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What Is People Operations and Why Should You Implement It?

Whether you call it people operations, people ops or POPS, shifting the way you manage your workforce could make a big improvement in your business. This approach to managing your workforce keeps your employees as the focus, which can go a long way toward keeping your staff happy and productive. Learn more about how people ops could benefit your company and some of the people operations jobs that you can add to your roster.

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What does people operations mean?

People operations is a person-centric way of managing your workforce. It’s a business function designed to support employees with a more humanized approach than traditional human resources departments. This approach encourages more interactions between employees and the employer. It handles many of the same tasks as an HR department, but it individualizes the experience to help employees feel valued.

People operations vs. human resources

Many people assume people operations is just a rebranding of traditional human resources. If you’re treating it this way, you’re missing out on opportunities to connect with your employees and give them the person-first approach that can improve morale.

When looking at people operations vs. human resources, the main difference is the approach. Many of the duties are similar. Both deal with onboarding, training and other staffing duties. The HR approach is more business-focused with an emphasis on the bottom line and maintaining a structure that focuses on legal and ethical elements.

People operations focuses more on seeing employees as individuals. It aims to support each employee to help them reach their full potential and increase productivity. People ops often takes a proactive approach while HR might be more reactive. Companies that use a people-centric approach tend to empower managers and keep departments connected rather than keeping them separate.

Benefits of the people operations approach

Why should you consider adding people operations jobs to your company? Here are some benefits of this approach:

  • Increased productivity: When employees feel valued by their employer, they often increase productivity. That can help improve your company’s overall efficiency.
  • Improved employer branding: Putting your employees first earns you a positive reputation among job seekers. This could make it easier to recruit new candidates who have the talents you need.
  • Maximized employee potential: With the support of the company, employees may feel more empowered to take opportunities, embrace learning and improve their performance overall. It can help motivate them to reach their potential.
  • Better company culture: Recognizing employees and valuing them as individuals can help create a more positive work environment.
  • Stronger relationships: The people ops approach focuses on connecting people and building strong relationships within the company. This can improve overall satisfaction and help team members work together more effectively.
  • Increased retention: Happier employees who feel like you care about them as people may be more likely to stick around. Improved employee retention can help save your company money on the hiring process.

Key duties under the people ops umbrella

The people operations department handles many of the same duties as the traditional HR department. However, it often takes a slightly different approach to handling those situations. The following duties are typical of people ops:

  • Strategy: The team creates an overall strategy for managing the people in the company and keeping them happy.
  • Hiring process: This approach focuses on updating talent acquisition by using technology and connecting with candidates early and often.
  • Retention: A major focus is reducing turnover rates by creating a more positive environment for employees.
  • Onboarding and training: People ops handles onboarding new employees, helping current employees transition to new roles and providing training that meets the needs of individuals as well as the company.
  • Employee advocacy: The team helps move the company toward meeting the needs of employees and advocating for benefits and changes that support those needs.
  • Staff recognition: Implementing employee recognition programs enables the people ops team to boost morale and ensure employees feel appreciated.
  • Analysis: Team members often gather metrics about employees to analyze what the company is doing well and come up with ways to improve what it’s doing.
  • Employee lifecycle management: Another goal of the department is to improve the overall employee experience. By analyzing and improving the employee lifecycle, the department can boost satisfaction, productivity and retention.

Common people operations jobs

You’ll see many common people operations jobs at companies that use this approach to managing their workforce. You don’t have to include all of these titles if your company is smaller. You might start with a few roles with overlapping duties and allow the potential to expand as your company grows. Some people operations jobs to consider include:

  • Director of people operations: As the head of the entire department, the director often guides the overall strategy and mentors all the other members.
  • People operations manager: This person typically focuses on the employee lifecycle. They might also work closely with other departments within the company. The manager typically takes an overall approach, aiming to improve the company culture, hiring process and reputation.
  • People operations coordinator: The coordinator role focuses more on day-to-day activities as they relate to people operations. They handle a lot of administrative work and play an organizational role in the department.
  • People operations specialist: Specialists in the people ops department work more closely with the employees. They handle onboarding, paperwork and questions from employees and job candidates. This role is often in charge of implementing various programs, such as benefits, transfers and offboarding.
  • People operations analyst: As the title suggests, this team member focuses on analyzing all the processes and operations in the organization. It concentrates particularly on compliance and regulations to make sure the company is operating with minimal liability risks.

Transitioning to people operations

Not sure where to start with the transition to people operations? These tips can help.

1. Analyze where you are

You might still call your department human resources, but you could already be implementing people ops strategies. Look at your overall HR policies, procedures and practices to see how well they focus on your employees. Identify ways you can improve and move closer to a people-centric approach.

2. Transition slowly

You don’t have to hire a full people ops team right away. You can start by changing some of your current practices within the scope of your HR department. Also, look into training opportunities for your current staff that help them better understand the new approach.

3. Identify business priorities

Look at your business goals and priorities. Your people ops practices should align with those goals so you’re working in unison. Consider the type of company culture you want to build and how you want your employees to grow.

4. Get employee input

You can be more effective at focusing on your employees when you know what they want. Surveys and one-on-one meetings with managers are two ways to gather feedback on how employees feel about the company as a whole and your current people management strategies. Feedback can also help you develop your new approach in a way that fits what your employees want and need.

5. Use data to make decisions

Making data-driven decisions can help make your development of a people operations strategy more effective. This includes things like measuring employee satisfaction and calculating turnover and productivity rates. Monitor the data regularly to see what’s working and what might need to change.

6. Hire well

Your current HR team members can make the transition to the new people ops team. If you need to expand the team or you want to hire a leader for the new structure, you can look for candidates with people ops experience or a philosophy that aligns with this approach.

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