Applying Agile Practices in People Operations (PeopleOps)

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Matthew Mortlock , Kaylene Pillay , Danique Langeveldt , Simoné Schreuder , Keitumetse TM , Nanzeni Khoja , Chantay Koopman , Marilyn Joe ,

Do you know What is Agile Human Resources? What are Agile People Operations? In recent years, these terms have become the corporate buzzwords and have been featured incessantly in every HR blog post, article, and podcast.

Agile HR and People Operations have gained more prominence in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Few companies across the globe have embraced Agile HR and People Operations while others are scrambling to find out exactly what this is and how they can best implement it.

The essence of it can get lost in the maze of websites and the hustle and bustle of online forums.

That’s why we here at Agile People operations have collected all the highly sought-after information in this article and are offering it as a one-stop solution for all HR practitioners, leaders, and companies.

How to do Human Resources right?

The solution: Evolve HR into People Operations (PeopleOps) and embed agile practices in People Operations (Agile People Operations)

Let us deep-dive to understand what Agile People Operations is, why it is an imperative, and how the Agile PeopleOps Framework™ (APF™) manifesto and values set the tone for a better future of work, workplace, and workforce.

Evolution Of HR To People Operations:

To know where we’re going, it always helps to know where we’ve been. The history of human resources is a fascinating one – and a history from which we can learn.

Human Resources: Then vs Now

Stage 1: Why we moved on from scientific management: Humans are more than equipment

Human resource management today is profoundly different from decades ago. Previously, HR was solely concerned with bureaucracy: employees were restricted and limited in what they were allowed to do and what they were able to do.

Thanks to Frederick Taylor’s scientific management in the early 1900s, employees were treated as little more than equipment.

Employees were required to strictly adhere to specific routines and were not allowed to share their ideas.

Scientific management relied on the threat of job loss and constant supervision. Under this approach, managers used intimidation and fear as a tool to manage workers.

Needless to say, it was easy for employees to lose their sense of humanity and creativity.

After World War II, when manufacturing dominated the industrial landscape, planning was at the heart of scientific management: Companies recruited lifers (who would work at the same company most, if not all, their life); gave them rotational assignments to support their development; groomed them years in advance to take on bigger and bigger roles; and tied their raises directly to each incremental move up the ladder.

Scientific management in effect had trapped workers in one kind of work. If people lost their jobs, they would scarcely be well-equipped to land a job somewhere else.

As a result, the second phase of employee management emerged: the human relations approach. Employees were required to strictly adhere to specific routines and were not allowed to share their ideas.

Scientific management relied on the threat of job loss and constant supervision. Under this approach, managers used intimidation and fear as a tool to manage workers.

Needless to say, it was easy for employees to lose their sense of humanity and creativity.

Stage 2: Human relations: A step in the right direction, but still one step short

The human relations approach was introduced in the 1930s and 1940s by Elton Mayo in response to the simplistic innovation and inhumanity that was accompanied by the scientific management approach.

This approach to human resource management sought to treat employees as humans rather than mere factors of production.

The human relations approach helped to improve working conditions but failed to enhance productivity in the workplace. This was no good, as it just traded one weakness for another.

While this approach understood that people are more than machines, it often failed to implement an effective game plan that would allow an organization to be productive.

A change was needed that combined both strengths: the strength of effective work with the strength of human-centric compassion and decency.

Stage 3: People Operations (or PeopleOps): All of the benefits, none of the weaknesses

In a quest to find a People Operations approach that would enhance effectiveness and satisfy employees at the same time, the emerging paradigm shift was introduced in organizations. Treating employees as value creators were at the heart of this approach.

Agile HR and Agile PeopleOps = One in the same

To achieve empowerment of employees, People Operations professionals need to implement Agile People Operations approaches.

Both the Agile People Operations approach and human resource management approach are interlinked because they require People Operations professionals to be forward-looking, proactive, and change champions.

At present, organizations are designing People Operations systems and practices required to develop their fundamental competencies and yield income and profit.

The traditional people operations practices, such as only following prescribed rule books and policies, can impede the expectations of the fast-paced agile business. The lack of agility and creativity risks the existence of People Operations.

These days, in our exponentially increasing digital age and the world of work, we’re seeing a sweeping transformation.

