People Operations (PeopleOps) and Human Resources

What is People Operations?

People Operations, also known as PeopleOps, is the function/division within the organization that primarily focuses on employees’ development, engagement, and retention from their onboarding date until they leave the company.

Former HR director, Laszlo Bock, coined the term ‘People Operations’ for employees at Google. PeopleOps falls under the traditional HR department but intends to change the whole stereotype towards the HR department.

Difference Between People Operations vs. Human Resources

The term PeopleOps is comparable to HR as they both deal with people. In traditional Human Resources, employees are seen as resources only – members of an organization are compensated for their hard work, that’s all.

However, the PeopleOps approach is distinct because it understands the value of the employees, focuses on increasing productivity and enhancing their skills through training, and ensures that the employees are working happily in their workspace.

While PeopleOps is comparable with HR, the two terms are distinct. The table below outlines the main differences between the two.

People Operations and Human Resources are both functions that concern the employees within an organization. Although they are responsible for similar tasks, PeopleOps and HR teams differ in the way they carry out these tasks.

Let us delve a little deeper to understand the role and function of Human Resources and PeopleOps. People are treated as resources. People are respected as individual contributors who add value to work.



Traditional HR
Recruit top talent. Utilize HR data to uncover employee patterns and trends.
People are treated as resources. People are respected as individual contributors who add value to work.
Reactive – responding to issues as they arise. Proactive – learning from failures and creating new systems to prepare for the future.
Hire a replacement when a position is vacant. Support the current workforce by developing a strategic hiring plan and reducing turnover.
Policies and processes (certain or most times) supersede employees’ needs. Employees’ needs and expectations are valued as they are customers.
Linear approach following a set path. Agile and integrated approach with people as the central focus.
Onboard and offboard employees. Improve employee experience, productivity, and empowerment.
Solo operation – many departments may collaborate within a company, whereas HR is likely to be siloed. Cross-functional – the goal of PeopleOps is to connect all departments.
Performs tasks as directed by management. Provides leadership with accountability and education for people-first management in alignment with company goals.
Execution – told what decisions to put into effect. Strategy – brought into the strategic conversation as a result of insight and opinions.

Human Resources (HR) as a function:

HR is defined as the effective management of people in an organization. HR management is focused on various areas like recruitment and staffing, performance management, training and development, compensation and benefits, and labor & employee relations.

Many organizations treat each functional area distinct from the other, thus leading to a siloed approach. The standardized, transactional policies and procedures in HR hinder agility and personalization – the current buzz that, if practiced, can open the doorways to human experience (HX) and constructive culture.

People Operations as a function:

PeopleOps is vast and has an expansive scope. Its prominent role is to empower and propel the employees and facilitate everyday life in a workspace.

It involves all actions that help to make employees more productive at work. PeopleOps consider employees as their internal customers and helps increase their satisfaction. It improves the employees’ talent through self-directed and socialized learning and development programs.

PeopleOps offers personalized rewards and recognition that are not always extrinsic. Its focus is on creating meaningful work to feel intrinsically motivated to perform and grow within the workplace.

Companies have come to the realization that their HR department lacks one major aspect – and that is a human aspect. PeopleOps aims to design people-centric solutions, thus contributing toward a constructive organizational culture. It seeks to gratify and support the current members to have a productive journey.

PeopleOps is crucial for establishing clear expectations and setting boundaries in an organization. A clear process is set up for everything from hiring to onboarding to performance reviews, promotions, and rewards.

Today, organizations are slowly transitioning their HR function to PeopleOps. Are you?

The core intent of this transformational journey is to create human-centric workplaces. PeopleOps takes a holistic approach by designing a meaningful journey for the organizational members.

The shift from HR to PeopleOps

Bart Macdonald, CEO, and co-founder of SaplingHR, explains that HR practices were viewed as employer-centric, focusing mostly on compliance and administration. However, throughout his years working in the HR space, he had first-hand experience with the shift toward a more strategic approach, which is People Operations.

Bart lists 3 ways in which organizations can become more strategic, namely:

1. Utilize data to make better decisions: Conduct an audit to determine which aspects of your HR program need attention. For example, exit survey data may reveal that employees are dissatisfied with the lack of opportunities for advancement. In this case, the company would greatly benefit from improving employee development

2. Invest in innovative technology tools: HR leaders should evaluate their current technology tools and research others that may help in streamlining processes in order to prioritize employees. For instance, implementing certain software can help automate HR processes and provide smart recommendations. It may also automate tedious administrative tasks to improve efficiency in the workplace.

3. Develop employee-centric programs: Leverage the information you’ve gathered and the time you’ve saved by using technology tools to develop employee-centric HR practices. For example, 70% of employees who had a good onboarding experience are highly satisfied with their job, stating that they have “the best possible job.”

What do People Operations include? 

With every function in a business, there are key roles and responsibilities. PeopleOps strategically aims to focus on the continuous development of employees, their retention, and engagement as a whole. When employees are treated well by employers, they are most likely to have a sense of pride in the organization and loyalty to the company. If they love where they are and feel appreciated, it is most likely they will be dedicated and intentionally want to steer the company in the direction of success.  

