11 Sep 2023

What is a people team?

person sitting on a rocket

In 2023, as job titles have grown increasingly intricate and often befuddling, terms like “people team,” “people operations,” and “chief people officer” have made a compelling entry. These aren’t just modern renditions of traditional HR designations. They are the cornerstones of a movement dedicated to recognising human capital as the most valuable asset of an organisation.

In this blog we will break down the mission and functions of the ‘people team’, and highlight some key players within it.

The rise of the people team

The world of HR has drastically evolved. Traditionally, HR teams were the gatekeepers of compliance, responsible for administrative tasks like recruitment, benefits, and compensation. But thanks to innovative tools like Zelt, many of these tasks are now automated. This automation has created space for a more dynamic, strategic approach to HR: enter the realm of people operations.

People operations, a term popularised by Google’s pioneering head of HR, Lazslo Bock, in the early 2000s, reflects a shift in perspective. Bock’s vision wasn’t just about handling employee paperwork; it was about making transformative changes to Google’s culture and benefits to reduce attrition rates. Essentially, it meant viewing the organisation’s staff as valued customers and working towards strategic goals that prioritise their needs. This transformative approach is often referred to as working in “people.”

From this philosophy, the people team emerged. Unlike the reactive nature of traditional HR departments, people teams are proactive powerhouses. They don’t wait for problems to occur; they anticipate and prevent them. Their primary mission? Prioritize the employee at every stage of their journey with the company – from the initial scouting phase to their eventual transition into company alumni.

In essence, a people team champions a company culture where individual aspirations, well-being, and growth opportunities are seamlessly integrated, ensuring a fulfilling experience for every team member.

People operations: The heartbeat of modern workplaces

At the intersection of strategy and daily operations, the people team crafts the overarching vision that ensures the company’s objectives intertwine with the aspirations of its employees.

On the other hand, people operations gets down to the nitty-gritty. It’s about fine tuning the recruitment process for a seamless cultural fit, amplifying cross-departmental communication to spark innovation, and harnessing the power of technology to proactively address employee needs.

People operations combines the ability to harness advanced HR tech, with a deeply human touch. A people ops professional focuses on enhancing the employee experience. One part of this is making employees’ lives easier by having an all in one HR and onboarding platform. The other is making certain that every team member not only feels integral to the company’s success but is also genuinely empowered and valued in their role.

The Chief People Officer: Captain of the ship

The Chief People Officer (CPO) isn’t just a rebranded HR head. The role demands a blend of strategy, vision, and most importantly, empathy. CPOs are the vanguards of company culture and employee experience. They don’t just sit in boardrooms; they dive deep into the trenches, ensuring they have the pulse of the organisation.

A huge part of protecting the employee experience is making sure that the CPO has a handle on employee wellness, as we spend a massive amount of our lives at work, our wellbeing too becomes important to a company’s objectives.

From talent acquisition, training, and employee engagement to driving innovation in workplace inclusivity and flexibility, the CPO is instrumental. Their decisions don’t stem solely from profit motives but are a blend of organisational goals and human-centric values.

Why does the shift to people-centricity matter?

The world is amid an unprecedented talent war. As borders blur in the digital age, companies are vying for global talent. In such a scenario, salary packages alone don’t sway decisions. The modern workforce, especially millennials and Gen Z, prioritise workplaces that value them beyond their job descriptions.

Organisations that have recognised this seismic shift and embraced the concepts of people teams, people operations, and chief people officers are the ones writing success stories today. They’re creating workplaces that aren’t just about profits and productivity but are hubs of innovation, collaboration, and well-being.

By focusing on people-centricity, companies are:

  1. Boosting employee retention: When employees feel valued, they stick around.
  2. Enhancing productivity: Happy employees aren’t just clocking in hours; they’re passionately driving company missions.
  3. Cultivating brand ambassadors: Contented employees become brand ambassadors, helping in both talent acquisition and brand reputation.
  4. Fostering innovation: Diverse and engaged teams, operating in a supportive environment, become hotbeds for innovative ideas.

As the lines between work and life continue to blur in the age of remote work and digital nomadism, the role of people teams and operations becomes even more pivotal. Employees aren’t just seeking jobs; they’re seeking experiences, growth, and a sense of belonging.

The modern workplace is no longer just about business; it’s about people. And central to this transformation are the torchbearers: the people team, the machinery of people operations, and the vision of the Chief People Officer. Together, they’re redefining work in a world where people matter, now more than ever.