Rapid innovation has become the name of the game. In the wake of COVID-19, digital/online work is no longer merely a subset of the singular department within an organization – it has become a strategic imperative and more and more businesses are being built and sustained around it. It is now in the driver’s seat.

This is where Agile shines. Agile was initially defined in 2001 after the agile manifesto: a set of key values originating from the area of software development that would come to define the new nature of human resources.

Very recently, we have seen how this has happened and shaped the global corporate landscape: in a 2017 Deloitte survey, 79% of global executives rated agile performance management as a high Organizational priority – and one that “rewrites the rules for the digital age”.

In 2019 more than 97% of industries implemented Agile practices in the wake of COVID-19. That is a staggering percentage!

Work has changed, and People Operations decides where it goes

We can see how the nature of work has changed and how both the scientific management model and human relations model are no longer sustainable. Due to the world of online work, people are no longer bound to one place.

Workers have more freedom to do different kinds of work; employees are no longer limited in their skills and abilities and have more opportunities to express them; people also do not have to work at one company for their whole lives – they have more freedom in deciding what they want to do and where they can go.

Work from home has become especially popular (and even necessary) in 2021. Scientific management cannot account for the online world of today. The human relations approach fails to develop effective strategies for productivity, efficiency, and effectiveness. People Operations on the other hand has all of the benefits of productivity and human empowerment with none of the shortcomings.

Thankfully, human resource management has taken this turn. The Agile HR approach has quickly become the most popular method of doing work and organizing teams. Organizations found it far better (for both their performance and their employees’ well-being) to move from performance management (competitive assessments and pitting employees against each other) to performance engagement (measuring teamwork, quality, access, interest, and output in a collaborative way). Why is this important? Because People Operations (People operations – traditionally referred to as HR) is a collaborative and harmonious function.

What is Agile HR (aka Agile PeopleOps)?

Today’s world favours Agile HR (aka Agile People operations):

Agile HR is more than a mere theory of employee management: it is a mindset and methodology that redefines human resource management entirely. Agile HR is a methodology that implements flexibility, adaptability, and speed of responsiveness in day-to-day work practices.

The ability to adapt and deliver meaningful value to customers is at the core of the Agile HR philosophy. Who are the customers of HR or PeopleOps? Candidates and all the organizational members. Agile has its roots in software development – a discipline that requires constant innovation and new ways of working to meet rapidly changing and complex demands. As a result, agile practices and processes save time, boost performance and support overall business goals.

Agile HR is reimagining human resources – responding to the intrinsically valuable aspects of an individual. What do we mean by this? We mean that human “resources” are much more than a number on a spreadsheet: they are people with values, ideas, and mastery of things that they do.

Hence, HR has come to be known as “People Operations” – a term that respects the skills and value that an employee has; and we prefer addressing Agile HR as Agile PeopleOps because the latter is more holistic and experience-centric.

Employees need to be empowered and entrusted with accountability and decision-making capabilities. This helps in getting the work done without delays that might otherwise occur when waiting for decision approvals from senior authorities.

It is important to understand that the decisions being made are in favor of the organization’s goals and objectives. There is mutual trust and this leads to employees having a sense of ownership which provides a sense of job satisfaction and the willingness to perform for the benefit of the team and company. 

Agile HR or Agile People Operations (Agile PeopleOps) is more than a mindset and methodology. It’s about responding to the change dynamics (both internal and external) and incorporating innovation, experimentation, validation, and continuous learning within the HR function. This approach changes how HR function recruits, trains, and manages the workforce.

Disconnected: Why organisations have lost touch with their employees

Studies show that a disconnect exists between what organizations value and what they actually practice. Research has demonstrated that organizations are out of touch with what makes employees tick – and this is costly: both to the organization’s bottom-line as well as the effectiveness and wellbeing of the employee.

Employing an individual in an organization comes with a level of trust. In essence, an organization is saying that they trust an employee when they join an organization: trust to work effectively, trust to work well with others, and trust to carry out assigned roles and responsibilities.

However, organizations often behave in a way that betrays this trust through micro-management. When an organization says they trust their employees but then weigh them down with restrictions, constant monitoring, or even making decisions on their behalf: this organization is stifling their people’s potential.

