The concept of a peopleOS is admittedly a bit marmite. Some people are instinctively intrigued, for others it sounds suspiciously like the latest consultancy jargon… 

Well, whatever your initial reaction, stick with me… this blog explains what we mean by a peopleOS and by the end of it you’ll have a new perspective on how to approach people management and your culture…

Let’s start with something familiar

A car is a system. The point of a car is that all the components work together to get you from A to B, quickly, safely and comfortably. If a component breaks, then the car doesn’t work as well or it stops working altogether.

As a driver of the car, the components in themselves aren’t really that useful to you. You’re not particularly bothered about how fancy your crankshaft is. Whether you’ve got a top of the range camshaft. Or high performing spark plugs. These things are only really useful to you in so far as they fit into the overall system of the car.

Well, at The Pioneers we take a similar perspective on people management.

There are lots of ‘components’ to managing people. Most of these components will be ‘standard issue’ stuff – like paying employees a monthly salary, giving them an email address or running a quarterly all hands meeting. 

In other areas, you’ll want to bespoke and optimise the components depending on the type of culture you want to create – recruitment is an obvious example. 

Whether they’re standard or bespoke, the real value in your people management practices and processes is in the extent to which they fit coherently into your peopleOS.

You can have an amazing recruitment process, but if your approach to onboarding is rubbish and new hires are disillusioned and demotivated by the end of their first week, then the company doesn’t get as much value from the great work being done in recruitment. It’s a bit like adding a turbocharger to your car engine, but not updating your exhaust so the extra air intake has nowhere to go… (ok, I’ll stop pretending I know about cars now… but hopefully you’ve got the point).

Once you grow beyond a tribe, the key to creating a great culture is designing and building your approach to people management in a systemic, coherent and holistic fashion. It’s this attention to how the system works, not just the component parts, that creates a seamless employee experience, where everything flows and where it’s easy for people to do great work.

So what is a peopleOS?

A peopleOS is the system a company creates to manage its people effectively. In our view, there are three core requirements of a peopleOS, which is to say that a company needs its peopleOS to:

  1. Engage its people so it can attract, align and retain the talent it needs to grow;
  2. Enable its people to execute on the company strategy so it can translate its value proposition, brand and vision into customer experiences;
  3. While also enabling people to explore — to learn, experiment and innovate so the company can discover its next wave of growth.

Click here to download a copy of our peopleOS Canvas

What does that mean in practice?

A peopleOS incorporates the tools employees are given and the environment they work in; the processes, policies, structure, information and workflows within a business; and the services, training and incentives a company provides its employees. 

You could argue that every company already has a peopleOS — even a start-up will have some rudimentary people management practices. The challenge is that very few companies design this as a system. Instead they build out components in isolation. This really isn’t a problem when you’re a small company, but by the time you’re looking to transition from a tribe to a village (i.e. grow through about 100 employees), lack of a systemic perspective is what creates a disjointed employee experience and it starts to really inhibit the performance of the business and the pace of your growth. 

When you’re looking to grow through 100+ people, it’s critical that you design and build out your peopleOS as a holistic system with a collective purpose. 

A well designed peopleOS reduces the likelihood of your people working at cross-purposes or receiving conflicting messages. It ensures that people aren’t asked to do one thing, but not given the tools, training, information or rewards they need to do it. Building a seamless peopleOS means alleviating the tensions, frustrations and gaps in service that make it difficult to do good work and which inhibit your growth.

Sounds great! 

It also sounds very different to most people’s experience of work.

So let’s look at how you build a great peopleOS