The Role of People Operations in Modern HR Teams

Role of People Operations in Modern HR

As HR transitions toward an employee-first approach, the field of People Operations — also known as People Ops or POPs — has taken on greater importance in the modern workplace. This subcategory of HR is focused on enhancing the employee experience and leveraging data-driven strategies to promote organizational success.

Even while HR teams continue to prioritize more traditional, compliance-centered duties, many are adding POPs departments or executives. These strategy-minded professionals focus on creating work environments where employees feel valued and appreciated.

Is your company considering implementing People Operations? The benefits are numerous, ranging from improved employee engagement to increased productivity and performance. Let’s dive into the history of POPs, its core functions, and its advantages for organizations.

What is People Ops?

Developed by Laszlo Bock, former HR Director at Google, People Ops is an HR subcategory that focuses on bringing value to every step of the employee lifecycle. Under his strategic and forward-thinking leadership at Google, the company revamped its HR team to focus on tracking the employee experience and introducing strategies that improve worker satisfaction. Bock was driven by a firm belief that employees are more likely to be productive when their workplace culture prioritizes their well-being.

Bock’s people-first approach worked. Not only was he able to solve the problem of higher attrition among Google’s female employees, but he vastly improved overall employee happiness levels.

Since the early 2000s when Bock first introduced People Ops, POPs has been adopted by a growing number of companies. POPs is now a well-recognized and effective business strategy, and organizations are increasingly hiring People Ops professionals to humanize their business processes.

People Ops vs. Traditional HR: What’s the Difference?

As a subcategory of HR, People Ops is essentially people management — just like all other HR functions. However, while traditional HR tasks largely involve compliance and administrative needs, People Operations is a more strategic and proactive approach that emphasizes employee satisfaction and high-level goals rather than procedural tasks. As Laszlo explains in his book Work Rules, POPs puts “purpose” over “process.”

The Responsibilities of People Operations Teams

Whether it’s a full-fledged People Operations team or a single POPs manager leading the charge, People Ops professionals have many responsibilities. And, all of these job functions revolve around boosting success for employees during every step of the employee lifecycle.

Typical POPs responsibilities include:

  1. Professional development and performance management

    People Ops teams recognize that when employees feel empowered to advance their skills, they are more likely to be satisfied at their company. To that end, POPs teams are tasked with overseeing learning programs and career pathing opportunities that support career growth.

    Closely tied to professional development is performance management, or assessing employee performance and providing feedback. Unlike the more traditional HR approach to performance management — which involves fewer and more structured performance evaluations — POPs teams are continuously monitoring performance, sharing feedback, and collecting robust metrics.

  2. Employee lifecycle management

    POPs teams carefully map out and examine every step of the employee lifecycle — from recruiting to offboarding, and everything in between. By identifying crucial moments within the employee journey, POPs professionals are able to pinpoint areas for improvement and introduce more value to each stage.

  3. Employee recognition

    Recognition of employee accomplishments is a powerful motivator in the workplace. It has been found to increase engagement, performance, and attrition rates. People Ops professionals make recognition a key component of company culture by overseeing full-fledged recognition and rewards programs — rather than promoting one-off, randomized praise. They often utilize recognition software to automate and enhance recognition efforts.

  4. Data monitoring and analytics

    New HR technologies have made it easier to gather and interpret large amounts of data. As People Operations departments navigate workforce management decisions and seek to align them with larger business objectives, monitoring of metrics plays an important role.

  5. Change management and organizational development

    People Operations teams bridge the gap between the company’s strategic objectives and its workforce. Through robust communication and training programs, they help align the workforce with the organization’s goals. This function is particularly important when companies have to navigate change management initiatives to prepare employees for large transitions.

  6. Culture development

    People Ops departments are tasked with shaping and maintaining the company culture as part of their efforts to improve the employee experience and attract high-quality talent. This means nurturing an environment that’s in sync with company values and reflects its employees’ needs and wants.

Role of People Operations in Modern HR

The Benefits of People Operations

Implementing People Operations provides many measurable benefits for companies. By prioritizing employee satisfaction just as much as customer satisfaction, businesses are able to achieve several desirable outcomes — such as:

  1. Increased engagement

    Employees are more engaged when they’re valued, recognized, and given opportunities to grow. Because People Ops prioritizes the employee experience, it naturally leads to a more engaged workforce that’s passionate about their work and company.

