A Fish Rots From the Head Down. People Operations!

Being replaced by AI - the worst case scenario for all People Operations specialists. How do you beat the odds? Well, stop thinking of People Operations as a background function or a mere necessity would be the first step!

headless fish

I attended Hiring Success 18 on the 19th of September and was inspired to share some insights about People Operations. The kickoff of the conference was the keynote speech by the founder and CEO of SmartRecruiters Jerome Ternynck where he touched upon the most burning topic People Ops are talking about: The fear of being replaced by AI! One has to ask: if my work is so mundane and repetitive, do I actually deserve getting replaced by a computer?

If you remove passion, a machine can do the work

I believe that a lot of HR and people ops community members don’t take pride in what they do, nor do they feel like what they do is relevant in the big picture. A fish starts rotting from the head, so if “management” doesn’t value people ops, the people in the people ops will sooner or later feel worthless. Obviously this translates to their work. If you remove passion, a machine will be able to execute the work. In the midst of optimisation and a lean approach to how to run a business, one can easily make the mistake of forgetting who actually makes the business function. It is not only up to people ops to stay at their top game, but also management needs to value and acknowledge the necessity of it!

Great companies are built on great hires, who to thank?

So how do we change that perception? On the one hand, it needs to be made clear, that recruiters, HR and people ops need to be seen as pillars of a company’s success, rather than just a mere necessity. An exceptional variation of diverse qualified candidates, their success in the application process, and a positive image of the company on the job market are the results of the contributions of these gladly marginalised instances of a company. If you are in a leading position at a company and you are reading this, think of how your last successful hire came about? Most likely from the outstanding work of your recruiters, people operations and HR. That is also what hiring success is by the way – the successful chain of events from initial contact to a significant hire with long term success. If you are however in need of assistance, check out Moberries.

Be the game changer!

On the other hand, HR needs to step up their game and change the way things are done. One way of doing that is looking at recruitment and talent acquisition from the perspective of the applicant. The known chain of “Job ad → Applicants → Pre-Screening → Interviews → Offer / Reject” is not what the applicant experiences, nor is this logic applicant friendly. What makes an applicants journey successful is a chain of feedback (i.e responses to each step) loops that take place after each step! Feedback is key, and needs to be provided when someone looks at your job ad or replies to your outreach e-mail/call, applies to your job, gets rejected or asked to an interview. The known chain should be updated to: employee brand and career opportunities, a clear description of the application process, feedback loops on every step, a clear rejection or feedback on the application, nurturing the pool of candidates etc. Promerit presented these ideas very well at Hiring Success 18, and could be a great source of information should you need more support in the matter.

You are who you hire

SmartRecruiters are not wrong by saying “You are who you hire”. Success is defined by a successful team. In the end, the team defines the ability to innovate. That is also true for your recruiters and HR. The trick is to get team members on board who have the competencies to excel at their job. But not only that, they have to want to do the job! We practice competency based hiring at Beam, and yes it tends to take longer and cost more, however it also brings the best results to the table. Read more about competency based hiring here. The goal for any team should be the ability to go cherry picking, rather than hiring for the lack of weaknesses.

Assessment tools are there to help, not to compete

There are also multiple ways to assess your candidates, and competency based interviews is just one method in a bunch. Hiring Success 18 had invited Codility, AssessFirst, pymetrics to discuss exactly how to assess, either based on coding skills, interpersonal skills, and based on neuroscience. These aren’t tools that will replace you, these are services that will help you make informed decisions without spending hours on the numbers game.

Don’t be the rotting fish, get People Ops on track

The game has changed and we are looking at a reality where emotions need to complement and work together technology. A harmony is needed in order to achieve candidate and employer success alike. And two things need to happen to enable the ideal circumstances: People Ops needs to be set up as early as possible to ensure a smooth sail with your team; People Ops needs to take use of tools to make their lives easier and not let the machines take over!

About the Author

Kristi Ruusna is the People Operations Manager at Beam. Don’t hesitate to get in touch to discuss recruitment and HR topics, or inquire about open positions and/or founding opportunities.