Case study: Redesign HR Operating Model for NS

Highberg collaborated in a transformation with the HR Department of Dutch railroads on improving the HR service delivery model. Subsequently the HR Target Operating Model was newly developed. Read below about the context, approach, and the results which were achieved.


Customer demand

NS' (Dutch Railroads) HR organization serves 22,000 employees and operates in both an operational and staff environment. The context is complex because of the differences between business units and interests of various groups. This makes it necessary to take a critical look at the content of intended changes.

Since 2022, HR has been working according to a new service delivery model. However, the intended results did not materialize and satisfaction among HR colleagues and the NS organization declined. Employees had difficulty finding the new digital entrances and transition from the old model was too big for many. Despite good preparation, sustainable assurance among their own HR colleagues seemed to be lacking.

Assignment to Highberg

The MT of NS HR posed the following questions to Highberg.

  1. Improve the current service delivery model and implement improvements
  2. Design a matching HR Operating Model
  3. Guide the MT in its leadership required for the change
  4. Establish operational steering to continuously improve service delivery
  5. Do this together with us so that we can sustainably improve the service to NS colleagues and HR employees experience more job satisfaction

Our approach

In our approach, the following change elements were introduced:

  • Deploy various work streams with concrete milestones and deliverables with tight control on progress together with the client (with strong focus on realization)
  • Bring in outside inspiration and expertise in the design of HR operating models
  • Stimulate strong participation and ownership of HR through guidance from the leadership team
  • Drive the redesign process together with expert groups
  • Collaborate with internal project team to achieve sustainable assurance
  • Actively creating support within HR, the NS organization, RVB and unions

Richard Greve, Directeur HR - NS

"Thanks to Highberg's efforts, we have been able to make real progress and change." 


This led to the following results:

  • Concrete adjustments to the service delivery model, based on customer demand
  • An adjusted HR Operating Model, including a reorganization of HR expertise groups, multidisciplinary HR teams, and an adjusted organizational structure
  • With leadership team actively leading the transformation
  • With support for change within the NS organization, RVB, HR organization and employee participation
  • First experiments with multidisciplinary business teams resulted in higher job satisfaction, proactivity and visibility within the NS organization (+25%)

Want to know more?

Contact Mariëlle van Tilburg!