You may have heard of this approach thanks to the tech giant, Google, which, rather than calling the department ‘Human Resources,’ renamed it ‘People Operations’ back in 2006. So, is this nothing more than a name change for HR? Or are there different aspects of People Operations that can help companies and HR departments address the modern day challenges of the digital age?
Here at the HR Department, we want to demonstrate three lessons HR can learn from People Operations, with the aim of advancing HR’s performance and efficiency in business.
1. People, People, People
Sorry to sound repetitive, but it’s hard to understate the people-centric approach adopted by People Operations departments. HR needs to shrug the stereotypical image of being bogged down in paperwork and payroll, and prove that at the heart of HR is the employee.
This means creating genuine connections with workers and putting their needs first. Understanding what makes employees’ tick is paramount in People Operations departments and is certainly something HR needs to focus on. In doing this, companies can harness a strong company culture where the values of its workers are on display and, in turn, build an employer brand that portrays the business as an attractive place to work.
People Operations also tends to be a more flexible and cross-functional department compared to traditional HR. It’s important to realise that HR functions, such as hiring, managing payroll, training or dealing with maternity leave, are all interlinked and demand a collaborative approach if businesses are to maximise productivity. In that sense, HR professionals should not fall victim to tunnel vision, ensuring they communicate regularly with each other and all departments.
2. Connect with Leadership
HR, in the past, has been seen as subservient to management within business. However, times are changing, particularly as companies recognise the central role that HR plays in employer branding and talent acquisition. People Operations departments tend to have a more strategic role in business and are therefore better connected with an organisation’s leadership – something HR departments can greatly benefit from. Having an HR presence at leadership level helps to make sure that an organisation has a unified corporate vision while ensuring prospective and current employees both understand, and buy into, the company culture.
3. Focus on Data
Finally, People Operations departments place more of an emphasis on data than traditional HR. As I wrote in a recent blog post on big data in HR, the truth is that data is key to providing insights into employees and assessing workforce sentiments with the aim of improving the environment in the workplace. Of course, data isn’t only useful for measuring employee satisfaction, it also has the ability to streamline payroll and timesheets, and improve employee performance analysis.
This also means that HR departments, rather than fearing automation, should see it as a way of generating useful data that contributes to the smooth and effective running of HR. Additionally, what sets People Operations apart from traditional HR is that data is constantly analysed and monitored on an ongoing basis, rather than waiting for an annual review – again, definitely something HR can learn from. In reality, HR departments need to embrace data, as People Operations departments have, in order to figure out the optimal way for a company to operate on a day-to-day basis.
Of course, this isn’t a call for HR departments to upend their traditional approaches altogether. Equally, it’s not being claimed that a people-centric, leadership connected, data focused approach is suitable for all companies. Instead, HR professionals should pick and choose the approaches which best fit with their company and its management style. Human Resources, People Operations, call it what you like, but the goal for this department will always be to contribute to the overall smooth running of a business and make it as productive and profitable as possible, all the while keeping employees happy. No mean feat, but one that we must strive for, whatever approach we take.
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