Human Resources is dead. People Operations is here.


Lately, I’ve seen companies shifting internal nomenclature, changing the title of their human resources department to people operations. A practice early adopted by progressive tech companies, people operations puts empathy (not policy) at the heart of human resources. Policy and a holistic suite of benefits are table stakes. A people operations team, for example, might value the experiences and insights provided by different employee resource groups (or ERGs) to build an inclusive workplace culture.

It encourages the executive leadership team to adopt an “employee-first” approach to reduce attrition, improve productivity and engagement, and ignite growth. Acting with emotional intelligence is an overdue shift in perspective, I must say- employees haven’t been considered efficient cogs for decades. And with the recent Great Resignation, employees have made it clear they aren’t a stock of assets to be drawn on.

This new adoption reminds me of a related operational shift: diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I). For decades now, we’ve seen organizations elevating their diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. Most Fortune 500 companies claim DE&I is at the heart of their values and growth strategy and plays an important part in company success. This means they: acknowledge the presence of differences within underrepresented groups, promote the distribution of resources to those groups, and ensure those groups feel welcomed.


Let’s pressure test that statement using an underrepresented group (women) and one of their differences (finances).

The U.S. Bureau of Labor cites that women earn 82.3% of that earned by White men, with the gap being even wider for many women of color. Aside from being paid less, other key challenges hinder women in the workplace, including a 4% motherhood wage penalty average (per child) and less exposure to financial literacy throughout the course of their careers.

So who’s lying here? Because it seems to me that if DE&I has been an “important part of the success” of many organizations, then millennials- our moms should have worked in a financially equitable America when we were in grade school.

Clearly, DE&I has become lip service at best- a tactic used to leverage a companies’ workforce, differentiate the business, or appeal to more customers. Which makes me approach companies with people operations departments with trepidation. Conversely, people operations departments could right the human resources wrongs of yesteryear. Using the same pressure test, perhaps people operations will bring the evolution of company culture, encouraging safe spaces to discuss finances as a woman in the workplace. I could see this team encouraging open conversations about salary negotiation too.

They could anticipate the needs of these primary caregivers at work, and make career planning, investing, and fintech offerings a part of the benefits strategy. Maybe the department will spearhead financial education, training, and development, recognizing financial health is no longer just the burden of individual team members. After all, a lack of financial understanding or inequity manifests itself across the entire organization, from employee irritability and sleeplessness to tardiness or even resignation.

Tens of millions quit their jobs last year and the shecession showed us the correlation between financial health and mental health. Together, the two impact the people (read: not employee) experience and were the most needed benefit from both male and female team members.

Huh, a lack of people for the people operations team to support.

I can’t think of a bigger impact on the bottom line than that.


Christine will be speaking at the SHRM 2022 Annual Conference and Exposition on June 12th, 2022. 

The SHRM Blog does not accept solicitation for guest posts.

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