The Four Hats that People Ops Wear and Why They Matter

by Rosie Powers on Jan 22, 2019 7:00:00 AM

Lola.com CEO, Mike Volpe, joined us at TINYcon for an an exploration of the four different disciplines of people ops (spoiler: it’s not just HR anymore!) Mike draws on his experience as a board member, angel investor and startup advisor to explain how the best People Ops executives incorporate elements of marketing, customer success, product management, and sales into their roles.

Hiring can feel like a daunting task for Human Resources staff and leadership alike, especially at growing companies.

But as Lola.com CEO Mike Volpe told us at TINYcon 2018, a company’s hiring process should mirror other processes in the company, such as product development, marketing, sales, and customer service.

“Talk about your culture as if it were a product of your company,” Volpe said.

But how? By collaborating with teams at every point in the product and sales process, Volpe said HR teams can glean insight on how to adapt these processes for attracting and retaining talent - similar to attracting and retaining a loyal customer base.

“[It’s] enabling and empowering all of you to have a sense that there’s a whole company there that can actually help you do your jobs,” he said.

 Surprising Effects of Employee Recognition

Your Company Culture is a Product

According to our 2017 Employee Engagement report, how employees feel about their company culture has the second highest correlation to employee happiness, directly below how much fun they had working at their company.

But the importance of culture lies not only in retaining talent, but attracting it.

Similar to product development, Volpe said that companies should ask themselves what their target hiring market is, and what features make their culture unique in comparison to competitors. This, in turn, helps HR teams identify what types of candidates they are wanting to attract as well as what values and culture the organization wants to promote externally.

However, Volpe said it’s important to be realistic with setting culture goals. No company is entirely perfect, and no company can beat their competition in every single category.

 

“Your culture won’t align with every single person in the world."

Volpe used Southwest Airlines as an example of this. The airline may not have some of the luxury features others do, but its budget-friendly positioning has set it apart from its competitors, attracting target audiences.

“Leadership needs to align and say, ‘Here’s the type of people we want within this company, and here are the benefits and aspects of our culture where we can be better than the competition.’ It’s okay to be worse than the competition in other areas,” Volpe said.

It’s also important that these unique aspects align with benefits. Volpe, who formerly worked with HubSpot, said the company put an emphasis on professional development, offering employees free books.

“Many tech companies have free beer - that’s great! But we had free beer and free books,” Volpe said. “It got us really far with marketing and benefits. It gives you an opportunity to talk more about your culture.”

 

Employer Branding is a Marketing Problem

Similarly to the product development analogy above, Volpe recommends that HR teams collaborate with their marketing departments on branding. HR should be asking themselves similar questions as the marketing team does about product. Who should we target? How can we leverage paid, owned, and earned media? What should we measure?

“If you want to recruit all-stars, you need to figure out their path to your door."

By answering these questions, HR teams can have a more refined approach to recruitment outreach. Cold calls via LinkedIn are likely to be far more effective if the potential hire is already familiar with your organization, thanks to a targeted marketing strategy.

How this relationship looks obviously depends on the size of the company. For smaller companies, Volpe said this might be more of a collaboration between the marketing and HR departments. For larger companies, however, this can be a marketing staff member dedicated to HR and recruitment marketing.

Companies can also leverage marketing by thinking about culture and people as marketing opportunities. At both Lola.com and HubSpot, Volpe said employees are encouraged to share work-related content in their personal social networks, leveraging happy staff members as an additional marketing channel.

But what if social sharing isn’t inherently part of your company’s culture? Volpe acknowledged that this can be difficult depending on your company’s industry focus, recalling his time trying to leverage this at a cyber security company.

“It doesn’t work to just tell people to do it. Show people how to do it, and show people that it’s cool, and show people that it can be fun,” he said.

Companies can also consider utilizing social media channels outside of those they already use to push their products. For example, a company may not use Instagram for product marketing, but they could use it for HR recruiting and employee engagement instead.

Volpe quote-1

Recruitment is a Sales Problem

Volpe defines recruiting, ultimately, as a sales problem.

“Sales is about discipline and metrics, as well as figuring out what your pitch is."

As a result, Volpe encourages HR teams to work with their sales team to obtain coaching on their process. How do they manage the customer candidate experience? How do they track interactions? What’s the sales pitch?

Additionally, Volpe said data tracking is crucial to determining what recruitment strategies are successful and not. HR teams should mimic sales’ approach to metrics, tracking data such as:

  • Number of candidates

  • Response rates

  • Interactions

  • Interviews to offers

  • Accepted offers

  • Hire rates from inbound applications, job board postings, recruitment

  • Cost per hire

“If you have any sort of a process, measuring those processes is a great way to understand them better,” Volpe said. “The metrics alone don’t tell you the whole story. It’s about understanding it and have a desired goal, understanding the whole process and system.”

 

Employee Engagement is a Customer Service Problem

Once the sales team sells the product, the customer service and success team wants to ensure the customer is happy. Similarly, Volpe said the HR team should take this approach when onboarding new employees, ensuring their entry to the company is as smooth as possible. HR can do this by asking themselves what expectations they need to uphold, and how they can intervene early if there are problems.

By asking these questions and collecting data early, Volpe said management and leadership have the opportunity to fix problems early on in a new staff member’s tenure before things get worse. Data analysis tools, such as TINYpulse, can help measure this.

“You’re basically like chief people officers, you’re CEOs of people. Just like a CEO has to run the entire company, you need to think about all of those things with relation to the company’s most valuable asset, which is the people,” Volpe said.

 

Conclusion: Get Leadership On Board

The steps above show the importance of HR’s connection with other departments in order to create an engaged hiring process.

However, while team cohesion is crucial, so is leadership support. Volpe said that although leadership may say that hiring and recruitment are a priority, many often don’t devote much time to it over the course of a day. In order for the recruitment and hiring processes to be successful, Volpe said that executive leadership must acknowledge their importance.

Smart members of executive teams know that hiring is the most important thing you do."

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This post was written by Rosie Powers

Rosie is a digital marketing strategy consultant and freelance writer focused on helping nonprofits, socially-minded startups and small businesses engage with audiences. She is passionate about environmental justice and loves nerding out about space exploration.

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