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Everything You Need to Know About People Operations Jobs

Amanda Price
5 min read

What are people operations?

People operations are HR 2.0.

Just like HR 1.0, it’s all about compliance, running payroll, and adhering to all applicable local, state, and federal laws. However, it does all these things from a person-centered perspective.

The goal of people operation is to go light years beyond what HR traditionally did by making employees’ tenure with a company an enjoyable and productive one. 

In this article, you'll find more about what people operations are, how they compare to HR, what educational credentials you need to do this kind of job, and a few other things.

Let’s get started!

People Operations Jobs


Here are some of the responsibilities of people operations:

  • Update antiquated HR systems such as payroll
  • Increase employee satisfaction by seeing them as customers
  • Answer questions about benefits and corporate policies 
  • Analyze HR metrics such as turnover rates and time to hire
  • Onboard new team members and make sure they can access resources
  • Empower managers and their teams
  • Facilitate team and individual development
  • Data-backed reporting to the CEO
  • Propose creative incentive structures


As of February 2021, the median salary for a people operations coordinator in the US is $45,266.


Most often, employers require a BA in HR, Communications, or a related business field.

Sometimes, a Professional in Human Resources (PHR) certificate will suffice.


HR vs. Operations: Which Is Better?

Before we definitely answer this question, let's take a closer look at the origin of the term "human resources."

In 1893, the economist John R. Commons first used the term in his book, The Distribution of Wealth. The phrase was used again in the early part of the twentieth century. This was back in a time when workers were  looked upon merely as some kind of capital asset.

In other words, not much better than a piece of machinery. 

These days, “HR” is an archaic title that’s rapidly falling out of favor.

The term's death knell was sounded when Silicon Valley millennials working as traditional human resources specialists started calling themselves “people operations” or “team culture” professionals.

The change in terminology was because these visionaries experienced a visceral aversion to the term “human resources.” Ironically, HR is supposed to be all about people. However, to a younger generation, the term feels hopelessly antiquated.

People aren’t resources to be commoditized —they’re living, breathing human beings with vibrant inner lives.

On a superficial level, HR and people operations look very much like. However, there’s a world of difference in their approaches. One of the most basic functions of an HR department is running payroll.

While this is a necessary company function, it needs to go hand-in-hand with vocational satisfaction. Over the years, many HR professionals have sufficiently changed their way of thinking so that their HR role has subtly evolved into that of people operations expert.

They recognize that they need to see the person's entirety as they enforce policy and ensure compliance. Say you're really good at getting a paycheck out to every employee but are divinely oblivious to the emotional angst of the person standing before you. In that case, you're only doing half your job.

HR has a reputation of being outdated—a relic of an earlier time. People operations is HR reconfigured for a new era and made much more human-centric.


Understand each role

Leaders within a company must have a clear understanding of the responsibilities of each role. 

To some, the differences might seem unimportant and trivial. However, the demands and expectations of each function are very different. 

The difference between HR and people operations is the former is reactive while the latter is proactive. For example, HR is responsible for dealing with issues after the fact. For instance, they’ll post a new job when a team member departs for greener pastures.

A people operations coordinator will try to reach out to the employee and see why he’s dissatisfied. That way, he won’t leave.  

HR usually comes up with a list of tasks (such as recruit new team members, submit payroll, and conduct performance appraisals) and does them. People operations do many of these same things, but with a tighter focus on the employee's needs.

Foster Transparency and Focus on Effectiveness

HR has a reputation as being a team fragmented by compartmentalization that won’t share information with employees. People operations attempt to foster transparency throughout the entire company.

People operations focus more on effectiveness and development, while HR emphasizes efficiency and compliance. Thus, people operations team members engage with employees on a much deeper level than HR personnel do.

Hold Responsibility for Role Functions

The perception is that HR is responsible for rote functions such as payroll and benefits.

They’re the people you see when you’re hired and when you’re fired. Most people's HR experience is that employees don't go to HR for help in working out problems, but because of a complaint filed against them.

HR personnel help you fill out your W2 and I9, manage open enrollment, and police the workforce for policy violations. This means the function of a traditional HR department is administrative and bureaucratic in nature.

Some employees think that HR has automated processes to the point where the individual in front of them isn't a person anymore. He's just another nondescript nobody. 

It’s hard for human resources personnel to shake off this antiquated image.

Stay Objective in the Hiring Process

HR must enforce applicable labor laws, and because they do, they’re seen as inflexible and coldly dispassionate. For instance, human resources have a responsibility to create a fair recruitment process.

This sometimes means using objective measures to predict how successful someone will be on the job. You might like someone on a personal level and because you do, want to recruit them to join your company. However, this isn't good enough for HR, who will ask you to be more objective about your hiring decisions.

They’re not trying to be killjoys but requiring objectivity helps them to remain compliant with company policy. This protects the company in case there are any legal challenges to a hiring decision.

Exalt Person Over Process

HR of the past cut up the employee experience into little chunks. Its focus is primarily checking off boxes as it endlessly processes one employee after another. On the other hand, the people operations director sees the employee in all her glorious totality and exalts the person over the process.

In people operations, the impact on the people is the first consideration, not the process itself.

When you smash the outdated HR paradigm, a people operations model that dramatically shifts the way the old role is perceived emerges.  

People operations focus on methodologies that foster employee engagement. It's all about cultivating a workspace where employees live up to their fullest potential. Therefore, it’s a more comprehensive approach to employee experience.   

HR analyst John Bersin had this to say:

“If your HR and Learning programs are focused on building customer-centric teams, empowering managers and people to make decisions, encouraging a culture of learning, teaching managers to coach and develop others – then you have moved to the Agile Model for HR. If your HR programs are still focused heavily on enforcing the rules, formalizing structure and centers of power, and putting leaders on a pedestal, then your HR and employee programs are probably holding your company back.”


Are You a Good Fit for People Operations?

If you’re less passionate about hiring and firing and more interested in helping people to live up to their true vocational potential, you might be a good peoples operation candidate.

Find the Right People Operations Jobs

 Finding the right people operations job can be (to use a cliché) like finding a needle in a haystack.

That's why it's best to enlist the services of a network recruiter with the cutting-edge technology, finely honed expertise, and an impressive network of contacts that’ll get you the results you’ve been desperately searching for.

Hunt Club is a network recruiter with a proven track record of connecting employers with job seekers. If you’ve been trying to find your dream job but have had little success, it’s time to bring in the big guns.

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