People Operations is a department responsible for the employee experience within an organization. It’s an evolution from the traditional Human Resources (HR) department.
People Operations, also known as People Ops, emphasizes an employee-first approach. The goal is to humanize employee management, which is critical to employee morale at large companies.
A People Operations department can boost employee engagement, optimize workforce development, and improve employee retention.
Human Resources vs. People Operations
People Operations and traditional Human Resources departments have a lot in common. Both are concerned with how to manage employees and deal with all aspects of workforce administration.
However, there are some key differences between People Operations and Human Resources.
The traditional goal of an HR department is to optimally use employees to fulfill a business’s objectives. An HR department looks out for employees to the extent that retaining talented employees is good for a company.
However, HR’s ultimate purpose is to defend the company as a whole and reduce litigation risk. That means HR often focuses on optimizing productivity and eliminating harassment or discrimination.
The goal of people operations, on the other hand, is to provide the best possible employee experience. A People Ops department is often focused on creating a strong company culture. The idea is that a people-centric culture encourages higher productivity. It also reduces the likelihood of unethical or illegal workplace practices.
HR departments are traditionally reactive. They often respond to issues as they arise rather than create systems for preventing issues. As a result, a lot of HR’s time and attention is spent on conflict resolution.
People Ops departments take a more proactive approach. They use workforce data and analytics to create policies that reduce conflicts and other employee issues. This might entail improving an employer’s branding. It could also mean tinkering with recruitment or the onboarding process.
It might seem like a small change to go from having an HR department to a People Operations department. But a name change can mean a lot to employees.
HR often has a reputation for being slow and bureaucratic. That can lead employees to avoid HR until conflicts get out of hand. People Operations may be seen as a more approachable entity. So, employees are encouraged to seek help sooner rather than later.
Of course, companies can shift the goals and approach of an existing HR department without a name change. Perception matters, though, so companies should tell employees about new changes.
The Importance of People Operations
Why do companies need a People Operations department rather than—or in addition to—an HR department? People Operations can help companies by:
- Recruiting and retaining top talent. The better the employee experience, the more likely top employees are to stay with your company. A People Ops department is designed from the ground up to make the workplace experience as great as possible for employees.
- Responding quickly to workplace changes. In the era of remote and hybrid work, employees and workplaces are changing very fast. People Operations departments can respond to changes quickly and find out what policies employees actually want.
- Putting employee data to good use. Today’s Human Resources Management Systems generate a ton of data about employees. People Ops can use that data to improve company culture, boost productivity, and unlock employees’ potential.
- Proactively reducing employee issues. The proactive approach behind People Ops departments can reduce workplace conflict. People Ops can also smooth transitions when there are new hires, changes to IT systems, and other big workplace changes.
What Are the Responsibilities of People Operations?
A People Operations department may take over all of the responsibilities of a traditional HR department. Alternatively, it may be a separate department or a sub-group within HR with its own responsibilities.
Here are a few of the key responsibilities of a standalone People Operations department:
Cultivating a positive workplace culture
People Operations departments are tasked with developing a positive corporate culture. This means asking employees and managers what kind of culture they want and then instituting policies that encourage that culture. People Ops can also play a role in the hiring and onboarding process. This ensures that prospective and new employees will fit in with the company culture.
In addition, People Ops departments are in charge of adapting workplace culture over time. Company goals, department sizes, and work arrangements change, and People Ops needs to respond to these changes.
Maintaining a strong employee value proposition
People Ops is responsible for maintaining a strong employee value proposition. This means staying one step ahead of the competition in terms of employee compensation, benefits, and culture.
People Ops must monitor changes in the labor market and may be responsible for conducting pay reviews to ensure a company’s compensation strategy remains competitive. It can also survey employees about what benefits they would like to see implemented at a company.
Implementing performance management systems
People Ops departments can take responsibility for creating employee development and training programs. That might mean creating in-house training programs for employees or launching a stipend program for employees to take advantage of external professional development opportunities.
People Ops can also take charge of employee and manager reviews. These reviews offer an opportunity for employees to get direct feedback about their performance.
Promoting employee well-being
People Ops can champion efforts to improve employee well-being. This might include initiatives to improve work-life balance, offer mental health services, or encourage employees to take time off. People Ops can also institute physical health programs, for example by offering free memberships to a local gym.
Collecting employee feedback
All of the policies that People Ops implements should be based on discussions with employees. It’s essential for People Ops to collect feedback from employees on new policies. This process not only leads to better policies but gives employees a voice in deciding them.
People Operations is a department that can take the place of a traditional HR department or operate alongside it. People Operations is focused on optimizing employee experiences. It takes a proactive, data-driven approach to employee management.
While not every company needs a People Operations department, having one can help your business recruit and retain talent. People Operations can also help your business develop a more positive environment in which employees are excited to work.
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