Not just HR: 3 People Operations leaders share how to shape a great company culture

by Taylor Majewski
October 25, 2016

A long-time leader in shaping excellent company culture, Google first coined the term ‘People Operations’ in reference to its HR department — a forward-thinking team dedicated to supporting people. Today, many established tech companies and startups employ People Operations teams in lieu of traditional Human Resources departments, as People Operations is often made up of an amalgam of HR professionals, consultants, analysts and champions of innovative company cultures.

In New York’s tech community, many organizations have adopted People Ops departments and positions into their own infrastructure, whether they're used for recruiting, onboarding or retaining top talent. Here’s what New York City’s People Ops leaders had to say about where the future of the space is headed, and how they’re laying the foundation for strong company cultures to grow within the New York City tech scene.

 

Madan Nagaldinne, Chief People Officer at ContextMedia

Built In: Where do you think the future of People Operations is headed in tech?

Madan Nagaldinne: I think we’re going to start seeing more of a data-driven approach to operations. People think that big data is buying some software and it magically appears, but at the end of the day, the Chief People Officer’s duty is to help the organization make good decisions every day. We’re using big data to help the company make good decisions, from how it hires to how it brands to how it promotes, etcetera.

Built In: How is ContextMedia uniquely shaping its culture through People Operations?

MN: From a data standpoint, we are going to be more scientific in terms of assessing and hiring talent. For example, we’re looking at quantifying manager behaviors. Once you measure great behaviors in a manager, you can train people appropriately. Then, we can give all hires a checklist of what to expect from their manager.

 

 

 

Karen Weeks, VP of People at Ordergroove

Built In: Where do you think the future of People Operations is headed in tech?

The evolution of what was formerly known as HR can be directly seen in the tech industry. ‘People’ leaders are having to think more and more about the broader employee experience. Our job is to help create a great culture and everything we do from recruiting to benefits to development to recognition to our office space need to be interconnected and represent our values and culture. And we need to always be creative! I am always hearing about a new idea a company came up with that is unique, fun and really creates a great environment for the employees.

Built In: How is OrderGroove uniquely shaping its culture through People Operations?  

KW: First is just the investment in the team. We have hired our first internal ‘People’ team members in 2016. This represents the commitment to our culture and making sure we have the right people at OrderGroove to continue to build our organization. We recently launched a new recognition program, put a focus on development opportunities, invested in our employment brand and recruiting and have an ongoing review of perks and benefits, including a new discount wellness program.

 

 

Amanda Delaney, Head of People Operations at Greatist

Built In: Where do you think the future of People Operations is headed in tech?

Amanda Delaney: People Operations is continuing to catch up with other departments in regards to using analytics to measure success. I really see people operations departments dedicating more time, resources and energy on collecting data on how their employee’s engagement and happiness translates into retention and employees feeling valued. Traditional HR is evolving into a more human experience where people are now viewed as an organization’s greatest asset and people operations leaders are a part of the company’s strategic planning. It’s no longer a one-sided relationship where an employee is hired to just do their one job. It’s become a mutually beneficial relationship where the employer is helping individuals succeed and grow professionally. Traditional performance reviews are changing and rather than focusing on what went wrong, reviews are focusing more on keeping employees engaged through learning and development opportunities.
 
Built In: How is Greatist uniquely shaping its culture through People Operations?

AD: People come to work at Greatist and they arrive with a smile. But why? Our People Operations team is constantly working on cracking the code to what motivates our employees. It is our goal to ensure everyone feels valued, heard and like they are on a path toward success. You Do You is one of our core values and it has multiple meanings. First, that employees can truly be themselves because we strive to make Greatist an open and non-judgmental workplace. But Greatist also trusts each employee and trusts that everyone works hard.

We believe that employees should do their work wherever they will be most productive, so we have a “no hours”  and unlimited vacation policy. Another core value is Improve Relentlessly. We are a curious bunch, and this is encouraged, so Greatist offers $2000 toward professional growth every year. In addition, we’ve ditched your typical performance review and implemented a framework called Tours of Duty, that the Linkedin founders created and wrote about in the book "The Alliance." Employees are hired to help Greatist accomplish goals but Greatist is also here to help employees reach their full potential and develop necessary skills to advance in their professional career, so we want an employee’s time here to be mutually beneficial.

 

 

Some responses have been edited for length and clarity. Images via LinkedIn and Shutterstock. 

Is your company shaping a unique culture through People Operations? Let us know or tweet us @builtinnewyork.

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