Human Resources (HR) has been around since 1893, but old-school HR practices no longer apply in today’s digital world. After all, the workplace has evolved in ways we’ve never anticipated, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, the working landscape will continue to change after the large-scale adoption of remote and hybrid work setups.
The evolution challenges enterprise businesses as they embrace practices that fit the contemporary workplace. One example is people operations.
But what is people ops, and why is it crucial to staying business-growth ready?
What is People Operations?
People Operations, also known as people ops, is a business strategy that places employees at the forefront of its operations. Laszlo Bock, former HR Director at Google, first coined this term in 2006.
The new approach recognizes the role of employees as valuable contributors to business growth. Moreover, it emphasizes allocating resources to foster company-wide employee growth through employee engagement and development efforts.
People ops humanizes the traditional HR setup that was once described as “formal” and “impersonal.” It also strives to create a work culture and environment where employees feel happy and valued.
The Rise of People Ops: How It Came To Be
To understand people ops better, let’s take a closer look at its origins. This movement started in 2006 when Google renamed its HR department to “People Ops”. But it signified more than a change in semantics — it marked a shift in the mindset of HR professionals and practices.
Notice how the term uses the word people instead of resources and the proactive connotation of the word operations. When you put these two words together, it’ll paint a clear picture of a department dedicated to mobilizing its people for its operations.
People ops is a clear shift in how companies value their employees, and it acknowledges that an organization’s competitive advantage lies in its workforce, not just its product or service. And it can only work if there’s a team of dedicated, engaged, and skilled members.
This new system also offers an alternative perspective to traditional HR practices. Previously, HR officers were separate from the rest of the company because they just provided support instead of supervision. However, the modern workplace requires merging HR and ops to adapt to a results-based work model.
People Operations vs. Human Resources: What’s the Difference?
The talent market continues to expand as Millennials and Gen Zers enter the workforce. The new generation of workers call for innovation and change — and implementing best practices starts by understanding the difference between people ops and traditional HR.
Approach in Role
In a traditional setting, the HR department implements company rules and enforces their strict compliance. It also contributes to workforce management, ensures an error-free paperwork process, and manages payroll and benefits.
People ops, on the other hand, employs a broader, more holistic outlook. It goes beyond paperwork and check-in meetings by actively shaping a workplace that employees would love to stay with in the long-term.
Approach in Operations
A traditional HR department tends to work separately from other departments in an organization. Sometimes, they only receive information when management reaches a decision and only need to execute the directory given to them.
The people ops model, on the other hand, synchronizes the efforts of different departments to ensure smoother business ops. Moreover, it plays an active role in making decisions for employees since it knows their workforce best.
Approach to Team Members
A traditional HR lens views employees in an impersonal manner. In fact, it treats workers as resources that can easily be managed and replaced.
A people ops setting treats employees as individual contributors — it maximizes workforce value through training, feedbacking, and other programs. In a nutshell, people ops consider employees as partners for business growth.
Approach to Problems
Traditional HR and people ops differ in how they tackle issues and crises. Traditional HR tends to be reactive and answer problems when they occur. For instance, when employees leave, HR will proceed with the hiring until they find someone new to fill the vacant position.
However, this is not the case in people ops. Instead of reacting to issues, it proactively creates intervention programs to address the issue at the root. For example, it’ll aim to lower turnover rates by providing adequate workforce support.
Key Takeaways for Enterprise Businesses
Earlier, we discussed the main differences between traditional HR and people ops. Now, it’s up to HR to learn and take up the challenge. So what can your enterprise business learn from comparing the two systems?
Put Employees First
HR is a people-oriented department, so it’s essential to treat employees as individuals that offer value. After all, every person has distinct strengths, needs, and motivations.
Since every person is unique, a cookie-cutter method won’t work. Instead, companies need to embrace empathy, emotional intelligence, and other soft skills.
Apply Evidence-Based Solutions
Humans may be complex, but data can help HR teams make sense of their behavior. That said, use data to your advantage and employ a humanistic approach with people ops. You can leverage vital info like people analytics and problem-solving to yield results, for example.
Be Agile in Adopting Change
HR professionals need to be agile when implementing changes from acquired data. Use the insights you’ve gathered to enforce changes that can help your workforce be more productive and efficient.
Being agile entails responsibility. And that means devising innovative methods that can encourage greater retention, from onboarding to employee training.
Properly Transition to People Ops With Sprout
What started as an initiative from Google has turned into a promising alternative to traditional HR. The shift to people ops represents more than just a name change because it challenges HR professionals to think out of the box and strategize on how to cultivate the full potential of employees.
To learn more about the latest HR tips, visit the Sprout blog.