Some of the important things to remember when it comes to PeopleOps include: 

  1. The People 
    • The first step is to recognize the people. 
    • The people are the greatest asset to the company and can determine the company’s profitability.  
  2. Employee Satisfaction 
    • The happiness of employees is critical. 
    • Creating a healthy work environment that motivates and values employees improves the company culture and increases productivity.  
    • Ensuring employees have a work-life balance allows employees to dedicate their best efforts to the business because they can be assured that there is balance. 
    • Empower, train and motivate the employees.  
    • PeopleOps helps with the retention of employees and helps increase loyalty. 
  3. Technology 
    • Traditional HR practices can be digitized to improve how information is processed and evaluated.  
    • PeopleOps involves tasks that require more technology to track and analyze data such as the turnover rate and employee reviews and feedback.  
    • Technology makes it easier to process information. 
    • Productivity increases as a result of implementing digital platforms and it makes it easier for employees to be efficient.  
  4. Achieving Goals and Objectives 
    • With the assistance of technology, top-level managers to workers can achieve the goals and objectives of the business accurately and efficiently.  
    • PeopleOps as a strategic concept leads to organizational transformation.  
  5. Continuous Evaluation 
    • Evaluation of daily tasks and processes is essential for continuous improvement.  
    • Feedback is important, however, it is important that employees also have the opportunity to give their feedback. 

How Do I Get Started with People Operations? 

To start with implementing PeopleOps in a company, that becomes more employee-focused as an organization, it is necessary to be flexible and have an open mind. There needs to be a willingness to listen to employees and have the ability to engage them so that leaders can identify the best way to create a healthy environment.  

It starts from the onboarding stage, to give new hires a sense of belonging and acceptance which makes them comfortable enough to get involved in the organization, however, this requires leaders to create a strategy that works for that particular company and the diverse people that they will be interacting with. Offboarding is also an important aspect of the employee experience, and the feedback can help to improve for the future.  

In the same way, that businesses care about customer satisfaction, managers should care about employee satisfaction. This process may be a continuous process of trial and error until the leaders find the right strategy that works best for their employees – it will not be perfect at first however, with technology and data evaluation, managers can determine which strategy works best. PeopleOps should be a holistic approach to the HR function, and one of the main goals should be to ensure that employees in every department feel valued.  

Important Qualities of a People Operations Professional 

The world we live in is constantly changing and as human beings, this can have an impact sometimes directly and indirectly. As a leader or manager of PeopleOps, it is important to pay attention to the needs of the company but also pay attention to the needs of the employees. Each company is different as are individuals and managing people whilst ensuring they are happy and feel a sense of value and belonging, means it would be beneficial for a leader of PeopleOps to have some of these qualities: 

  • Emotional Intelligence.  
  • Critical Thinking Skills. 
  • Problem Solving Skills.  
  • Flexibility. 
  • Collaborative.  
  • Communication Skills.  
  • Creativity. 

Why Does People Operations Play Such an Important Role in the Workplace?  

When you prioritize people and recognize them as valuable assets in the business and not just tools to be used to make money, the people are generally more motivated and are able to work effectively and efficiently. Establishing people operations helps with the flow of the workforce, the employee journey, and the environment they operate in. PeopleOps is important for the workplace because:  

  • Employers can contribute to the ideas of the business and decisions aren’t always left to top-level management. This does two things:
    1. Inclusivity for the employees. 
    2. Problem-solving and idea generation in a shorter amount of time can take the load off, managers.  
  • The company culture improves.
  • Employees are motivated and therefore become more productive which leads to growth for the business.
  • Workflow and processes are more efficient, and tasks can be completed in a faster way with the help of technology. 
  • If there is a work-life balance, employee retention, and loyalty increase.  

The Future of People Operations 

When the world was faced with a global pandemic in early 2020, most, if not all companies had to make a shift and adjust quickly to adapt to the ‘new norm’ and survive the impact of the pandemic. This led to an increase in organizations taking an approach of 100% remote work if the business allowed or a hybrid approach of remote work and office space. 

The entire world had to deal with something very traumatic and to continue as normal would be ignorant of the needs of the employees. Many people took pay cuts, lost their jobs, lost family members, and have been affected mentally and some physically, as well as an increase in remote working. It has been extremely difficult over the past two years for many employees. 

It is difficult to establish a ‘healthy’ work environment when the environment has changed and employers have very little control over what happens in people’s homes and the challenges they have to navigate when it comes to working remotely. This means PeopleOps managers will need to continue to be empathic and people-focused in their organizations. They need to take into consideration all the factors people a faced with whilst also driving results.  

The advancement of technology has made it relatively easy to communicate with employees and therefore engage them to get feedback, as well as conduct processes efficiently which will continue to improve as technology continues to improve. People are also more connected and exposed to so much more negativity nowadays than ever before, the employee experience should recognize people’s mental health, the economic challenges, family dynamics, and overall changes in the world. The work-life balance is essential for the future of PeopleOps to avoid burnout, lack of motivation, high turnover, and no growth from employees because eventually, this leads to a decrease in productivity and overall profits.  


In conclusion, we must recognize that people drive organizations forward, and without satisfied employees, a business can’t reach its full potential. By putting the people at the forefront, your business will flourish.

PeopleOps is better than HR in all respects as it improves employee commitment, increases retention in the company, helps establish a strong company culture, and optimizes business performance.

PeopleOps sets goals to improve employee engagement and create more desirable work environments for current and future employees. Companies with high employee satisfaction not only benefit their employees but also retain highly skilled workers and reduce turnover.

In short, PeopleOps fosters room for innovation and improvement that help members become invaluable contributors to the business, thus maximizing the shareholders’ value.

To help employees reach their full potential, businesses must treat them like they matter, not just as resources. Resources tend to get discarded when they’re no longer regarded as valuable. Humans increase in value when you invest in them.

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