People Operations Manager or HR Manager? The Future of HR Titles

Want to make the switch from HR to People Operations? Here are some standard HR roles and considerations for what could be their People Ops equivalents.

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Employees have traditionally been seen as a company resource, hence the naming the section of a company that deals with employees “Human Resources.” Yet, the modern workforce has changed in a variety of ways — from working remotely to centering work-life balance (or work-life integration) in historically uncharted ways.

When many people hear “People Operations,” they think it’s just a new way of referring to human resources. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.

The shift from human resources is about more than just a name — it’s a shift in mindset and overall approach. It’s about seeing your employees as not just a resource for labor, but seeing them as the customers of the work that you do, the people whose skills and talents become your responsibility for maintaining and growing.

This has brought many to an inflection point: stick with traditional human resources roles and functions (hey, the tried and true path can be an enticing one!) or get future-focused and become an early adopter of the People Ops mindset and process.

If that’s where you are, read on for help considering whether or not the switch is right for you and how you might begin to migrate some traditional HR roles into new People Ops jobs.

Why should I change from HR to People Ops?

Let’s consider the origins of People Ops. It began at Google in the early 2000’s after Laszlo Bock decided to do something about the fact that women, especially those who had recently given birth, were leaving the company at a startling rate.

As a Slate article explains, in 2007 “Bock changed the [company’s maternity] plan. New mothers would get five months off at full pay and benefits, and they were allowed to split up the time however they wished, including taking some of that time off just before their due date.” The result? The attrition rate for new mothers dropped to the point of matching averages for the rest of the company. This is the difference between seeing employees as customers rather than resources.

Are you:

  • Concerned about keeping the talent you have in a competitive world?
  • Losing employees at a costly rate?
  • Looking to keep up with current workplace trends that tend to catch the eye of younger generations poised to take over the working world?

If your answer is “yes” to any of the above questions, then chances are a switch to People Ops is right for you.

How do I begin to move from HR to People Ops?

Congratulations! You’ve already accomplished what can be the hardest part — understanding the value of a People Ops approach.

The next thing to do after resetting your HR department to People Ops is to begin transitioning the individual roles that make up that department. Here are some standard roles and some considerations for what could be their People Ops equivalents.

HR Department vs. People Team

Swapping a people team for an HR department can mean overhauling everything that HR used to be responsible for and re-focusing it on the entire employee life cycle within an organization. Of course the essential roles of HR have to live somewhere. But in a People Ops world it makes sense to keep the functions separate because HR focuses on the company, while People Ops focuses on people.

HR Manager vs. People Ops Leader

This is where the People Ops mentality is seeded and grows. Rather than taking a traditional HR view where efficiency and compliance are key, People Ops focuses on employees as customers and views the success of their customers as the core of their department. Instead of focusing on the benefit that employees can bring the company, a People Ops leader understands that the benefit of talented employees is inherent and that it’s their job to invest in the satisfaction, engagement, and development of those employees so that they stay with your company in the long term.

Rather than taking a traditional HR view where efficiency and compliance are key, People Ops focuses on employees as customers and views the success of their customers as the core of their department.

Recruiting Manager vs. People Operations Coordinator

Rather than making it all about numbers in the funnel, a People Operations Coordinator who takes on the role of a traditional recruiting manager understands that their job is about giving employees the best experience possible and that starts with when they’re simply an applicant. If you feel like a company doesn’t value your time as an applicant, it’s hard to imagine that they will once you’re an employee. So in this way, retention almost starts before hiring even begins.

HR Analyst vs. People Ops Analyst

While these 2 positions might sound like a title change and nothing more, it’s all about the type of data you collect and what you use it for. An HR analyst will use data for things like compliance and retention; a People Ops analyst will do the same but with slightly different data for different reasons. Tracking employee burnout, engagement with professional growth and development opportunities offered by the company, and satisfaction with benefits are just a few things that a People Ops analyst might be responsible for.

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