What is People Operations? How to Manage Your Human Capital

New to People Operations? Find out how it can support your employees and business overall.

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FAQs on People Operations and human capital

What kind of operation is your business putting first? Increasingly — and fortunately — various operations of a business are putting people first. This trend has led to the phrase “People Operations” and even though it might look like it’s part of human resources, there’s a lot more to it. Let’s explore what exactly People Operations means and how you can best manage your “human capital.”

What is People Operations?

People Operations, sometimes called People Ops, includes every element of your business that encourages employees to be even more successful and productive at work. This begins with the second you hire them and extends to the time when they leave your company. Yes, People Ops is under the HR umbrella but it’s also a full-time job in and of itself when done right.

People Operations is an approach that creates an employee experience that humanizes previously mechanical employee systems. People Ops was coined by Laszlo Bock, former Senior VP of Google’s own People Operations. In his WORK RULES! book, he discusses why he renamed the tech giant’s Human Resources to People Operations, shifting what had been considered a strictly “administrative and bureaucratic” department into one with “some actual ability to get things done.”

People Operations designs a workplace that fosters joy so workers actually want to do their job.

This doesn’t mean that every HR department used to see employees as disposable cogs in the machine, but Laszlo argues that this was the ultimate case in some businesses. People Operations designs a workplace that fosters joy so workers actually want to do their job. They enjoy it! Since employees are the foundation for every business, it makes sense to put a focus here.

Happy workers are productive, drive business profits, aren’t as likely to burn out, and are empowered to give 100% every day. Some might argue that People Ops isn’t a subset of HR at all, but rather a newer, better department altogether. Businesses will still need mechanical processes in order to be legally compliant, but why not breathe more life into the human-centered processes via People Ops? Of course, you’re going to need a People Operations Manager to make this happen.

What does a People Operations manager do?

What exactly a People Operations Manager does can vary company to company. There are some primary responsibilities that this job description often shares. First, the People Operations Manager will probably have to bring bureaucratic systems like applicant tracking and payroll into a more modern age. Elements of existing HR will have to stay, but there’s a lot that can be upgraded.

Next, this manager will have to shift the company’s way of viewing employees so that they are basically internal customers. You want all your customers to be happy. Increasing their satisfaction is key. This will mean supporting employees daily in various ways. A People Operations Manager will also track and analyze HR data — such as turnover rates — and when onboarding new employees, they’ll do so with an employee-first approach.

The goal of a People Operations Manager is to make daily life smoother and empower employees at every turn.

The goal of a People Operations Manager is to make daily life smoother and empower employees at every turn. A small business might need a single People Operations worker while larger companies could benefit from an entire department.

What does People Operations have to do with human capital?

“Human capital” might sound like a cold way to think about your employees, but look closer. This economics term ultimately means wealth via any type of asset that can contribute to a specific purpose — in this case, your company’s operations. That’s exactly what employees are, or at least they should be if treated correctly. People Operations is a means of driving human capital simply by treating employees well.

How can I improve human capital management?

Avoiding burnout, creating work-life balance, and instilling joy into your daily grind will certainly help you and your business profit.

If People Operations improves human capital, there’s certainly a need for human capital management at every business. Even a sole proprietorship with a single employee will benefit from taking care of that sole employee — you. Avoiding burnout, creating work-life balance, and instilling joy into your daily grind will certainly help you and your business profit. You can surely imagine the benefits in this micro scenario, so just think what a difference human capital management would make at a bigger company and on a grander scale.

How you improve human capital management is an ever-evolving, fluid approach (or at least it should be). It begins with changing how you view your employees, and in many cases, how your HR department functions. Bringing on experts who specialize in People Operations and human capital management is the first step; otherwise, it can be tough to break old habits — and decades — of traditional HR approaches. These experts can help guide you and your business towards effective, positive human capital management approaches and systems that will support your business and every employee.

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