Embracing a Human-Centric Approach in People Ops

Rickey-Leigh Schouw

May 24, 2023

It's often that someone in an HR role, or as I prefer to call it "People Ops," is seen as a person who comes with strict rules, only reaches out when something is wrong, and can't be too friendly or connected to people within their company.

So I’m here to dispel the myth of those in People Ops not being allowed to show their vulnerabilities by writing, what I consider at least, a pretty vulnerable piece myself.

I anticipate heavy eye-rolling on the other side of the screen as a result of what I say next, but it’s true: I did not choose this career path; it actually chose me. This job isn’t always easy, but I’m here to share what I’ve learnt along the way as the Global Head of Talent at Ramp.

Personal values and company values go hand in hand

Firstly, you have to believe in what your company does. There should not be a misalignment between your core beliefs or passion and what the company values. It's not easy to get others excited about something you don't believe in or have a passion for; that's pretty obvious.

Next, you should really dig your founders/exec team as well as the values they foster. You cannot support and be your CEO's most trusted person of reason (don’t forget that, Dan! 🤣) if you don't have mad respect for them, have the drive to cheer for them, and the courage to tell them when they are "wrong".

Remember: You do not perform a purely administrative function within the company. And if you do, I’m sorry to say but you are not benefitting from the true nature of what your role should be.

Be genuine about caring for the people in your company

Don't walk around with a mug saying you care or throw random quotes out there while you tick it off your to-do list.

Listen to each and every employee. Connect and embrace your inner core to understand why you care. You should feel like it’s your darn purpose too!

Yes, there’s still a formal element to your role. So go ahead and tap into those by capturing relevant information, assessing, and then taking action and/or guiding the people you are dealing with. But be human about it.

Cultivate a sense of fulfilment

When you truly care about what you do, you will automatically feel a tremendous amount of rewarding and soul-fulfilling contentment in your career. Doing what you do will never feel like hard work because you do it with genuine care.

Getting to this place myself, I’ve had to accept that:

  • Not everyone will love everything you put forward, and that's okay. Aim for genuine impact rather than universal approval.
  • Your work will never be fully completed, but that's okay too. You're contributing to a living culture that is always evolving.

Find a balance between tasks and people

These are my top tips for finding balance in a People Ops role:

  • Automate small tasks to free up time for meaningful interactions.
  • Prioritise your time wisely by starting each day with the top three priorities.
  • While there will be shifting priorities and unexpected tasks, always return to your three priority tasks.
  • Embrace your human side amidst the workload by using tools like notepads, post-it notes, colour-coded diary events, or a notice board.

Coming back to my point right in the beginning, this is not an 8-5 for me. This is my passion and my purpose.

Be genuine, and think about what it means to the people you are meant to care for. You are meant to be the person they go to.

Empower people to find solutions to problems they think they have. Don't let them only hear from you when it's a performance issue or about metrics.

Remember, these are actual people - not resources!

Hopefully this helps you as someone is People Ops yourself, or as a leader of your company trying to understand the role a bit better. Let me know, I’d love to connect on LinkedIn and hear your thoughts.