Introducing multiple disconnected human capital management, productivity and collaboration tools and apps can be counterproductive, creating stress. Apply technology judiciously and align it with the way people work. For example, deliver an integrated experience, make it mobile-friendly and ensure it works seamlessly across functions.

10 HR transformation questions to ask about your organization

Establishing and introducing a TIM is unique to each organization. Challenge yourself:
  1. What is the organization’s overall business strategy?
  2. What role will your people leaders play?
  3. Will any leaders need to shift mindsets or alter their roles to support the new TIM?
  4. Which interactions should be personal and high touch? 
  5. What key roles are needed to deliver the service portfolio?
  6. What communication channels do your people prefer?
  7. Do different populations require different types of interactions?
  8. What people strategy is needed to execute on the business strategy?
  9. What does the future workforce structure need to look like to execute the people strategy?
  10. What new work expectations do employees have that should be factored into the people strategy?
People are the heart and soul of the organization; they’re rightfully recognized as critical assets, and it’s important that organizations look after them, learning about and delivering on their needs. They can get there through a transformation fueled by the Target Interaction Model.

The C-suite says that the organization's biggest challenges in driving transformation are people related.


Mercer Global Talent Trends report 2022

New and improved HR

The TIM reimagines the HR function. It evaluates HR roles, processes and technology against the workforce’s needs and wants. It increases agility by reducing silos and pooling resources from across the function that can be tapped for a variety of projects. It establishes a clear, streamlined, effective roadmap to delivering services in a way that is proven to delight employees, achieve business results and ensure that HR interacts with people in ways that matter. 

After reorganizing around a TIM, HR typically frees up about 30% of its administrative load, giving professionals more time to serve the organization in an elevated role. Today’s HR leaders are taking a seat at the table with the C-suite, helping create a modern people strategy that supports both the workforce and the business — with HR in more digitally advanced organizations four times more likely to be seen as a significant contributor to strategic business planning. HR business partners evolve – unburdened by unnecessary administrative duties, they are free to take on more meaningful work, making a difference in impactful roles such as strategic advisor, data-driven problem solver, influential storyteller, trusted coach and independent voice.


of HR teams believe they deliver an exemplary employee experience


of organizations offer a fully digital experience at work that enables employees to access work documents remotely, carry out HR statistics intuitively, and collaborate and innovate with colleagues

1 in 3

employees say it takes more than an hour to complete straightforward HR tasks

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