The solution to mistrust

Instead, People Operations empower people to make decisions by giving them autonomy and purpose which allows the employee to achieve mastery in all that they do.

The employee does not take a back seat and simply let the HR function tell them who to be; rather, employees are in the driver’s seat and can make decisions on what to learn, how to grow and evolve, and participate in meaningful work. People Operations provide support, a platform, and the means to facilitate the best way to connect with people.

Who do People Operations (traditionally referred as HR) benefit?

Thankfully, the agile concept is no longer restricted to software teams. Human-centric functions can now enjoy the benefits that agility affords. There is a growing need for Agile HR practitioners or People Operations (PeopleOps) professionals. Today, the people operations function is facing challenges and changes which uproot traditional activities and require organizations to adopt agile approaches.

It is no secret that the HR function, in general, has long been misperceived as a hindrance to organizations. This misperception is in no small part due to sub-optimal and ineffective management techniques and execution. Effectiveness and efficiency were lost in the archaic and restrictive traditional HR (scientific management) model.

Weaknesses that can no longer be ignored

For example: “Stack ranking” is a form of employee management/performance review that dates back to the 1980s and intends to grade employees against each other. This often resulted in overly competitive and toxic organizational cultures, as only a limited number of employees could be considered “good performers”.

Not only was this a blow to morale, but employees were also only motivated to out-perform their peers, creating enemies rather than allies and focusing on themselves instead of the organization and its goals.

Individual employees suffered, the team then suffered and the organization ultimately suffered as a result. People operations / agile HR overcomes these weaknesses.

When corporate giant Amazon decided to move away from the traditional HR practice of stack ranking back in 2016, they reported a more effective management system that promoted employee productivity, combated workplace bias, and nurtured company growth. This is where and how People Operations shine.

Why Agile HR or Agile PeopleOps instead of traditional HR?

The traditional HR model had an unhealthy focus on rules, restrictive hierarchical regulations, and internal competition. Instead, the Agile PeopleOps methodology is ideal for simpler, sleeker, and collaborative approaches that ensure effectiveness between team members and throughout the organization as a whole. Employees are no longer bogged down by red tape and internal struggles but instead have faster mobility and harmony.

Operating in the ever-changing world that we know today, it is important that organizations get on board and move with the times. Organizations need to adapt and change internally before thinking about making an impact externally. This is where organizations must ensure that their employees are considered more than “human capital” and must be able to respond quickly to whatever situation they face.

The people operations department – which is responsible for the placement of every employee in the organization – has the opportunity and responsibility to ensure that agility is implemented effectively, thus assuring the best and most positive results.

Why is People Operations important?

The significance of adopting organizational agility has come to the attention of many leading organizations globally:

Agility enables organizations to enhance efficiency and to participate in an adaptive culture. This is imperative because technological changes and new product developments require organizations to remain competitive in the market and keep abreast of rivals with novel innovations. Constant innovation and cross-functional teams are the status quo today and are daily being embedded into the HR principles that businesses – both small and large – practice.

To change from the traditional ways of doing things to these agile practices, organizations need to rethink their culture and management and get on board with the times. Organizations need to adapt and in doing so must change internally before thinking about making an impact externally.

This is where organizations must ensure that their employees and management are agile – meaning that they are ready to move nimbly and not compromise on the quality and value that needs to be delivered to the customers

The human resource department (which is responsible for the placement of every employee in the organization) has the responsibility to ensure that change and agility are implemented effectively, thus assuring the best and most positive results. Below are some of the benefits that organizations can reap through an agile methodology and mindset:

Benefits the whole organization can enjoy

When adapting the company around the Agile HR methodology, companies can obtain the following results on a macro level:

  1. They can easily identify problemsbefore they escalate.

Since agile HR works in breaking down tasks into small parts, issues can be identified and dealt with quickly. Oftentimes, huge and widespread tasks may leave no room to examine the specific parts of the task that may be problematic in the future.

  1. Enhanced teamwork: better values, open communication, and trust

Agile HR has a focused use of cross-functional teams. A cross-functional team is a group of people with different areas of expertise working towards a common goal. There’s a simple, but effective logic behind this: bringing people with different perspectives, knowledge, and skills together ensures many different bases are covered.

