People Operations: Pathway to Advance ‘Company Growth’​ Through Human Resources Transformation

People Operations: Pathway to Advance ‘Company Growth’​ Through Human Resources Transformation

The way business operates is now rapidly transforming. Companies nowadays are moving into an era where they need to understand the importance of putting people first.

The pandemic has brought massive changes to every aspect of a business. While the companies need to adapt to the ‘new normal,’ one of the vital roles they need to care about is managing employees.

The term ‘People Operations’ may sound familiar, but did you know that companies can obtain extraordinary outcomes by applying this vision?

Most people may regard ‘People Operation’ as part of Human Resource Management. If analyzed more deeply, this term contains such a broad meaning.

So what is the difference between People Ops and Human Resources? What part of human resource management needs to be transformed to create People Operations?

Where Does the Idea of ‘People Operations’ Come from?

As the root of ‘People Operations,’ ‘Human Resources’ is the most common aspect that has been known and applied in a company. The beginning of the 20th century marked how companies operated the ‘Human Resources’ concept.

Up to this point, the concept of ‘Human Resources’ has generated new ideas such as ‘People Operations.’ So, how was the concept of ‘people operations’ invented?

In 2006, Google introduced ‘People Operations’ as a new concept to implement the old idea of ‘Department of Human Resources.’ Google executives faced severe problems at that time, such as many female employees who decided to leave.

After conducting the internal survey and interviews, they found that female workers often left the company, especially those who had just become mothers. Google formed a ‘People Operations’ division to cope with that issue.

The data revealed that the post-natal allowance is insufficient to back-up postnatal needs. As a solution, they apply five times higher (five months salary) to create better conditions than before.

Google has undoubtedly made a significant impact on the company. Although not all companies can follow Google’s way, what Google has performed certainly shows how impactful the ‘people operations’ are. It’s an effective way to analyze problems and find solutions to people aspects within the company.

‘Human Resources’ and ‘People Ops’: What Are the Differences?

To understand the difference between the two concepts, let’s take a look at the definition of each. In general, companies use the term ‘Human Resources’ interchangeably because both have some similarities. The People Ops technically works under the umbrella of ‘Human Resources.

Scope of Human Resource Management:

  • Enforcing the Rules
  • Managing Employee Data
  • Managing Employee Compensation and Benefits

Daily Activities:

  • Recruiting, hiring, and promoting employees
  • Mediating employee problems
  • Laying off employees

Scope of People Operations:

  • Identifying and implementing work plans that affect employee productivity
  • Providing all the needs and resources for employee development

Daily Activities:

  • Increasing employee engagement
  • Building a strong corporate culture
  • Improving the image of the company

Why did ‘Human Resources’ change to ‘People Operations’?

Is turning HR into People Operations just changing the term? How does this transformation impact the company?

In the practice of People Ops, the most visible difference is that the situation is becoming more dynamic and active. It’s in contrast to the traditional concept of Human Resources that is more reactive. People Operations is all about focusing on innovation and outcomes. The following explanations are multiple points of what People Ops want to concern on:

More Transparent

The old HR concept was criticized due to the isolation and the lack of interaction with other divisions. Implementing ‘People Operation’ is about making the environment more transparent.

More Strategic

The HR division may look like a division that only focuses on paying employees salaries or punishing employees. However, the People Operations team must be more strategic, such as compiling, analyzing, implementing, and evaluating decisions. They also need to accommodate all the aspirations of the various divisions.

More Proactive

Instead of waiting to give responses as the common characteristic of the old HR division, the People Operations team must be more active and initiative, especially in dealing with a problem that arises in the company.

Transforming the Role of Human Resources into a ‘People Operation’ Team

The primary focus of Human Resources is based on the principle of “the legal, ethical, and structural organization of employees and teams.” In line with that, People Operations concentrates on “results-oriented, strategy focused leadership and management of people.”

As it covers a more comprehensive role, Human Resource Development in companies needs to  transform HR functions, such as:

Become a Strategic Partner

Conventional functions of the HR division in the company, such as conducting recruitment, performance development, retention programs, succession planning, and awarding exemplary employees, are the main tasks of the division. When these functions have been running, achieving business goals can be carried out perfectly.

The concept of people operations also needs to be implemented through digital transformation. The HR team needs to position itself as a strategic partner to achieve the goals.

Become an Agent of Change

The company’s HR team that has implemented a new system in the recruitment, training, and learning processes, can be the spearhead of change.

Building a work culture based on digital transformation is a practical step to take the company to a higher level. It can also help them adapt to the latest technological developments.

The catalyst is the most appropriate word for the Human Resources Department that decided to transform to ‘People Operations.’

How to Drive Human Resources towards Digital Transformation?

Deloitte’s Human Capital Trends Report (2017) tried to give details of how the transformation should move:

1. Setting a Mission

Changing the old mission to be more modern and adaptive to technological changes globally is the main task of the people operations team.

2. Improving the Company’s Core Technology

All manual and conventional Human Resource Development systems need a total transformation. Not only methods that become digital and automatic but also rooted into the mindset.

3. Develop a Strategy for Utilizing Sustainable Technology

The People Operations team must bring employees more adaptive to the latest technologies. Data analytics, cloud enterprise resource planning (ERP), and artificial intelligence (AI) are skills needed.

4. Build a Human Resources Digital Team

People Operations need to form a digital team in Human Resource Development. It’s required to find solutions to the Human Resources problems.

5. Prioritizing Innovation

Innovation is the key to facing rapid and dynamic changes in the business. Modern human resources should be able to create innovations. Further, those who have been highly dedicated to finding innovations need to be appreciated.


Transforming Human Resource into People Operation is an innovative measure to help companies deal with various issues and risks. If the ”old HR” views employees as a resource for efficiency, People Ops sees them as individual contributors. So People Ops would understand them holistically.