  2. Achievement of company goals

    Companies that prioritize People Ops are more likely to achieve their goals, as they are careful to only implement HR strategies that are in sync with business objectives. The robust collection of data is another factor that helps People Ops teams achieve company goals.

  3. Improved acquisition and retention

    Because People Ops prioritizes company culture and employee satisfaction, the organization ultimately becomes more attractive to potential hires. The company is also better able to retain top talent by offering a supportive and growth-oriented work environment.

  4. Improved wellbeing

    Prioritizing the employee experience includes efforts that enhance the physical and mental health of all employees. People Ops teams oversee wellness programs, paid leave policies, and other workplace benefits that contribute to a healthier workforce and reduce absenteeism and healthcare costs for the employer.

  5. Better employee performance

    People Ops initiatives such as ongoing feedback, recognition, and training programs all help improve productivity and performance levels among workers. Employees are more likely to perform well when they feel appreciated and have a clear vision of what success means for the company.

  6. More diversity and inclusivity

    People Operations teams typically weave diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts into their employee experience strategies. As they take steps to improve the worker experience, POPs departments focus on improving inclusivity and attracting diverse employees.

The Role of Data in People Operations

As a data-driven approach to HR, People Ops teams rely heavily on goal-setting and metric monitoring. Two of the most common goal-setting frameworks used by POPs departments are Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

OKRs consist of clear, non-measurable goals (objectives) that are linked with one or more quantitative outcomes (key results). KPIs are metrics that evaluate the effectiveness of various initiatives and processes.

The following are some examples of OKRs and KPIs:

Examples of People Operations OKRs

  • OKR 1

    Objective: Improve employee engagement
    Key Result 1: Increase employee engagement scores by 10% in the annual survey
    Key Result 2: Implement a monthly team-building activity across all departments
    Key Result 3: Implement weekly team check-in meetings

  • OKR 2

    Objective: Improve talent acquisition
    Key Result 1: Reduce time-to-hire by 20%
    Key Result 2: Implement an employee referral program
    Key Result 3: Create a job listing page on a website

  • OKR 3

    Objective: Enhance professional development efforts
    Key Result 1: Achieve a 75% program completion rate by the end of the year
    Key Result 2: Increase participation in the program by 30%
    Key Result 3: Launch a mentorship program with a trial group of 20 mentors and mentees

Role of People Operations in Modern HR

Examples of People Operations KPIs

  • Employee turnover rate: the percentage of employees leaving the company over a specific period
  • Employee satisfaction index: a measure of how satisfied employees are with their job and work environment
  • Retention rate: the percentage of employees retained over a given period
  • Performance improvement: progress in employee performance metrics over time
  • Diversity metrics: measurements of workforce diversity in terms of gender, race, age, etc.

Getting Started With POPs

Whether you’re considering building an entire POPs team or hiring a single People Operations Manager, know that your organization is sure to benefit from this holistic and employee-centric HR mindset shift.

Embracing People Ops within your organization is a powerful acknowledgment that the success of your company is intrinsically linked to the well-being and growth of your employees. Start small, focus on measurable impacts, and let the principles of People Ops guide you in transforming your workplace. Here are some key first steps to launching POPs within your company:

  1. Decide which role(s) you want to hire for

    If your goal is to create a full People Ops team rather than having a single People Ops professional, you’ll want to start familiarizing yourself with the standard POPs roles, including:

    • People Operations Manager
    • People Operations Coordinator
    • Director of People Operations
    • People Operations Specialist
    • People Operations Analyst
  2. Conduct an HR audit

    Which of your current HR practices or areas would benefit from a more people-centric approach? This audit will help you understand where you stand and what needs to change.

  3. Create a People Ops strategy

    With a better understanding of your existing HR procedures, it’s time to create a detailed plan that outlines new initiatives, policies, and practices that will improve the employee experience. As you do so, keep in mind your business’s larger goals and strive to stay closely aligned.

  4. Consider your HR tech stack

    HR technology is an important driver of success for People Operations. Take the time to start comparison shopping for various HR tools, such as employee engagement platforms, performance management systems, and data analytics tools.

Amplify Your People Ops Efforts With WorkProud

As you explore HR technology for your workplace, remember that employee recognition is a crucial component of a positive work experience. WorkProud’s employee recognition and rewards software is an end-to-end platform that promotes consistent feedback and recognition while enhancing the employee lifecycle. Our tools improve not just employee recognition but also performance management, well-being, and DEI efforts — all in one place. To learn more or try a free demo, contact us today.



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