Traditionally, these departments may have been separated in the past. Departments like IT, human resources, marketing, and even purchasing were separated and isolated from one another. As a result, separate cultures developed and there was hardly any effective communication and collaboration between them (if there was any communication at all!). These days, departments are much more integrated and projects often require greater coordination and a shared strategy to carry out a project or service.

Agile HR helps bridge these gaps by promoting openness between individual employees as well as teams or departments. Where one department may have an oversight (for instance, technological or software issues), then another department lends their expertise to overcome the problem (like the IT department stepping in). The rate of rapid communication also assists in overcoming any backlogs.

In other words: being able to closely communicate between different departments circumvents an overburden of requests – departments can help each other much quicker under agile methods than when they are isolated from one another.

  1. Create incorporated feedback sessions which allows the HR department to be aware of issues in time, derive solutions, and make improvements.

Time is always a critical factor, and this has been highlighted even more so in the era of COVID-19. Businesses found they were hard-pressed to come up with quick solutions to adapt to a world that wouldn’t wait up for them. Every single industry was affected by rapid changes and unforeseen consequences.

Traditional HR methods tend to get bogged down in bureaucracy and red tape. On-time service delivery was difficult to come by, even before the global pandemic. Once COVID-19 hit, things only got worse. This is when Agile HR demonstrated its dominance and proficiency.

Human resources were now able to act in record time. Cross-functional teams’ feedback sessions (regular scrum meetings for all team members) allowed HR departments to be immediately aware of problems and changes. Additionally, they could now develop solutions and make improvements to their strategies without missing a beat.

This is especially important as organizations need to constantly adapt to change, even more so in fast-paced industries. Agile HR is the vehicle that will introduce steps to adapting to change, test out different methods to implement, observe behaviors, and if need be make alterations and move forward. The technical term for this process is what is known as an “output estimator”. This is how Agile HR / PeopleOps measures cost, time, and performance.

  1. Businesses can become more adaptableand expand beyond traditional boundaries such as time and location.

With the recent pandemic hitting companies hard and forcing them to adapt to work-from-home methods, an Agile HR methodology (when adopted and properly implemented) will help companies seamlessly transition their employees into their “new way of life”.


With companies facing volatile financial markets and geopolitical instabilities, companies must employ the Agile HR methodology to remain competitive and sustainable on a micro-level. What do we mean by this? Well, on a micro-level, the company can achieve the following results:

  • Consumer satisfaction– the team and organisation as a whole will now adapt to the newly identified needs of the customer and consumer (due to new trends or change). The organization can now immediately respond and ensure customer satisfaction is always provided for.
  • Able to produce quality or improved products and services– the use of cross-functional teams will allow for a product and/or service that has been considered and evaluated from every angle.
  • Better control measurements– tasks are analyzed and performed through the use of regular feedback sessions. These feedback sessions also allow for a greater level of transparency.
  • Reduced risk of failures– tasks are taken in pieces, which allows room for immediate evaluation and monitoring.
  • Flexibility– employees will be introduced to measures that are flexible and respond accordingly to changes and trends. Team members will also be able to immediately jump on board in regard to tasks.
  • Improvement in performance – mistakes can be easily identified while taking on tasks in smaller portions. Errors can be easily identified and recorded (with regards to the root of the error and the solution thereof). This results in less chance of repeating mistakes, not only for the team, but also for future teams in the organization.In order to take advantage of these benefits, organizations will need to implement Agile effectively. Agile PeopleOps Framework™ has certain values and principles that are essential to do this.

Agile PeopleOps Framework™ Values

Implementing Agile HR is a long-term process. It requires the refocusing of mindsets and values. The agile mindset has to be built across the entire organization – and the agile manifesto has values and principles. Both managers and employees need to subscribe to these agile manifesto values if they wish to succeed. Agile PeopleOps Framework™ (APF™) promotes a set of PeopleOps values that are essential to any and every agile HR scenario:

  • Open Communication
  • Feedback
  • Commitment
  • Courage
  • Respect
  • Adaptability

Having these values will benefit any organization and team in their implementation of Agile HR. These values work in tandem with a manifesto that captures the essence of what agile HR aims to accomplish. For APF, the manifesto is as follows:

Agile PeopleOps Framework™ Manifesto

As Agility expands beyond software development and as it begins to inform how entire organizations should function, we’re finding that teams need something more people-oriented than the original Manifesto.

