Business Tips··6 min read

What is People Operations In a Business and How Does it Work?

What is the Role of People Operations

People operations is a crucial department in companies that want to ensure they manage their workforce properly. However, if you already have an HR team, you might feel like having people operations is unnecessary.

Today, we're going to show you what people operations is as a department, and how it contributes to better performance management and a positive employee experience.

What is People Operations?

When considering how businesses are evolving to meet the needs of the modern world, it's no surprise that an overhaul is required in many sectors. For a range of businesses, this has come in the shape of People Operations, which comes under the blanket term of Human Resources, to support the new and often challenging environment of labor management.

The term "people operations" was coined by Laszlo Bock, former HR director at Google.

There is typically a range of different roles for those in people ops too; from the managers to individuals specializing in specific areas of the team. There's an array of different responsibilities that come under the umbrella of services a good people operations team provides.

Some of the key ones include:

  • Building trust with employees, as well as generally engaging with them and making sure that there aren't any issues, by continuously tapping into employee feedback
  • Giving more employee recognition for the work they do and using this to direct them to tasks that will help to push the business further
  • Developing the ideal company culture of the company and finding where employees fit into it. A strong culture improves everything: from the quality of hire, to the candidate experience and overall recruitment process
  • Finding ways to help develop the skills and capabilities of workers to help them better achieve their goals in the business
  • Keeping track of the employee journey; from initial interviews to training, and performance reviews, covering the entire employee lifecycle
  • Improving key metrics: increasing employee engagement, lowering turnover rates
  • Improving the hiring process and making the company more enticing to future employees

Of course, tasks and roles will generally vary depending on the skill set of each PO member, but these are some good examples of how People Operations usually functions within a business.

What is the difference between People Operations and Human Resources?

Right now, bringing in a whole new team to manage aspects of your workforce may not seem like a worthwhile idea, especially as you probably have an HR team already in place to take care of a host of functions with their daily tasks.

The reality is that as things are moving forward (and technology is evolving) at such a rapid pace, you could find yourself being held back. The good news is that people operations vs. HR can be a straightforward comparison, as they each have their own specialties.

At the base level, the biggest difference is where their specialties lie. Both can be important to the needs of the employees in a company but in their own ways.

Your human resources department, for example, is likely to have a larger focus on factors like business ethics and legal compliance. On the other hand, a good PO team will typically help in creating effective strategies and improving management practices.

Where the concerns of traditional HR teams lie within rule compliance and minimizing workplace liabilities, People Ops works to offer a host of tools and support devices to promote a better working environment on an employee level. Essentially, HR is typically more administrative in their roles, whereas PO tasks are there to empower employees.


Both have their purposes, which is why having a People Operations and human resources team can generally be a wise idea for many organizations. Executive leadership teams specifically can benefit from a PO department.

Why is People Operations significant?

If you don't have a People Ops team, you may not realize just how critical they can be to essentially any business, purely because of how much of an impact one can have on employees and their day to day operations.

Overall, thanks to everything that People Operations has to offer, it's not surprising that there are so many successful companies operating with them. Those who have a team to support their human resources department in this area do so because of their efficiency and in most cases, it's clear to see how it can keep a business running as smoothly as possible.

In terms of business, particularly larger organizations, People Operations can be especially worthwhile. Here's how:

  • Companies can improve the quality of the staff they hire while also improving employee happiness
  • It offers clarity to employees in a variety of areas; from onboarding to promotions, giving companies a strategic approach to career progression
  • People Operations helps businesses set clear expectations and requirements, which increases employee satisfaction and lowers employee turnover
  • Staff and business managers are enjoying the benefits of improved job performance
  • People Ops can increase employee retention and significantly up levels of productivity
  • They can facilitate business growth by helping companies with major business decisions

When employees are valued and their skills nurtured, their capabilities skyrocket – and that's the true purpose of People Operations.

What are the roles and responsibilities of People Operations?

As part of the People Operations job description, you may want to look into the roles and responsibilities of the team that comprises People Operations.

With a little research, you'll find that there are actually quite a few different roles that you could consider. Here are 4 of the most notable ones to give you an idea of some of the jobs you could look into.

People Operations Manager

While HR leaders will have their own skillsets, a People Operations Manager will be trained to deal with a workforce's overall functionality, often in ways similar to the input of a Project Manager. They will be in charge of the team and the tasks that they need to complete, to ensure that deadlines are met, relations are healthy and everybody communicates well. They manage the entire employee database and they're the main drivers of employee engagement.

People Operations Coordinator

A People Operations Coordinator will be second to the manager, and will often take on the role of administrator. This individual will typically complete tasks relating to the organisation and they will help where they can when managing projects is especially difficult and business objectives are falling short.

Director of People Operations

The Director of the People Ops team will be the go-to individual for leading and coaching the current employees and aligning them with bigger business goals. They will work alongside business leaders to create a tailored people strategy, to promote a healthy, supportive employee experience from beginning to end. Not all people operations departments will have this role.

People Operations Specialist

Lastly, the People Ops Specialist will take on the responsibility of checking and improving traditional HR and people processes. With a focus on examining current data and protocol and streamlining how things function, employers can expect effective time tracking, excellent communication skills and a higher level of customer service than ever before.

Wrapping up

People operations is a crucial business function for companies who care about the well-being of their people. Having an organizational culture ensures better talent acquisition, improved employee relations and employee development, and overall business operations.

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