New HR Titles for 2021: The Rise of People Operations Leaders

A new title has gained popularity. Find out more about People Operations Leaders.

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Why you should make the shift from HR to People Ops, and have People Ops leaders in your organization

The Human Resources Department is constantly evolving. Shifts in corporate culture, employee needs and wants, and an evolving market landscape require the function to adapt quickly to the times. Recently we’ve seen a shift from HR Manager to creative titles, like Chief Happiness Officer, Head of Talent, and more. A new title has gained popularity: People Operations Leaders.

More than rebranding the HR function, People Operations Leadership demonstrates a shift in how to manage the department, where focus should lie, and what the mission of the team has become.

In the past, the HR Department represented rules and compliance: forms to be completed, and policies to be developed and administered. The focus, to many, appeared that the department was in the business of protecting the company from its own employees. While it’s important to assure compliance with all laws and ensure policies are administered, the human side of the HR equation was often lost in the shuffle.

People Operations on the rise

People Operations leaders and teams look at the HR function from a talent-first perspective. Their role is to analyze candidate and employee experience and assure it’s positive and forward-thinking. It’s not just about making sure employees are happy on the job with casual Fridays. It’s making sure they have all the tools they need to be successful, to assure they grow and develop, and to leverage the best available tech for strategic data analysis. They know these employee-centric tools drive business success.

It’s not just about making sure employees are happy on the job with casual Fridays. It’s making sure they have all the tools they need to be successful, to assure they grow and develop, and to leverage the best available tech for strategic data analysis.

The more we recognize employee (and candidate) experience directly impact the bottom line, the more we modify to enhance. The more we align business success with individual employee and team success, the more growth we see. As we shift rote tasks away from staffers with technology, the more time they have to develop and innovate. If you want a company of drones, you invest in robotics. If you want a company that serves your consumer base and innovates, you invest in talent. From there it’s critical to assure the “new hire honeymoon” becomes a long-term commitment.

Why the change?

From the most entry level, front-facing employee that represents your brand to the consuming public on a daily basis to the CEO, every role in every organization is necessary for the success of the business. No company hires extraneous employees. Each person is integral to making or breaking a business.

No other resource a company owns has that capacity. Machines don’t innovate, they don’t invent or create: talent does. Technology doesn’t respond to customer demand unless a person tells it to do so. The most valuable resource an organization has is its people.

Decades ago, the shift to HR from the Personnel Department accentuated humans are an invaluable resource to business. Making sure they have the support and tools they need to thrive equates directly to the success of the company. Without people, there is no business. Aligning the HR function to that paradigm — to People Ops Leadership — may be as long overdue as was the change from Personnel to HR.

What do People Operations Leaders do?

Change the focus

Rather than concentrating on compliance and policies, this role concentrates on employee advocacy that grows talent and leverages tech to do so.

Not just a title change, People Operations is a shift in focus. Rather than concentrating on compliance and policies, this role concentrates on employee advocacy that grows talent and leverages tech to do so. HR Departments have been the keeper of massive amounts of employee and candidate data for decades.

Technology allows leaders to mine that data and make tangible improvements at every step of the employee experience.

Boost candidate experience

Beginning with the recruitment function, People Operations Leaders look for ways to boost candidate experience. Technology that streamlines, moving potential new hires quickly and seamlessly through the application, scheduling, and interview process assures job seekers your organization is cutting edge and values their time.

Once hired, high-touch onboarding processes transition the newest member of the team to a valued member of the team, minimizing new hire attrition and maximizing success rates.

Have an internal customer point of view

A new focus on employees as internal customers “markets” to them as the sales team would a “paying” customer. They use tech to assure highly engaged, high-performing staffers.

People Operations Leaders individual development. Data helps analyze more than who has been in their role and for how many years: it helps identify training and development pathways to help the staffer grow. It quantifies what development tools lead to success, how the employee is engaging with training, and where training can be enhanced. It creates tangible career trajectories that allow employees to see their growth in the near and long term.

Empower teams … and staffers

Empowering managers and teams is critical to the role of People Operations Leaders. They look for ways to minimize rote tasks — actively seeking out or responding to requests for technology that frees up time from repetitive work to concentrate on more important, high-value tasks. Their role connects the human/technology interface to maximize employee engagement and productivity.

Advocating for employees will always be a part of the HR function, but for these leaders it goes beyond responding to concerns and complaints — although those are critical. When employees bring problems and issues to the team, they respond from an employee-centric perspective. The message: we support our workers to resolve problems that affect the investment we’ve made in your future.

Strategize with data

People Operations Teams look for and correct potential “hazards” for individuals, teams, and the company. They use data to identify problems and adopt corrective and preventative protocols.

In the same way Operational Safety Teams look for and correct hazards in the workplace, People Operations Teams look for and correct potential “hazards” for individuals, teams, and the company. They use data to identify problems and adopt corrective and preventative protocols.

High turnover data suggests a problem area: the team then searches for the cause and corrects. Low productivity data suggests log jams in processes: they then look for tools to improve. Whether it’s in direct response to an employee concern or data-driven, their role is one of improvement.

Using the volume of data at their disposal, People Leaders can look for trends to make adjustments, corrections, and new procedures that keep the focus on employee experience and success. One of the newest trappings in the HR toolbox is predictive analytics. This technology uses AI to spot inclinations in the big picture as well as at ground level.

Do your marketing or sales professionals tend to leave at the 3-year mark? Performance indicators (PIs) help People Leaders identify employees at risk for flight. If you wanted to analyze that data by hand it could take weeks. Using the information already stored in your HR data banks, PIs can answer that question in moments.

Develop staff

PI analyzes skills gaps, allowing companies to develop employees, assuring your investment in them is long term. Companies use key performance indicators, benchmarking, and other assessment tools to find issues ripe for intervention and employee growth.

While People Leadership may sound like a new title for HR, it’s more than a rebrand. It embodies the positive shift  that empowers HR teams to plan strategically for business success. They are advocates for and developers of your most valuable resource — people.

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