Agile HR attempts to break through the APF manifesto barriers, and deliberately (and sometimes) calls for change. It seeks to identify people with their potential, rather than “always in their lane”.

It embraces challenges and efforts to improve mastery. The demands are that we are more transparent, and we coach one another through feedback and opportunity. The Agile HR Manifesto a.k.a APF Manifesto takes a global look at the world today, recognizing that the most successful teams may be distributed, but still incredibly effective.

This last point of taking a global look at the world today is especially important in effective agile HR – considering the nature of rapidly evolving work. To put it simply: we need to see what works and what doesn’t. The benefits outlined here are evidence of what works and what the results are. However, we also need to take a careful look at areas that may fail.

How can People Operations or HR fail?

While People Operations can bring about the above benefits and results, a wise agile HR practitioner is aware of the potential pitfalls to avoid them. Here are some of the reasons how agile people operations can fail:

  1. When organizations are at odds with main agile values and principles 

This occurs when the organization’s culture is not in line with core agile principles such as open communication, feedback, commitment, courage, respect, and adaptability (see APF Values and Manifesto for an outline of essential values that an organization needs). This can be done by allowing agile teams to acclimate their own culture and regulations, by allowing them to shift from traditional procedures.

  1. Scarcity of knowledge of agile approaches 

This is due to a lack of information dissemination on time. Failure occurs if People Ops professionals are poorly equipped to develop and execute agile HR methods. All the information heretofore discussed has not often been made aware. This is why it is imperative to keep these things in mind.

  1. Miscommunication of information pertaining to agile HR 

Similar to the previous point, but with one crucial difference: failure to properly relay information (even when it is well known) is a recipe for failure. If there are hidden agendas regarding the agile HR initiative, the team members will not be able to work towards a common goal because its purpose is ill-defined.

Agile HR and PeopleOps professionals thrive as a team. When one link in the chain is weak, the rest of the chain breaks. It is important to remember that open communication can either be the weakest link in your chain or the strongest.

  1. Lack of executive sponsorship 

The investment in agile HR approaches is unfortunately still seen as a low priority. Senior officials need to actively partake throughout the agile HR initiatives. The body cannot function if the head does not cooperate.

  1. Organisational resistance to change 

One of the most well-known flaws of human nature is our resistance to change. This is also true in organizations full of humans! Organizational resistance to change compounds the apprehension in adopting agile methods. This occurs when organizations are satisfied with the old bureaucratic procedures. However, as we’ve seen, these old procedures are no longer sustainable – and change is inevitable. However, as a PeopleOps professional, you have an advantage in seeing change not as a burden – but rather as an opportunity for something greater.

Agile HR (aka Agile PeopleOps): Methodology and Tools

How do People Operations choose to work? Which tools and methods do successful PeopleOps champions choose to use in the dynamic world of agile HR? What do people mean when they speak about “Kanban” or “scrum for Trello”? We have laid out all the popular terms and methodologies you will often hear organizations and HR practitioners talk about when they discuss agile HR and how to do it.

The first thing to know is that the most popular agile HR methods are Kanban and Scrum. These two Agile approaches are intended to improve efficiency and achieve optimal results. They both provide two advantages: (1) they make it possible to break down large, complex tasks into smaller, more manageable portions; and (2) they place a high value on continuous improvement and optimization.


Kanban is a lean methodology used for agile and DevOps software development. The Kanban board illustrates the stage of work items, allowing everyone on the team to see how the work is progressing. Transparency of work and real-time communication is required. A framework like Kanban helps us to visualize the workflow and it also helps with the management of the workflow. Kanban can be a physical or digital board to help visualize the workflow and easily keep track of deadlines and assigned roles and responsibilities.

Popular online digital boards include Clickup,
Trello,, and much more. The digital boards are much more efficient for
companies that do not have all their employees under the same roof. In other words:
digital boards are the bread and butter of today’s online work. To help better understand this,
Kanban is made up of three practices that function together:

  • Workflow definition and visualisation – easy to keep track of.
  • Actively manage items in workflow – team members can contribute in keeping the work process running smoothly
    and quickly.
  • Workflow improvements – the easy visualization afforded by Kanban allows organizations to improve
    their work inputs and outputs with little to no extra effort.


