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Life after people [operations]

Almost all companies have people operations, or to some, human resources. These people guardians can range from a single person managing the day-to-day work environment issues, or a fully-staffed department of recruiters, specialists, and directors tasked with things like, upholding company culture or structuring a new-hire onboarding process. While not always the most visible, it’s a fact that people operations is critical to almost every company.

But what would happen if people operations disappeared forever?

Day one without people operations

The company appears to be running smoothly. The sales teams are on the phones, finance is crunching numbers. Marketing is inventing new ideas and adapting to the latest trends, and the engineers are busy effectively designing the world. The people operations office is empty—Maybe the flu is going around. Maybe they got stuck in traffic. Maybe they’re on vacation. Nobody really appears to be fazed by the lack of HR professionals roaming the office.

The five interviews arranged for the morning are missed, and two of them were the best candidates for the role. They are upset and don’t plan to call the company back. The two new hires starting today are still patiently waiting in the front lobby to be warmly welcomed, shown their desk, and introduced to their new team. The Emails from confused employees regarding their benefits package and how their 401K plan works will not be answered. And the job applications pouring in begin to pile up.

One week

People are disoriented, not knowing who to turn to with management issues, employee conflict, and career development advice. Operations are not running smoothly and the strong, well-defined culture that once was is now disintegrating.

No progress has been made on the empty job pipelines—those who have continuously tried applying gave up after the 10th bounce-back email and the five candidates that had their interviews missed spread the word on Glassdoor about their horrible interview, or lack thereof, experience. Needless to say, no new-hires will be walking through the door anytime soon.

The managers have taken recruiting into their own hands and are running rampant on LinkedIn, losing sight of their own goals, and following leads regardless of a person’s qualifications.

Arguments amongst frustrated employees are a common occurrence, as teams are crumbling. Employees are more disengaged than ever and managers have no one to confide in as their people begin to walk out the door.

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Two weeks

Nobody has received their paycheck and employees are beyond mad. The company is in legal trouble, both from failure to pay employees on time and the amount of hiring laws broken by managers that do not understand the legal ramifications of recruiting and hiring.

The company has lost its identity. Brand and culture are unrecognizable. Employees are unaware of the true status of their organization as all transparency is lost; They have lost the drive and motivation, and have lost sight of the organization’s goals and overall mission. They go days without seeing their managers, and one-on-one and personal development meetings are a thing of the past.

Employees are taking extended vacations without notice and are showing up to work hours late or not at all.

“Without HR, the workplace at our small company would feel less familial,” says Heather Ford, HR and Office Manager CFR Engineering.”

“There would be no one to properly onboard new hires, ensure the best interests of our employees were being met, help ensure ongoing training, send around birthday cards, purchase birthday cakes, organize baby and bridal showers, make sure employees have insurance and a 401k plan—There would be a lack of overall employee focus.”

One month

According to Greg Barnett, VP of Science at The Predictive Index, the company would barely function at this point. “It would be total anarchy at first,” he says.

Employees are getting sick left and right, something to do with cheap health insurance coverage. Hallways are empty, desks vacant, the area where the people ops team used to sit is now a ghost town and is being used as a makeshift coat closet.

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One year

The remaining managers and lower level employees at the company have absorbed the roles and responsibilities of HR. All of the top performers have left the company, as valuing people and their abilities is no longer a priority. Drew never got his birthday card, and Mary’s had twins and no baby shower. New-hires were never properly onboarded or trained and walk around like zombies, having no idea what to do or who to report to.

“Nobody would be able to negotiate health insurance rates. Nobody would have employees backs when their personal lives were in shambles,” says Will Otto, staff recruiter at PI.

After widespread illness and the death of one or two employees, management negotiated a terrible rate for a health insurance plan nobody has heard of…Essentially benefits of any kind are no longer offered.

Five years

The human touch is gone.

Companies have adapted to artificial intelligence filling roles. Computer algorithms choose employees for each role, disregarding the natural drives and needs of a person. The problem now? The company has too many employees because nobody wanted to do the dirty work and fire anybody. Most people are pretty satisfied with their pay, because they didn’t need to negotiate salary during the interview process. And the interview process? Non existence. Vacation policies are not established and employees are not showing up to work. In turn, the company has filed for bankruptcy, failing to meet its goals, disregarding initiatives, and losing all its clients.

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Ten years

The organization is long since gone. The world economy is in shambles, the days of understanding and nurturing people are gone, and World War Z has broken out… Well maybe zombies aren’t roaming the earth quite yet, but you get the idea.

The moral of this horror story? Human Resources supports the people within a workplace, acting as an advocate for employees. They create a people-centric organization,with a heavy focus on ensuring the culture of an organization is well defined, company goals and initiatives are clearly laid out, and transparency is a priority. Without a proper HR or people ops team, essential business functions, and in this story, our world, could stop functioning.

Your people strategy can’t just be the responsibility of your HR team. Leaders, managers: Learn how to increase employee engagement and retention.

Join 10,000 companies solving the most complex people problems with PI.

Hire the right people, inspire their best work, design dream teams, and sustain engagement for the long haul.


Steve is the brand manager at PI. He successfully avoided art school but fell into design anyway.

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