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People operations vs. HR management

The difference between people operations vs. HR is in the objectives and goals of each. People Operations proactively focuses on employee engagement and retention as well as leadership and management strategies, while Human Resources is more focused on the practical aspects of employee management including legal, ethical and structural.

People operations and HR are functions that take care of employees within the organization. Although they have similar tasks, people teams and HR teams differ in the expectations and in the way they perform these tasks.

Here are the main differences between people operations and HR management:

  • Reactive vs. Proactive: Traditionally, HR is responsible for dealing with issues once they occur. For example, they’ll open a new job when an employee leaves. On the other hand, people operations teams hold a proactive approach, aiming to create a healthy workplace with strategic hiring plans in place.
  • Execution vs. Strategy: HR is often described as a list of tasks to be done (e.g. recruit new employees, submit payroll, conduct performance appraisals), whereas people operations is associated with a more holistic view. In short, people operations starts with the business objectives and identifies what needs to be done to lead employees into achieving those goals.
  • Siloed teams vs. Multi-discipline teams: Whether true or not, a common notion about HR is that it’s a siloed team that won’t share information with employees and, instead, operates behind the scenes. People operations, on the other hand, tries to do the exact opposite: increase transparency throughout the organization. That’s why people team members come from various backgrounds and departments (for example, a tech employee will make sure staff has access to and knows how to use necessary systems, whereas another member would train employees on efficient meeting structures that include representatives from different departments working towards common goals).

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

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