In addition to Kanban, the Scrum framework allows people to deal with complex adaptive problems while delivering the highest possible value on time and budget. It is an adaptive framework that is helpful for teams and organizations that want to tackle challenging problems in an agile way.

Scrum is executed in time-boxed work cycles called “sprints”. During a sprint, a team produces incremental-based shippable products or projects in a timeframe no longer than a month. As one of the most popular methods of agile HR / PeopleOps, it is important to understand two key aspects:

  1. Scrum is straight-forward. It doesn’t need any adjustments or highly technical understanding to determine whether its philosophy, theory, or structure will help you achieve your goals and create value in your organization. The Scrum framework is intentionally incomplete, meaning that it only defines what is necessary to implement it.

Scrum is built collectively by the people who use it. Scrum does not give people detailed instructions but instead guides relationships and interactions. In other words: you define how to use Scrum. This is perfect for HR principles, especially agile principles. Scrum makes use of creativity, flexibility, and innovation.

  1. Scrum is based on empiricismand lean thinking. Empiricism is all knowledge that comes from experience and observations, while lean thinking reduces waste and focuses on the core of the problem. With these two combined, agile HR can optimize predictability, efficiency, and control risk. And as we know, risk control in an age of rapid change and unpredictability is worth more than gold.


ClickUp is a cloud-based project management and collaboration platform for businesses of all sizes and sectors. It has convenient communication and collaboration features, task assignments and statuses, notifications, and a task toolbar are all included. Users can assign comments and assignments to individuals or groups, mark comments and tasks as resolved or in progress, or they can construct their own custom statuses.

Projects can be sorted by the assignee or viewed via an Agile dashboard. It also comes with a quick and handy tutorial when you start it. ClickUp is a tool that is designed to simplify your work life. It includes features such as:

  • Process management: ensuring that the projects that are underway are being streamlined and that the steps required to finish the project are followed closely.
  • Task management: organization of tasks and the ability to make quick changes. Team members should reshuffle tasks as they adjust to new requirements.
  • Time management: Scheduling, managing team capacity, organizing calendars, tracking of milestones, and syncing with Google Calendar. In Agile HR, time is often a factor to be closely considered. The right tool is needed for the job.
  • Integrations: offers the ability to connect ClickUp with some of the favourite productivity tools, such as Dropbox, Google Drive, Outlook, One Drive, Teams and much more.
  • Complete customisation: you have the ability to tailor the spaces on ClickUp to your liking and preference.
  • Collaboration and reporting: Get the most efficient tools to improve your team’s collaboration.


Trello is a web-based, Kanban-style project workflow visual. You can manage any project and organize any content with Trello, the free, easy-to-use, flexible, and visual tool trusted by millions of people worldwide. Trello is often used as an Agile HR tool to manage and follow the recruitment processes.

You can create columns for phases pre-onboarding, during onboarding, and post-onboarding on your Trello board. Under each column, cards can be created, and activities can be recorded and tracked on the individual cards. The appeal of Trello is its collaborative, productive, and organized visual work management solution. Basically, this allows teams to brainstorm, plan, manage, and celebrate their work together.

Through the lists, you can organize cards, specific tasks, and bits of information in their various levels of completion. Lists can be used to build a workflow in which cards are moved from start to end through each phase of the process, or they can simply be used to keep track of ideas and information. There is no limit to how many lists you can add to a board, and they can be ordered and titled in any way you want. This is very handy for organizations that are involved in hiring processes.


The mural is a visual collaboration tool in the form of a digital workplace. Mural allows everyone on the team to envision together to generate new ideas, solve difficult challenges, and develop more quickly. Because it levels the playing field and ensures that everyone’s opinion is heard, visual collaboration has evolved as a new way of working across distant teams.  

Mural gives video calls a new dimension. Remote meetings might feel ineffective at times, but Mural makes it simple to facilitate collaboration and allow everyone to contribute rather than merely broadcast and inform.  

In the enterprise, Mural is the most popular digital workspace for visual collaboration. Teams rely on Mural to help them comprehend and solve problems, as well as reach consensus through visual means. The mural is more than just an online whiteboard; it is a platform for everything from product strategy and planning to running immersive workshops utilizing agile and design thinking approaches. 

