Industry Trends

Head of HR title will be dead soon? Embrace the rise of Head of People before it’s too late!

Piotr Smolen

In the bygone era, the Head of HR was synonymous with rules, bureaucracy, and a rigid top-down management style straight from the 1950s. Since the term “human resources” was coined by Peter Drucker in the ’50s, this perception of HR has held true.

But times are changing, and modern workplaces are leaving behind the traditional trappings of HR departments.

Instead, they are adopting a people-first approach to employee management and recognition.

Say goodbye to Head of HR. Enter the era of Heads of People—a transformative trend that challenges the very existence of HR directors.

Before digging into this topic, ensure you know how to embrace new employment trends!

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The Rise of Heads of People: Challenging the Traditional Role of HR Directors

Gone are the days when an HR director’s role was limited to enforcing office etiquette and adhering to employment laws. While their responsibilities encompassed handling hiring searches and settling employee disputes, their approach remained reactive.

The HR department managed:

Undoubtedly, HR played a crucial bureaucratic function, but it often left employees disenchanted.

The Shift from Reactive to Proactive: Embracing People Operations

The modern office, however, seeks a paradigm shift—an active and personable approach embodied by People Operations. This approach, coined by Lazlo Bock, former Head of People at Google, emphasises proactive planning to pre-empt problems.

Unlike HR’s focus on finding new hires to fit the workplace culture, People Operations prioritises employee satisfaction and retention.

Prioritizing Employee Satisfaction and Retention: The Role of Head of People

By nurturing workplace success, this shift empowers employees and revolutionises workplace culture, shedding the bureaucratic and soulless image associated with HR.

The Head of People role surpasses that of an HR director. These individuals collaborate with employees to:

While HR is concerned with mitigation, Heads of People prioritise inclusion and equality.

Crafting Inclusive Workplace Policies by Head of People: Collaboration with Department Heads

They work alongside department heads to craft policies that prioritise people. They design training programs, foster employee well-being, and collaborate closely with individuals to establish guidelines that benefit employees as unique individuals.

In contrast to an HR director’s focus on hiring and legal compliance, Heads of People drive employee engagement, initiate reward programs, and foster loyalty.

Technology and Online Resources in People Operations

As work increasingly transcends physical offices, the realm of Human Resources expands beyond traditional boundaries.

As the new standard, People Operations thrives on online resources that facilitate communication, management, and engagement.

Platforms like Slack enable remote employees to connect and engage, while virtual meeting spaces foster collaboration and welcome diverse perspectives.

Fostering Collaboration and Communication in the Virtual Workplace

Thanks to the flexibility of remote work, the workplace has evolved from a physical structure to a virtual domain, ideal for fostering collaboration, engagement, and effective communication.

Through various tools like Slack’s CultureBot, Heads of People can readily acknowledge employee efforts, promoting a positive work environment.

Communication channels keep employees connected between projects, and wellness incentives and virtual water coolers ensure continuous conversation and sustained engagement.

Head of HR vs Head of People comparison

What to look for in Head of People?

With technological proficiency and online engagement practices, Heads of People bolsters employee retention and proactively tackles issues. In contrast, traditional HR directors are reactive, addressing problems as they arise.

When seeking a Head of People for your organisation, prioritise candidates well-versed in technology and open to innovative ideas and online resources.

Learn more on why startups need HR (read now).

By combining the convenience of digital conversations with a people-centric approach to employee management, the modern workplace can transform employee relations, bolster retention, and enhance employee satisfaction.


While transforming deeply entrenched workplace culture may seem daunting, adopting a people-first approach benefits your business and creates a welcoming environment for both employees and employers.

Shifting away from the top-down approach of traditional HR and embracing a personalised engagement with individuals sends a powerful message—that employees are valuable assets, not replaceable cogs.

Though HR directors and Heads of People may share areas of expertise, the people-guided focus of a Head of People has the potential to revolutionise HR practices in any organisation!

Download this HR planner to learn when and how to engage your employees in 2023 so they don’t consider changing jobs!

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Piotr Smolen
Co-founder and CEO of Serial entrepreneur, fintech nerd and framework thinker. I have to admit that I hate HR admin as much as I love HR ❤️. Privately: happy father, avid traveler, fan of history, and incurable optimist.

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