What is People Operations? A better way to engage, automate and empower

"No man can be successful, unless he first loves his work." - David Sarnoff (CEO, RCA) 

People Operations, also known as People Ops, is a business function that puts employees first, makes them a top priority. People Ops is part of the HR broad umbrella, but it’s more than that. It comprises all the activities designed to make employees more productive, from their first day at work until they leave the company.

In the following lines, we will explain what People Operations encompasses, how it differs from HR, what purposes does it serve, and why it can be an asset to your organization.

People Operations - Definition

We will define it as the strategic business function that concentrates on employee development, engagement, motivation, and retention

The term originated from Laszlo Bock, former Senior Vice President of Google’s People Operations, who described this in more depth in his book, Work Rules!.

This concept is that fostering an atmosphere of happiness and contentment among the employees will lead to a higher level of productivity and efficiency. Plus, employees will feel proud of their organization and what it stands for.

With People Ops, you can create a truly incredible employee experience.

In most ways, Human Resources and People Ops are the same thing. It’s a matter of variety regarding roles and definitions, job descriptions for every company, and how they choose to name it. Think of People Ops as the new, improved, more modern Human Resources.

While HR focuses on implementing, reinforcing, and sanctioning compliance and reducing liability, People Ops aims to enhance the value of employees with a comprehensive business approach.

The essential differences between Human Resources and People Operations:

Traditional HRPeople Ops
Mostly focused on enforcing compliance.Focused on increasing employee value.
Executes decisions made by higher management.Included and consulted in strategic decision-making.
Works within the limited constraints of HR practices and internal procedures.Engages a holistic approach to focus on business goals using personalized people tools.
Manages the employee database and completes pay changes as requested by managers.Creates and implements goal-based reward systems that stimulate employee initiative.
Responds to issues and inquiries as and when they arise.Understands crucial business goals and drafts proactive programs to help accomplish them.
HR Teams/departments usually operate separately from other departments.People Ops tend to link all departments together.

Many large companies, including Google and IBM, are stepping away from traditional HR teams in favor of a People Ops configuration, which takes a more holistic approach to business. But make no mistakes, small and medium enterprises have a lot to gain from People Ops. It’s the path you have to take if you want to succeed in 2024. 


Function and responsibilities of People Operations

The responsibilities of people ops within the modern business range from: 

  • Creating and implementing organizational structures.
  • Attracting, hiring, and retaining top talent.
  • Creating and promoting a great employer brand.
  • Onboarding employees and ensuring they have access to resources, tools, and systems.
  • Tracking and evaluating HR analytics.
  • Modernizing outdated HR systems, including absence management, payroll and applicant tracking software.
  • Evaluating and improving working conditions.
  • Digital transformation of the HR processes.
  • Supporting, recognizing, and rewarding performing employees.
  • Assessing and improving employee satisfaction.
  • Designing and implementing employee benefits and answering questions about these and company policies.
  • Supporting the actions for achieving the broader goals of the organization.
  • Constantly working towards culture development.
  • Ensuring compliance with laws and regulations.


Why is People Ops Important?

Your number one customers are your people. Look after employees first and then customers last.” - Ian Hutchinson, author of People Glue.

Business managers, regardless of the industry they are in, have realized that companies are more and more about people. The value of their organization is almost entirely dependent on the employees.

We live in a digital era, and the significance of intellectual property and the quality of employees has never been more vital. Also, it is now much easier for employees to switch companies; therefore, you have to stay on top of this issue and make sure you retain your top talent.

The results of investing in People Ops in your organization will reflect within a culture of unity, where employees are happier and achieve business objectives strategically. 

Engaged and motivated employees help produce increased revenue and will indeed amount to a higher level of profitability, regardless of industry, company size, or economic status.


People Operations Roles

If you are a small start-up at the beginning of your journey or a medium organization, you can think about hiring one or two persons to handle People Ops. If you are a large company, you should think about a whole department. You either transform the HR department, or you hire People Ops specialists.

Let’s see what different roles you can create within the People Ops department:

  • People Operations Specialist - is responsible for conducting data checks and ensuring all HR records and documents are accurate, up to date, safely stored, and that all issues and inquiries are answered promptly. They are responsible for the onboarding process of the newly hired employees. They will often work alongside other departments. Excellent communication skills and adaptability are essential for this role.
  • People Operations Manager - is the one in charge of managing the team’s global work, similar to a Project Manager or HR Manager. It’s their job to supervise the team and ensure they work well together and collaborate with other departments efficiently.
  • The objective of a People Operations Manager is to make daily life easier and empower employees with every occasion. 
  • People Operations Analyst - is responsible for researching, identifying glitches in procedures and operations, and recommending improvements and desired changes. These analysts ensure the company is always in compliance, reducing liability risks.


What skills should you look for when searching for the right employees for your People Ops team?

In the list below you can identify five essential skills you must look at when searching for the next people-oriented pro:

  • Emotional intelligence
  • Analytical thinking
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Problem-solving
  • Conscientiousness.

People Operations Job Description

In the following lines you can find a detailed perspective about the responsabilities, qualifications recommended to be mentioned as part of the job description. As you can see in the document that is free to download, among the key elements that such specialists must handle we highlight: HR policy, talent acquisition and onboarding, performance management, employee engagement, HR system, and employee relations.

Download the People Operations Job Description

To implement People Ops in your company, consult experts who specialize in People Ops and human capital management; if not, it can be challenging to get rid of the old habits of traditional HR strategies.

Regardless of the size of your company, instituting a People Ops team is crucial to modernize your HR approach and make sure you’re putting your people first. When employees feel valued and are engaged, your organization will gain an excellent reputation and create a competitive advantage.

On what high-performing companies should be striving to create: A great place for great people to do great work.” - Marilyn Carlson, former CEO of Carlson Companies

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