3 Ways to Move From Being an HR to a People Operations Organization

People operations elevates the traditional HR function. Here’s background on what it is — and how to become a functional people ops company.

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3 Ways To Move from an HR to a People Operations Organization

Sometimes it seems that every industry feels the need to rebrand itself. So, is People Operations just a new way for HR to do just that?

The accurate answer is, ‘not exactly.’

It really depends on how you view the human resources discipline and its focus. So, before we talk about how to move to a people operations organization, let’s talk about the different approaches between a more old-school HR function and a more inclusive people ops org.

What’s the difference between a People Ops org and HR?

In the traditional sense, most people consider HR to be more of a task-oriented enforcer-type role. In some minds, it only consists of things such as:

  • Recruiting and all associated regulatory reporting and recordkeeping
  • Paying people and accurately calculating taxes
  • Arranging for benefits programs and administering them
  • Enforcing regulatory compliance
  • Dealing with employee complaints and performance issues

Organizations that employ a people operations approach recognize the necessity and value of all of the traditional HR-related functions. Still, they also know that there’s much more they need to take into consideration:

  • Employee satisfaction. This is not to be confused with catering to every whim. Still, it’s more about whether or not the company actually behaves the way it says it does. Does the company’s mission match the day-to-day behavior?
  • The value of metrics. These metrics are everything — from is the machinery working effectively and are procedures clearly outlined — to is communication flowing smoothly and consistently?
  • The value of employee feedback. Employee satisfaction surveys are taken very seriously in these organizations, and changes are implemented based on the results.
  • Employee development. People ops orgs recognize the value that comes with effective training, personal growth, and professional development.

Companies that recognize that their most important resources are their human resources tend to exhibit more significant client growth, better staff retention, and increased revenue.

3 steps to become a functional People Operations company

When you recognize your employees as valuable assets that contribute to your brand’s success and longevity, you will be able to identify the valuable skillsets they contribute.

Step 1: Make an intentional transition to a new mindset

When you move your company to embrace a people operations mindset, you may find that you bump up against some ways of thinking that you need to address. In a traditional environment, staff members are often viewed as a form of commodity — something purchased to fulfill a purpose.

A people operations organization recognizes that everyone has something valuable to contribute when given the latitude to do so. Empowering team members to solve problems as they identify challenges opens your company to many more possibilities than you would have imagined.

A people operations organization recognizes that everyone has something valuable to contribute when given the latitude to do so.

Step 2: Shift HR’s role

Make sure HR knows they’re on the hook to help with business solutions. Move from expecting them to be an order-taker to encouraging them to be a valued business partner. Bring them to the table to make business decisions and expect them to provide meaningful input.

This will help them:

  • Bring on much more valuable staffing solutions
  • Create people policies that clearly align with the direction you are taking your company
  • Help you communicate the company’s vision for the future while implementing steps toward those processes today

As you change how you view HR, you will, in turn, change how the rest of your company views their role. HR is your ambassador to the team. This is your chance to move from having them be the dreaded tyrant, Simon Legree, to king Solomon, who:

  • Imparted wisdom
  • Was respected
  • Improved the area’s reputation

Organizations that embrace a people operations approach to the day-to-day functions create a culture of inclusivity.

Step 3: Implement and embrace feedback-based metrics

The best way to gather feedback is to conduct regular employee satisfaction surveys that you create with:

  • A commitment to confidentiality
  • Questions designed with intentionality
  • A desire to listen to results
  • A plan to implement changes
  • The means to measure results year-over-year

How often has it been said that management had no clue about what was really going on in the company? Conducting meaningful employee satisfaction surveys is one way to change that.

Reviewing your turnover metrics is another valuable way to learn more about the underlying culture of your company. Evaluating those metrics doesn’t only involve reviewing the data by position or department but also requires digging into exit interview information.

If you want to know what’s really happening, conduct exit interviews. They’re a valuable piece of intelligence. When an individual has nothing to lose, as when they are on their way out the door, they are the most transparent they are ever likely to be.

Isn’t this just semantics?

Not even remotely.

People operations organizations understand the value of leading by using readily available data. Although they’re generally still a part of an HR department, people operations groups elevate the traditional HR function to become more relevant and enlightened company contributors.

Your team members are not just widgets that perform a task and leave. They have ideas and untapped potential that can take your organization to an entirely different level.

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