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Killing HR Silos: Time to To Build the People Function in Public

5 min read
build the people function in public

Gone are the days of willful internal isolation, in which a company could tout it’s structure as a kind of secret sauce. Business conditions evolve quickly, and without much notice. With teams becoming more distributed, more virtual, more critical of their employers, and more vocal on social media platforms, operating Human Resources in a silo unit has declining value. If you find your Human Resources moving slowly, exercising poor judgement, or coming up with bland solutions that the team didn’t ask for, perhaps it’s time to start building your HR and People Function in public.

What Do We Mean by “Building in Public?”

In the tech world, companies can generate immense value and cultivate communities, and cult-like followings. They do this by building their software products “in public” by using social media to talk their potential users through their growth story, asking questions, sharing milestones, and allowing people to react to their wins and losses.

Why does this work? Because it adds something that the society characterized by isolation and rule by giant faceless organizations does not offer – humanity, and an honest glimpse into their journey. And everyone loves an inspiring story with an empathetic protagonist. That protagonist is you!

Why Build your HR and People Function in Public?

People Operations is about making HR better than it was, but doing it continuously, obsessively, and with a focus on the people you serve – the team itself. We also build for anyone who could potentially be a team member in the future. By building your People function in public, you are exposing your internal HR department to the workforce and letting them see what you are working so hard on, getting feedback, showing wins, losses, and progress. This big black box of “what does HR do all day” is why many employees and executives think it’s easy, cheap, or that there’s not much to it.

How This Works

To keep it simple, the tech industry mantra of “shipping daily” must now apply to the People function. By “ship” in this HR context, we mean to show what you are doing, in front of your team, and in front of the people you hope to attract, for whatever reason. Some examples of HR shipping daily is:

◼️ Results from past feedback, and what you did to improve it

◼️ Displaying design changes from processes systems that you have improved or changed

◼️ Showing previews of perks, initiatives, or helpful system features off to the entire team

◼️ Sharing a version of the company’s engagement survey with the team which will be sent out, and at the same time, share it with an external HR or People Ops community for feedback and ideas
◼️ Letting people outside your company (like social media followers or customers) test out something you intend on releasing to your company

Notice I did not mention analytics or metrics here. Yes, you measure your success, but building in public is about delivering daily, and building community.

Why It Works

You Build Faster and More Effectively

You draw from more resources and often do not have to build from scratch. Take this example. You’ve encountered a challenge that is unique to your company. To the extent that it can be shared with outside entities, ask your question in a People Operations Slack community for their experiences resolving this issue. You wind up receiving multiple templates from different organizations experiencing the same challenges, and build a better process in your company using those resources.

A Narrative Style Proves Value

Building your People function in public proves value, because of the narrative that is created. Use social media to your advantage, using your voice and your company’s voice to reach people outside of your organization, letting you know of the celebrations, internal victories, and even things that could have been done better. Over time, you grow your profile and people want to know what will happen next, and this energizes the talent pool and may reach your customers.

Great example: Because of your regular contributions to the People Ops Slack community, a job ad you posted there recently was viewed by a candidate in the community, who has been following your conversations and decided that they would like to apply.

Instant, Visceral Feedback

Imagine you have a stand up call with your HR team. You post the results of the stand up meeting in a company collaborative media and ask for feedback on a specific initiative in the works. If you’re in the office, you walk the rooms and check out people’s reactions. Collecting the sentiment of people will aid in designing a better initiative.

You show everyone that you are shamelessly and constantly looking for ways to improve. Drawing in the impressions, feedback, and sentiment from people you want to impact is a clear sign of good will, and people respond more positively, if not more viscerally and honestly than they would if you do not. You get unsolicited ideas, which expands your People Ops brain trust with crowdsourced idea generation. Crowdsourcing is fundamental to the future of work.

Kill the HR Silo

As mentioned previously, weaving a story of how you are improving your organization keeps people invested in the progress of your company, and exactly the role HR and People Ops plays in success, pivots, and recovering from detrimental events. Getting others engaged will essentially convert HR from a silo to an integral web over the organization. Just make sure to still respect the rights of your employees to not be public if they don’t wish to be public. In addition, protect sensitive company data and PII (Personal Identifiable Information).

Ship from your People function daily, build more effective transparency, and never leave people wondering the value and purpose of HR for your company.