Realizing the Power of People Ops: From Policy Librarians to Employee Experience Architects

by | May 7, 2024 | Amy Friedman

In the ever-evolving corporate landscape, a quiet revolution is underway. It transcends semantics and redefines the core philosophy of how we handle our workforce. Welcome to the Department of People Operations (People Ops), where sound policy meets a nurturing ethos, and employees and the organization work together to help each other thrive.

The HR to PEOPLE OPS Difference

Traditionally, Human Resources (HR) has been the stern custodian of policies, the enforcer of rules, and the gatekeeper of compliance. But as the needs of the modern workplace change, so must our approach. Enter People Ops, a concept that brings a softer touch to the organization. The credit for this metamorphosis is widely attributed to Lazlo Bock, who championed this paradigm shift during his tenure at Google.  In his 2015 book WORK RULES! Bock explains that HR tends to “ ”, while People Ops should be designing an inspiring and joyful workplace that better enables employees to do their jobs.  In an interview with Forbes, Evelin Andrespok, former People Operations Manager at Toggl, says, “People Ops aims to understand employees holistically as individual contributors while the traditional HR mindset views them more as a resource to be calculated and managed for efficiency.”

In terms of job descriptions and possibilities, an HR Generalist spends their time on things like maintaining an employee database, enforcing company regulations, managing compensation and benefits, hiring and firing, and mediating conflicts.  A People Ops Manager, on the other hand, focuses on boosting employee engagement and retention, making sure employees are empowered to thrive in their jobs, maintaining a company culture, improving time to hire and the quality of new hires, and building a company’s positive reputation as a place to work.

How to Become a True Department of People Ops

To be successful, People Ops needs to craft an employee experience that builds genuine camaraderie and purpose, not just transactional cooperation. Let’s break down the core mindset and policy shifts that will allow such a transformation:

Facilitate Employee Engagement and Belonging: People Ops understands that engagement is more than an annual survey, it’s creating a safe workplace where passion thrives. According to Deloitte, a great way to improve employee engagement is to focus on the 3 factors of belonging: make sure your employees are comfortable how they are treated by colleagues and supervisors, they have a supportive community in the office, and they understand how they uniquely contribute to the organization.  Implementing these steps provides more than just a good feeling – a Gallup study shows that business or work units that score in the top quartile of their organization in employee engagement have nearly double the odds of success compared to those in the bottom quartile.

Connect Performance to Business Goals: Imagine a world where every task, every project, resonates with the larger purpose. By helping employees see the direct line from their efforts to the company’s vision, People Ops makes every day work meaningful.  A practical way to start is to make sure all employees have the physical, digital, and personal tools to do their jobs, and the psychological safety to take risks where needed.

Map the Employee : People Ops charts the course of an employee’s tenure—from onboarding to promotions to retirement.  Mapping the employee journey as part of a larger succession plan allows for better promotional decisions, finds and closes skill gaps before they become an issue, enables healthy risk-taking, and improves retention, all of which are huge wins for organizational health.  This will take time, so block off some of your schedule for getting started!

Establish and Guard Trust: Trust is the currency of the workplace, and People Ops safeguards this treasure. Start by being transparent about policies like compensation and benefits. Clarify your company values and find ways to champion them in your work and guidelines.  Make sure new employees are onboarded correctly and don’t feel left behind, and your established top performers are fairly recognized and rewarded for their contributions.  Most importantly, be consistent in your communications and how you handle employees!

Actively Manage Change and Culture: Companies are meant to be living structures. They must evolve, adapt, and sometimes metamorphose with the world around them. People Ops guides these constant changes, making sure every employee understands their role, purpose, and strengths in the company. It’s this alchemy that turns chaotic overhauls into calm routines and cultural gold.

In Conclusion

As the gaps in traditional HR grow and become more apparent, let’s embrace the possibilities of People Ops. It’s not just about policies; it’s about people—their feelings, needs, contributions, and journey.  While developing the skills and mindsets of a People Ops department might be difficult, the rewards in employee productivity and retention, company culture, and employer reputation can be well worth it.  People Ops done right is not just another buzzword, it’s injecting humanity back into the office.

If you would like to learn more about the HR to People Ops transformation and other important topics, follow us on LinkedIn!





Recent Posts

Downsizing with Compassion: The Human Element of RIFs

As organizations face the need to reduce labor costs, the human element becomes paramount. Beyond numbers and spreadsheets, there are real people with livelihoods, dreams, and fears. As the bridge between upper management and employees, HR plays a pivotal role in...

Networking for Introverts: Embracing Your Strength

When you’re in the midst of a career transition, networking is an indispensable tool, often touted as the gateway to new opportunities. But, for introverts navigating this landscape, the idea of networking can evoke feelings of discomfort, apprehension, or maybe even...