What is “People Operations” and Why You Should Care?

October 10, 2014 Doug Devlin

For the last three years, Google has reigned supreme as the number one company to work for in the United States.

Why? 

Much of their desirability can be attributed to something called People Operations—a human resources paradigm shift as revolutionary as their innovative technology breakthroughs. People Operations turns human resources decisions from a hunch-based pseudoscience to a data-driven exact science.

People Operations is based on the simple truth: to hold on to your talent, you have to understand and “take care” of your talent. Allowing employee choice based on analytics as opposed to emotional mandates are the cornerstone of People Operations. Prasad Setty, leader of Google’s people analytics group says their goal is to “bring the same level of rigor to the people-decisions that we do to engineering decisions.”

The notion that people are the true customer is gaining traction in other high tech companies that compete for talented individuals from the same pool. Retention has turned into a science and HR has moved beyond simply filling out forms. Success is now measured on how well companies can attract and manage innovative employees.

People Operations isn’t just for multi-billion dollar companies. In order to grow your business, it’s a model you will need to embrace, and here’s why:

Human Resources – not far from the Personnel Department

Traditional HR is likely the last remaining hold-out in your organization to rely on non-analytical decision making. Instead, emotion and relationships are often the guide to choices and policy. Unlike other organizational departments that can track, measure and improve, HR often has no measurable data, and therefore, no platform for improvement.

Additionally, the two departments that should be working together to take care of employee customers, Finance and HR, are separated by a huge software chasm, often bridged by only a spreadsheet and human error. This model simply will not continue to work for companies who want to remain competitive and scale up with future growth.

Mediocre Employees Produce Mediocre Results

The only way to attract top performers and innovators is to be innovative yourself. Without bold people management practices, the best employees will pass you over for someone else. If it seems like aggressive changes to recruiting, retention, payroll and benefits wouldn’t be possible at your organization, remove the barriers that are keeping you from a People Operations revolution. If you can’t hire the best people, you will never get the best results.

The Great and Terrible Millennials

Technologically savvy like no generation before, Millennials make up some of the greatest innovators in the workforce. By 2020, it is estimated that 60% of the workforce will be Millennials. They don’t want to deal with HR for their payroll and benefits. They want a mobile app that allows them control of their choices. If you can’t adapt to their communication style, they’ll find someone who can. Attracting and retaining Millennials will be crucial for the continuous growth of your business.

Lead, Follow, or Become Obsolete

You can’t afford to think you’re not competing with companies like Google for top talent. Google, and other companies who’ve adopted the People Operations model, hire top performers in every job family—not just programming. Companies who can’t match the recruiting, retention and people management capabilities of these business trailblazers will miss out on the best employees.

The good news is, if you can learn from companies who have revolutionized human resources by switching to a People Operations mindset, your company will become a talent magnet. And when you have top innovators working for you, your path to success and industry domination opens wide.

About the Author

Doug Devlin

Doug is the Chief Executive Officer of Zuman. He co-founded Zuman after serving the past 17 years as Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer at TriNet (NYSE: TNET). Doug graduated from California State University at Chico with a BS in Business Administration, and received his MBA from Golden Gate University.

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