Human Resources vs. People Operations: Which is the Better Fit?

At a large company, semantics are involved when deciding employee job titles. A slight variation – even just a word – can carry nuances of varied perceptions. For instance, consider the difference between “Assistant Regional Manager” and “Assistant to the Regional Manager.” It makes a big difference.

A recent trend in major corporations involves Human Resources departments making that nuanced name change and rebranding as “People Operations.” A notable 401k provider, Human Interest, attributes the trend to the idea that the term “Human Resources” does not accurately reflect the current business landscape, nor is it considered a friendly term. In addition, companies do not always view HR as a business-critical function and the new term may alter that perception.

However, the switch from Human Resources to People Operations is more than just a name change. There are differences between the titles and responsibilities. Essentially, both terms are derived from the same concept and address the same priorities, but the functions operate from different angles. 

People Operations: Strategic Development

People Operations is the direct response to HR not being seen as business-critical. Its focus is ensuring employees are performing at their highest capacity. Responsibilities for more productive and results-centered People Operations include:

  • Overseeing training and individual development
  • Ensuring company infrastructure runs effectively
  • Analyzing strategic data to monitor production

While HR is about managing the human side of employees, People Operations is the analytical side. The analytical side manages employee performance and empowers employees to reach their full potential. People Operations helps employees set goals and deadlines, manage KPIs, and track production. 

A People Operations expert should be brought in when:

  • Production is falling behind
  • Employee development is lagging
  • A data tracking system is not set up for managing performance
  • High turnover rates are being experienced
  • Onboarding and new employee training is lackluster or non-existent

Human Resources: Ethical Development

While People Operations is focused on increasing overall production, Human Resources focuses on ensuring the company’s culture and environment are suitable for efficient production to occur. This involves ensuring employees are following organizational rules as well as operating ethically and legally.

To achieve this, HR leaders must:

  • Ensure employees are comfortable in their roles
  • Ensure employees are receiving proper benefits
  • Create, implement, and follow protocols and contingency plans for all possible issues

The goal of human resources is to set up the ideal work environment that fits the needs and preferences of each employee so he/she feels comfortable and is able to perform to his/her best abilities. While People Operations is result and performance-based, Human Resources is employee-morale based and focuses on conflicts that arise in the office. Good HR strategies involve catching and solving these problems before they become a problem preventing employees from achieving their goals.

An HR expert should be brought in when:

  • Employees feel like they’re being mistreated
  • An organization’s infrastructure is not run efficiently
  • Unethical practices are being used to cut corners or increase production
  • Proper protocol is not being followed

Revamp How Your Company Operates

After learning the differences between Human Resources and People Operations, which function do you think is the best fit for your company?

To decide, evaluate and identify your needs and determine if they are focused more on strategic or ethical development. At the core, both roles ensure human optimization, but consider the differences and where your company requires more focus. Then devise a plan to revamp some of your operations and focus on the main goal and a development plan that will outline your company’s journey and expected outcomes. 

Seek Professional Support

No matter which function you choose, you will need professional support to help create your outline, address challenges, and optimize HR operations. If your company is leaning toward People Operations, Benefits Quarterback, powered by Hampton Consulting Corp. is an optimal partner with the resources to help address your People Operations challenges. We are the human resources solution you can trust and will serve as your partner for HR technology, group benefits, and compliance.

To learn more about what we do and how we can help, check out our two-minute drill. The results will show savings opportunities through a BenefitsQB game plan and how we can help your HR team be more efficient.