People Ops vs Human Resources

HR vs People Operations

People Ops vs Human Resources

HR vs People Operations

The differences between HR and People Operations are subtle.  It’s one of those things where you know it when you see it, but it can be tricky to define. The idea of people operations as a formalized department is a newer concept, just within the last decade. Based on titles alone, people operations and human resources sound pretty darn similar. Both departments deal with employees and the company relationship, but the two are not one in the same.

On the Move

Today, the term People Ops is increasingly replacing ‘Human Resources’ at some of the most progressive and employee-centric companies. Coined by Laszlo Bock, the former Senior Vice President of the HR function at Google; “People Ops doesn’t just represent a name change, but a shift in the way we think about managing people within an organization.”


HR takes a practical approach, carrying out the day-to-day employee-related activities necessary for a company to function. People Ops take a more conceptual approach, thinking strategically about the relationship a company is building with its employees and the culture that’s being created. At some organizations, People Ops has replaced the HR function entirely. At others, People Operations is a function within Human Resources, like Comp, Benefits or Payroll.

Different by but Same

The main difference between People Operations (People Ops) and Human Resources (HR) is that HR is primarily focused on legal compliance, ethics, payroll, benefits, and the structural organization of employees. Whereas People Ops is more concerned with results and strategies for employee engagement, development, and retention initiatives. People Ops also looks at the way HR operates, modernizing systems, making them more user-friendly.

Reactive vs. Proactive

HR is traditionally reactive, dealing with employee-related issues as needed. For example, HR might step in to act as a mediator in a disagreement between two employees. Whereas, People Ops is proactive, trying to establish practices that prevent issues from first arising.  In the case of managing workplace conflict, people operations might host a conflict-resolution simulation to arm employees with the tools they need to effectively navigate workplace disputes on their own.

As a Result

People Ops think about employees the way marketing thinks of customers, looking for ways to improve their experience with the organization and increase satisfaction. What’s at the heart of People Operations? A philosophy and a way of establishing processes that is employee centric. This often begins with effective talent management and talent acquisition – or hiring.

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