Return-to-Work: Mandates, Policies and Everything In Between

Part 4: The HR Evolution Is More Than a Name Change

Personnel.  Human Resources.  Now People Operations. The department that handles all employee related matters in an organization is undergoing yet another paradigm shift that goes beyond role and department titles. In the late 1970’s the HR profession evolved as a business resource to address increased competition and globalization, moving beyond the role of a necessary administrative department. Fast forward, the pandemic required rapid crisis response and CEO’s sought out and relied upon the  expertise and perspectives of HR departments to keep the workforce engaged, and productive. Their role is further elevated as HR leaders work to ensure their organizations are prepared for the future of the new workforce. This is huge.  

People Operations is the HR of the new workplace. More than just a name change, the shift is a reflection of the multi-faceted and multi-dimensional roles HR departments have taken on in leading  organizations through the complexities of keeping employees healthy and safe, transitioning to and from remote work, and maintaining culture, teamwork and productivity. Prioritizing issues around Diversity, Equity and Inclusion have also fallen within their purview. A role expansion such as this requires an unprecedented change in how the department operates, as addressing these challenges does not neatly fit into the  traditional  roles of Benefits, Talent Acquisition, Training, and Compensation. It also requires People Operations to reimagine their role, the outcomes they deliver, how they operate and how they  organize around employee needs rather than HR functions. For example, a role shift from Benefits to Wellness includes both physical and mental wellness, and may include  caregiver support. Talent Acquisition is more important than ever but now is integrated with talent retention and employee engagement. According to Pat Hall Jaynes of The HR Source, “Employees have become the heart of the company. Ensuring that employee needs are met is now a top priority in many organizations.”

In the  #NewWorldOfWork, People Operations has become a department that is intrinsically linked to both people management and business profitability. This new dual responsibility necessitates a closer collaboration with finance to determine how new employee practices impact budgets and financial performance. Now, as the #Great Resignation is expected to escalate, keeping talented employees is big business. As we move to an employee driven economy, talent and a desirable workplace is a source of profitability. McKinsey’s Organizational Health Index reports that those with top-ranked cultures achieved a 60% higher shareholder return than median-level companies. People Operations must evaluate the costs of expanding recruitment to include remote candidates, developing internal staff, and the profitability that talent can bring to projects and products.  

How People Operations utilizes technology parallels changes in their role. Personnel departments used “behind the mirror” systems to capture and report data. HR departments moved to “Self service” to reduce paperwork, provide information directly to employees, and create more user-friendly experiences. People Operations now utilize analytical data such as turnover metrics to calculate the total cost of unfilled vacancies compared with the potential value of hiring talent at higher salaries. 

Pat Jaynes also shares, “this is a very unique time in the workplace. Employee behavior as it relates to employment has changed drastically”. As a result, People Operations has redirected its efforts to treat employees more like customers by addressing their needs related to stress, work life balance and career satisfaction. Utilizing online tools to provide just-in-time learning and development will be of greater importance, serving also as tools for attraction and retention. By contributing to profitability while still focusing on creating cultures that attract, retain and engage diverse and talented employees, People Operations will take the lead in driving organizational stability and strength moving forward. In the final installation of our Return-to-Work series, we will explore in more detail how the Great Resignation has created a race for talent not previously seen before.

Managing people resources, while balancing the bottom line impact of maintaining a talented workforce requires companies to acknowledge the transformed role of HR to People Operations.  Need help navigating?  Contact The HR SOURCE.  301-459-3133/

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