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is People Operation or PeopleOps?

People Operations puts the quality of employee gratification and contentment first. In simple terms, People Operations is about treating personnel as important as the first customer or client within the business. The term People Ops was created by Laszlo Bock, ex-Human Resources Director at Google. He wrote a book about People Ops and how Human resources systems are revolutionizing called Work rules.

The pioneering organization in having a People Ops department was Google. People Operations is all about refocusing the organization’s efforts to the people first, the people being leadership/management, employees, contractors, and volunteers.

People Operations is built on the following premises – retention of employees, creating work models that employees enjoy using, making work dynamic, flexible and comfortable. Scientific evidence brings to light that the People Operations perspective is more effective than traditional Human resources as organizations improve profits and overall productivity, by putting people first over other resources and machinery. People Operations manipulates the use of data to predict and shape the future of human capital management.

What does the Director of People Operations do?

The Director of People Operations in an organization serves as the trendsetter for building quality human experience in the organization. As the Director for People Operations, you will be responsible for setting the tone at an executive level regarding how to recruit, develop, motivate, and retain the organizational members.

The People Operations Director is responsible for setting out the processes and policies that put the organizational members as the first client or customer in the business. The organization’s culture and climate are championed by the People Operations Director ensuring human experience comes first. Other responsibilities include providing autonomy and trust to the employees on behalf of the employer.

More so, the People Operations Director, partners with all other executives of the company to help develop and build a synergistic team that supports its employees and organization. This includes coaching the executive team in business leadership and human experience and managing programs & practices that propel continuous improvement and a shared learning culture.

What is the difference between HR and People Operations?

The main difference between traditional Human Resources and People Operations is that the former is more premised on legal, ethical, and administrative work whereas the latter, People Operations is more focused on innovation, results, and improving the quality of the worker’s experience and satisfaction in the organization.

People Operations is more dynamic in nature, and it takes a pivotal role in determining and taking charge of the future of people experience in workplaces, whereas traditional Human resources react to what is going on in the organization. Within the workplace, Human Resources tends to be isolated as a department from the whole organization whereas People Operations is actively involved in the day-to-day running of the other departments ensuring the whole organization’s employees view each other as one universal team.

More so, People operations ensure that it understands employees from an individual level, making sure their needs are met personally, while Human Resources views employees as a collective resource that must be managed for performance and efficiency.

At a senior leadership level, traditional Human Resources implements decisions that are dictated by senior management but in People Operations the People Ops Director and key stakeholders extend mentoring and coaching support to all the members, thus fostering a constructive culture and climate within the organization.


The world of work has changed, and changes daily. How people carry out their roles and interact with one another has entered a new paradigm and human resources are on the front-lines of it. That is why it is important to be aware of everything we have discussed. Let us close, in brief, with a summary:

  • Agile PeopleOps is the new way of doing HR.
  • In today’s world (greatly changed in the wake of COVID-19), organization’s need to develop agile strategies to remain flexible and respond to constant changes.
  • Organizations can enjoy numerous benefits when effectively implementing Agile PeopleOps, including enhanced teamwork, time-saving, reduced risk, and greater control measurements.
  • Without a proper manifesto or values like open communication, respect, or adaptability, however, organizations cannot implement agile effectively. It is important to develop and foster a mindset of collaboration and teamwork.

Agile PeopleOps is a way to effectively do work in the 21st Century and especially in today’s digital and fast-paced age.

Agile HR / Agile PeopleOps Keywords:Definitions
People OperationsHuman Resources
AgileAn iterative approach to project management and software development that helps teams deliver value to their customers faster
AgilityAbility to work with insight, flexibility, and adapt to change
Agile HRAn approach that prioritizes speed of responsiveness and adaptiveness
Agile HR PhilosophyThe need to redesign existing HR and people practices
Agile HR MethodologyBased on the 6 principles
Agile MindsetLearning and responding to change
Agile PeopleOps Framework™ (APF™)The research methodology that teaches you to transform from traditional HR to Agile HR
APF ManifestoBased on 6 key values
APF ValuesGuidelines
KanbanA popular framework used to implement agile and DevOps software development
ScrumThe framework within which people can address complex adaptive problems

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