The fastest growing department in HR is driving organizational performance: People Ops!

We now live in a data-driven world. Data generated by the people and performance systems within your organization needs to be the foundation for getting your employee experience strategy right. Organizations that have managed to leverage data to extract information and gain employee insights are reaping the rewards in improved talent acquisition and retention that affect company financials positively.

I know from first-hand experience as an HR leader at Honeywell and Medtronic that accurate, current data from HRIS systems, employee surveys, and exit interviews provide extraordinary insights to improve organizational performance. When working with these companies, I gathered data on various topics such as employee turnover, rejections of employment offers, training gaps, and what made our most effective leaders the best. Today’s HRIS systems, surveying tools, and employee chatbots, however, can provide even greater insights into management and the workforce.

It’s no wonder that the people operations roles are the fastest-growing roles in HR. While many large organizations have people operations teams, they are still forming in many mid-sized and smaller organizations that are just beginning to set up People Ops departments. Even in large companies, many people operations teams are in the early stages of building their people analytics capabilities.

Most of the tracked data are transactional (or a snapshot) of headcount and turnover by region or the distribution of the latest performance evaluation ratings. This data reflects the current state and is not predictive. That is, it lacks any ability to tell the organization why its employees are quitting and if there are newly emerging reasons for quitting. Therefore, it has little ability to change the outcome.

At their full potential, people operations teams can provide businesses the predictive analytics to help HR recommend changes to their executive teams before final and damaging outcomes occur. Having predictive measures is essential to adjust recruiting strategies to hire more skilled workers, achieve diversity goals, understanding new trends in employee preferences such as with hybrid working or benefits for 2022.  Having a real-time understanding of emerging employee preferences can help prevent costly turnover and can also improve company performance.

One of the best examples of people analytics revealing talent insights to improve employee and manager performance is Google’s Project Oxygen. Google, under the leadership of former Senior Vice President of  People Officer Laszlo Bock, has been a leader in People Operations. The company launched Project Oxygen to determine what makes a manager great at Google. From this research, Google identified 10 behaviors that are common among its highest performing managers and incorporated them into its management development program. To learn these 10 behaviors and how Google identified them, go to

So how do companies build outstanding people operations? How can organizations gather real-time people data and analytics to inform HR priorities and investments for 2022?

According to McKinsey and Company, it helps to think about the development of people operations as a stairway with five steps. The five steps begin with Poor Data and no predictions based on data, and then followed by Good Data, Strong Data, Advanced Analytics, and Reliable Predictions. It is an interactive process. For every two steps that a people operations team moves forward, they may take one step back: learning, reiterating, and then moving forward.

McKinsey’s thinking suggests that organizations must develop a mindset that decisions should be based on analytics, rather than be intuitive. Analytics, in turn, informs and enhances human judgment contributing to more accurate predictions of outcomes and better decisions.

McKinsey has published a Five-Step Stairway to Impact for people operations. (Please see the chart below).

As companies move from Good Data to Strong Data, McKinsey notes that data is more available to inform human decisions. The organizations move from transaction data reporting to using technology to disseminate data to internal clients. When organizations move into Advanced Analytics, they are using sophisticated statistical tools such as SPSS and Python. At the Reliable Data level, the organization has “big data” and has developed deep expertise in predictive analytics.

Many organizations are at the early Good Data and Strong Data stage. How can they use their resources to predict HR and management priorities and investments in 2022 even when they have not attained the Reliable Predictions competence in stage 5? There is plenty that can be done.

Using intelligent assistants as Apps within their collaboration solutions (such as Teams and Slack), they can survey employees about essential issues. One of the most urgent issues now is when to return employees safely to the workplaces, in the face of the recent surge in the COVID19 Delta variant. Many organizations have delayed employees from returning to workplaces from the target timeframe of early September to November 2021 and into 2022. These types of executive decisions can be informed by pulse surveys, delivered to employees to ensure greater participation and more accurate results. The results from these decisions are more widely embraced when employees have had a voice in the outcome.

Another critical issue is the employees’ opinions about how many days a week to work in the office. Are five days, or four or three days a week in a mature hybrid working model? Many employees have enjoyed the flexibility of working remotely, are more productive, and want to avoid the daily commutes. While some may want to get reacquainted with co-workers one or two days a week, with others, flexibility is an important, game-changing priority. Companies are finding that some employees are resigning rather than returning to the office full time.

There are many good reasons to have employees in the office one to three days a week, such as maintaining alignment with the company’s strategies, goals, and culture, and for learning.  Pulse surveys with the ability to view the data across the company’s departments and by different categories of workers can be extraordinarily insightful.

McKinsey reports how one firm established pulse surveys to track changes on employees’ minds during the early stages of COVID-19 in 2020. As shown by its chart above, employees’ thoughts about the level of company support for employees, and their safety, and job security worries in April changed to concerns about being overwhelmed and wanting more work-life balance in May. This information offers vital analytics in shaping team-leader coaching with employees. Please see the chart below.

People operations and their people analytic groups are here to stay in HR. As they mature, they will provide reliable and predictive recommendations to inform executive decisions on attracting, leading, developing, and inspiring their workforces.

Improving employer brand and talent management is all about the data. We have never had better tools and the analytics to understand what influences employee, teams, and organizational performance like we do now. Let’s put them to work!

Victor Assad is the CEO of Victor Assad Strategic Human Resources Consulting, managing partner of InnovationOne, and Sales Advisor to MeBeBot. He works with companies to transform HR and recruiting, implement remote work, and develop extraordinary leaders, teams, and innovation cultures. He is the author of the highly acclaimed book, Hack Recruiting: the Best of Empirical Research, Method and Process, and Digitization. Subscribe to his weekly blogs at 


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