What Is People Operations? A Guide to the New HR Term Everyone Should Know

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


No account yet? Register

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 leverage your greatest asset: your talent.

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 saw 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
  • 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.


Soo… what exactly is People Ops for?

We’re moving from an IT-driven economy to a people-driven economy. The value of technology has been proven over the last 10 years, and now the competitive advantage lies in our ability to unleash our employees to maximum potential.

By automating traditional HR processes, POPS shifts attention from tactical administrative work to people and productivity. People Ops is responsible for designing a great employee experience with pivotal people moments that make work exciting, rewarding and engaging for your team.

What are the key factors in the shift from HR to People Ops?

Shift from manual to automation
Use technology instead of humans for repetitive tasks such as data entry, processing and reporting.

Shift from guesswork to data
Capture, analyze and share data-driven insights about the workforce instead of relying on gut instinct and anecdotes.

Shift from cost center to profit center
Optimize for workforce productivity and results (e.g. revenue and profits) instead of expense and efficiency (e.g. time and costs).

Shift from management to experience
Treat the employee experience like the customer experience, optimizing it to create an advantage.

Am I ready for People Operations?

Here is a quick POPs assessment to help you decide.

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. Most likely, the People Operations Manager will look at highly manual processes, like hiring and payroll, and automate them. Elements of existing HR will have to stay, but there’s a lot that can be upgraded.

Next, the manager will shift how the company views employees to see them as internal customers. You want your talent to be happy. Increasing employee satisfaction is key. This will mean supporting employees daily in various ways, including personalized benefits, remote work options, better work-life balance, and other small joys.  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 very well.

What’s your biggest 2022 HR challenge that you’d like to resolve

Answer to see the results

How can I use People Ops to avoid Employee Burnout?

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 morale, there’s certainly a need for a People Ops strategy 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.

How can I learn more about People Operations?

We suggest grabbing a copy of the People Operations Book.

People Operations: Automate HR, Design a Great Employee Experience, and Unleash Your Workforce explains how leaders at small- and medium-sized businesses can stop spending time on HR administration—”paperwork”—and start focusing on the “peoplework” that truly fuels employee growth and productivity. Authors Jay Fulcher, Kevin Marasco, Tracy Cote of Zenefits, the leading people operations platform, provide readers with a playbook for creating a massive competitive advantage by eliminating antiquated approaches to HR. The book takes a look at how work has changed and what companies need to do about it, and the new approach they must take to processes, systems, and best practices. You’ll learn how to eliminate busywork and hassle, and how to use that newfound time and capital to empower your biggest asset: your people.

You’ll receive the end-to-end guide to:

  • Digitizing legacy HR functions
  • Using robots for the busywork you hate
  • Employing software to design and improve your employee experience
  • Assembling and empowering your “people team”
  • Utilizing the included plans and templates to guide each stage of your business transformation

Perfect for managers, leaders, small business owners, and executives, People Operations is perfect for anyone who wants to optimize HR, maximize their workforce investment, support their employees, and modernize their business.

What skills are needed to master People Operations?



No account yet? Register

Might also interest you