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What is people operations?

People operations – also referred to as People Ops – prioritize employees, encompassing actions that enhance their productivity from hiring to departure. While under the HR domain, its scope is broader, focusing on modernizing HR systems, treating employees as internal customers, supporting daily needs, and tracking HR metrics.

Christina Pavlou
Christina Pavlou

An experienced recruiter and HR professional who has transferred her expertise to insightful content to support others in HR.

People operations is a business function that puts employees first. Despite the fact that it falls under the HR umbrella, People Ops has a broader scope: it involves all actions that help employees be productive at work, from the moment they’re hired to the moment they leave.

Let’s look at the main responsibilities of people operations in more detail. They are:

  • Modernize and digitalize outdated, bureaucratic HR systems, including payroll and applicant tracking software.
  • Treat employees as internal customers and increase their satisfaction.
  • Support employees on a day-to-day basis and answer questions about benefits and company policies.
  • Keep track of and analyze HR metrics (e.g. turnover rates, time to hire).
  • Onboard new employees and ensure they have access to necessary resources and tech.

Overall, the role of people operations is to empower employees and facilitate the day-to-day work life. Depending on the company’s size and objectives, there could be one or multiple employees responsible for the people operations. For example, one company might choose to hire a people operations specialist who’ll take care of new employees as they join the company and for their first six months until they’re fully productive. Or, another company might create an entire people team that’ll redesign the entire HR department and will be responsible for the entire employee lifecycle inside the organization.

The structure of people operations teams

The structure of People Operations teams varies based on the size and needs of an organization. In smaller companies, a single individual might handle the responsibilities of People Operations, Human Resources, and Talent Acquisition. However, as organizations grow, the People Operations team often expands, with roles dedicated to specific aspects of the employee experience.

For instance, larger companies might have a Learning & Development Specialist to oversee employee training programs or a Head of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) to ensure an inclusive workplace culture.

The primary goal of these specialized roles is to craft programs and initiatives that shape the work experience of current employees, ensuring they are resourced, supported, and empowered.

In the modern business landscape, People Operations is more than just a rebranded HR department. It’s a strategic function that puts employees at the center, treating them as internal customers.

This approach is evident in the range of responsibilities that fall under People Operations, from onboarding and internal communications to engagement, manager empowerment, and performance management. As the workplace dynamics continue to evolve, with factors like remote work and changing employee expectations, the role of People Operations becomes even more critical.

It’s not just about administrative tasks but about creating an environment where employees can thrive and contribute to the organization’s success2.

Want more definitions? See our complete library of HR Terms.

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