The term “human resources” has become an antiquated concept in the current world of work. What’s needed from employers today is a clear focus on people — not just to attract and retain them but to support their wellbeing, hire more diverse teams and emphasize the human side of hiring and talent management.

“The past few years have taught us that workers are more than just ‘resources’ or ‘headcount,’” says Priscilla Koranteng, Indeed’s chief people officer (CPO). When Koranteng joined Indeed in 2022, she was the first to take on the CPO title, a role formerly called senior vice president of human resources.

People operations goes beyond traditional human resources policies and practices. It describes the business function that supports employee engagement and productivity and, importantly, humanizes operations to improve the employee experience. Human resources executive Laszlo Bock first coined the term “people operations” in his book “Work Rules!,” saying it helps employees “be more productive, healthier and happier.”

This function encompasses all things people-related. Key tasks include:

  • Analyzing people operations to identify areas for positive change.
  • Improving hiring practices and processes to recruit more effectively.
  • Onboarding new employees to help them quickly acclimate to their new roles.
  • Building a company's corporate reputation to attract and retain high-quality talent.
  • Developing employee skills through identifying talent and providing developmental resources.

“A CPO’s job is to look and think more holistically, solving for what people need in order to thrive within the organization,” Koranteng emphasizes.

Indeed CPO Priscilla Koranteng

Retention and New Hiring Appeal

With the ongoing tight labor market and increasing employee expectations of employers, improving retention has never been more vital. Investing in a people operations department can improve your hiring appeal and worker retention by focusing on the humanity of your employees, meeting their wellbeing needs and providing developmental and advancement opportunities. 

Koranteng says, “As a leader, always ask yourself: Why would employees stay with us, what makes us unique and what do we have to offer them?”

She shares three ways a strong people operations department can help win the hearts and minds of your talent every day:

  1. Understanding your workforce metrics in terms of hiring rates, promotions, turnover and available labor pools (based on your industry), as well as taking the pulse of the employees, is critical. Be sure to listen to your employees to better understand their needs and concerns. 
  2. Empower managers to manage. Everyday management and engagement is key to creating the best environment possible for employees. 
  3. Stay competitive. For instance, constantly review pay to ensure equitable processes — pay equity must be an ongoing, “always on” practice, not a once-a-year event. And beyond pay, think about the total employment value proposition.

Stronger Support Makes for Happier Workers

A top finding of Indeed & Glassdoor’s Hiring and Workplace Trends Report 2023 was that wellbeing and happiness in the workplace matter. However, in a recent Gallup poll, 47% of workers ages 18-29 report that their jobs have negatively impacted their mental health. The same poll found that 57% of workers couldn't confirm whether their workplaces had accessible mental health support services, with 33% unaware if they were even offered. 

Leaders need a way to know what support employees need that they can reasonably provide and to encourage workers to use those resources, especially younger generations. In a Gallup poll reporting declining worker engagement since 2020, workers under 35 said they feel less heard and less valued at work and do not feel they have a mentor or opportunities for growth.

Here are some ways you can shift the focus to the “people” in people operations by engaging with your workers and not just their work:

  • Improve employee benefits: Establish an open line of communication in order to solicit feedback from employees and ensure that benefits are meeting their needs. 
  • Increase recognition and rewards: Similarly, regular recognition is a critical psychological need that makes employees feel valued, improving satisfaction and retention. Your people operations department can utilize a rewards program or other strategies to show workers their value to the company and acknowledge their efforts. 
  • Create a support system: People ops can provide resources, programs, training and other tools employees need to thrive so they can reduce their stress, improve wellbeing and boost productivity.

This more personalized approach to traditional HR can make employees feel heard and supported, boosting morale, increasing work happiness and improving performance.

Maintaining Initiatives That Matter

According to the Glassdoor and Indeed report, companies’ diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB+) initiatives began declining in 2022 in the U.S. and UK. However, they are critical in recruiting younger workers who greatly value DEIB+ both in the workplace and in society as a whole.

In the report, 72% of workers aged 18-34 said they would consider turning down a job offer or leaving a company if they did not think their manager (or potential manager) supported these initiatives. One Gallup study of U.S. workers found that those who also felt discriminated against were more than twice as likely to feel burned out. This is where a people ops team can step in.

“Now, more than ever, employees and candidates want to know whether a company actually embodies the messages it puts on its website,” says Koranteng. “Perhaps most importantly, employers cannot simply state that they hire diverse talent — teams must actually represent this diversity in terms of race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, nationality, veteran status and socio-economic background.”

To create more inclusive company cultures, she suggests that employers:

  • Continuously measure all hiring, promotion and turnover data. 
  • Ensure your candidate pools are diverse and make the effort to go back and source more candidates if there are any gaps. 
  • Be intentional about monitoring equity among employees. For instance, constantly measure who is promoted and how, and make sure that all employees have equal access to opportunities for professional development. 

A “Whole Person” Approach

“I believe we need to pivot to a ‘whole person’ approach,” Koranteng says in regards to the evolution of talent management. 

Having a people ops team is more than simply changing the terminology of your HR department. Show your employees that you genuinely care about their wellbeing and are doing the work to embody DEIB+ in the core values of your company. It shows that people matter for something more than their work: their humanity.

For more on the responsibilities of the various roles within a people operations department, check out our FAQ.