HR Mavericks

Eddy’s HR Mavericks Encyclopedia

People Operations

You may have heard about "People Operations" and wonder what it means. Is it the same as Human Resources? Does it apply to you? If your organization is ready to evolve from a traditional Human Resources compliance focus to a people-experience focus, you are ready to use the People Operations model.

What Is People Operations?

People Operations is basically a leveled-up Human Resources department: an HR department on steroids, if you will.

People Operations vs Human Resources: What’s the Difference?

When you think about a traditional HR department, you think about a company that knows it has to have a department that makes sure people are paid on time, designs policies and procedures and then enforces them, hires and fires, and deals with any employee issues. The traditional HR department is a reactive cost center that prevents the company from potentially getting sued. People Operations is the evolution of that HR Department. In People Ops, the employee experience becomes a vital KPI (Key Performance Indicator.)

Why the Shift Is So Important

Now more than ever, companies have to get the people experience down right. Long gone are the days when pension plans retained talent. We now have the opportunity to redesign the entire employee lifecycle.
  • Companies need innovative people solutions now more than ever. There is a rapid rate of change in today’s world. Companies have to be agile and innovative in order to remain profitable. People operations understands this and acts as a strategic change agent that provides innovative people solutions.
  • We have all the people data; now we get to put it to good use. HR technology generates loads of people data. Using it, we can make more informed decisions on how to best use our people to ensure the success of the company and its teams.
  • HR is now expected to integrate with every department at various levels. HR is no longer in a silo to be called upon only when needed. People Operations is the bridge between traditional HR and the rest of the company operations. For instance, People Operations collaborates with IT as new systems are rolled out for the company, and Marketing when new programs are launched or branding conversations are happening.
  • Losing key talent is extremely costly. The People Ops model is very much focused on the entire employee experience in hopes that work can be provided for each employee that they enjoy and are good at. It focuses on employees' environments, from remote workers and how they are being engaged to engagement events happening at the office. Culture is a top priority in a People Ops team.

Responsibilities of People Operations

The impact and reach of People Operations is great, and with that comes additional, or maybe enhanced, responsibilities.

Be an Innovative Consultant for Your Clients

PO requires your team to understand the business from top to bottom. You need to understand the vision, mission and goals of the organization, and how that cascades down and out to each team. You’ll want to understand each department's financials as well. Understanding the financials means you know what the revenue drivers and the costs are, allowing you to maximize the effectiveness of people in order to help those teams achieve results. When you truly understand the business, you’ll be able to provide innovative people ideas that will assist your teams in achieving their goals.

Give Your Employees a Voice and Power in Their Employee Experience

Let your employees drive their experience. No one knows what they want and need more than they do. People Ops plays a huge role in employee development, but they don’t do it in a vacuum. Because People Ops fully understands the business and where it’s headed, and has access to technology to take in large amounts of data, informed decisions can now be made regarding employee engagement, talent management and professional development initiatives.

Be Proactive and Focus on the Future

Since you fully understand the business, you understand where it wants to be in the next 5 to 10 years, and you can begin to plan and make decisions based on that future. For example, if you plan to double sales in the next five years, what can you do now as an organization to prepare for that? How many employees will we be onboarding, and what skill sets will those employees need to have?

Roles Within People Operations

Once you’re ready for a People Operations model, you need to make sure you have the best structure in order to fulfill these new responsibilities.

People Data Analysts

This role is responsible for all of the wonderful data you now have access to. This role should be your Human Resource Information System (HRIS) guru and be able to run almost any report you can imagine. They also help to ensure data integrity within your HRIS.

People Experience Partners

These are your new and improved HR managers: innovative consultants who are responsible for collaborating with internal clients and working closely with leadership to advocate and launch the people initiatives that will add value to your organization.

Shared Resources in IT & Marketing

People Operations embraces technology and requires various systems to get the job done. There will always be maintenance, upgrades, and changes in systems that require the help of an IT professional. As for marketing, there are always People Ops initiatives that need graphics, employer branding, new hire swag, corporate social responsibility shirts, internal communications, etc. If you’re able to make it happen, it could be worth it to get a dedicated shared resource in IT & Marketing. It's even better if you can get a full headcount solely dedicated to People Ops. If you’re not able to get a shared or dedicated IT and/or Marketing resource, find out if you can outsource some of those services. If outsourcing isn’t an option either, maybe you could hire some interns or look around your organization for people who are passionate about graphic design and/or IT. These could be individuals that do design and IT stuff as a hobby, or are maybe working on the sales team while getting their marketing or IT degree.

Examples of Companies Using People Operations

These companies have taken on the progressive model of People Operations and are focused on maximizing the employee experience.


The term “People Ops” was first coined by Laszlo Bock, who created the People Operations department at Google. He believed that when you empower and support employees, you give them the ability to become decision-makers within the company who are able to grow into their true potential.


IBM has long been known for a culture that puts its people first. Its founder, Thomas J. Watson, expressed his desire for IBM to be known as the company that has the greatest respect for the individual.


Yelp prides itself on operational excellence from onboarding to offboarding.
Malea Booker

Malea Booker

Malea Booker is a progressive HR leader who loves playing in the gray, finding outside the box solutions to help organizations solve problems utilizing their greatest asset - their people. Malea has over 15 years of broad HR experience but finds talent optimization on the top of her - "Favorite HR things" to-do list. Malea believes that strong HR departments are the foundation upon which the most successful companies are built.
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Frequently asked questions
Other Related Terms
Agile HR
Employee Experience
Fractional HR
Global HR
HR Budget
HR Career Advice
HR Education
HR Effectiveness
HR Ethics
Human Capital Management (HCM)
Human Resource Management (HRM)
Human Resources (Intro to HR)
Outsourcing HR
Strategic HR
Talent Management
Workforce Management
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