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Unlock the Power of People Operations with a Process Improvement Framework

Apr 21, 2023| Reading time: 13min

BY Alan Wilson

Head of People Ops at Tarabut Gateway

If you’ve ever played the game Whac-a-Mole, you know there’s strategy involved, including:

  1. Focusing on just one area of the board to improve your contact rate
  2. Swinging wildly in all directions to attempt to hit as many as you can
  3. Playing enough times so that you can predict a pattern

You may think the third strategy is cheating, and sure, it can take some of the stress fun out of the game. But when it comes to real life, wouldn’t you want to use previous experiences to increase your success rate? 

And I’m not just talking about getting rid of real moles in my yard (although that’d be nice). I mean developing a results-driven process to attack initiatives and problems head-on in the People Operations world. 

Here at Tarabut Gateway, we’ve done just that, and have witnessed substantial improvements to the way our team operates and collaborates to prioritize needs and projects. 

A New Way of Working: Building a People Process Improvement Framework

Most of us entered the People Ops world to help others and create healthier workplace environments. We want to spark and enact change for the better.

Therefore, the greatest tragedy for any People Ops team is to believe that it’s merely a transactional function: the order-takers whose tasks are completed on the instruction of others. If you adopt this mindset, you may feel like you’re just stuck with menial tasks and lacking the ability to provide real value to your organization.

I’ve unfortunately witnessed many incredible talents crushed under the weight of this mentality, giving their energy to the repetition of tasks without ever tapping into the creative powers that can truly transform the employee experience.

Instead, imagine your colleagues turning from mere executors of orders to valued creators – fully empowered to take initiatives and positively influence the employee experience

One year in, I’m happy to report that our People Process Improvement Framework makes that happen. By providing training, coaching, and building the necessary resources, we empower our People Ops team (and other stakeholders) to proactively drive positive change, deliver measurable value, and move away from the order-taker role. 

Specifically, our framework allows us to:

  • Make informed decisions.
  • Follow a process to determine next steps. 
  • Move confidently in the right direction.
  • Earn us a seat at the table. 

people ops decision framework

The above People Ops framework helps the People Team at Tarabut Gateway make informed and sustainable decisions to improve their employee experience.

4 Results of Adopting a People Process Improvement Framework

We recognize our framework isn’t a one-and-done iteration; it will take consistent tweaking and feedback from other teams to create the best outcomes. However, we’ve already seen four transformative results – improved efficiency, structured decision-making, shifted mindsets, and increased partnerships.

1. Improved Efficiency 

As a rapidly-growing startup with employees across multiple jurisdictions, Tarabut Gateway’s People Operations team has the challenging task of achieving more with fewer resources. 

Our structured approach helps eliminate superfluous processes and increases the capacity of our small but dedicated team. This framework gives us the freedom to focus on high-value tasks that help us fulfill our aspiration to become true ‘value creators’.

How It Looks In Real Life

For the past year, we’ve conducted extensive planning and assessment of our processes. Our efforts revealed multiple areas of improvement regarding cycle time, lag time, cost, and errors. With a strong grasp of the problems, causes, and supporting data from our research, we have a better chance of getting the funding we need to execute the proposed changes. As a result, we now have an improved comprehension of our current baseline metrics and the potential impact of these changes on our cost, time, and quality indicators.

2. Structured Ways of Working

It’s easy to slip into reactive mode when working in a busy People Ops team, which can look like putting out fires and producing solutions that appear to solve the most pressing issues. Yes, sometimes we need to react and ‘get stuff done,’ but how many times have you fixed a problem only for that same issue to remerge further down the line? 

This scenario is so common, and tends to happen when we haven’t done the diagnostic work to understand the root cause of the problem before looking to resolve it. 

How It Looks In Real Life

Our listening program is called ‘You Said, We Did.’ In my experience, many People teams simply skip to ‘we did,’ choosing to develop solutions that might ignore what the data is saying, and instead respond according to one individual’s experience. Through clear planning – such as problem statements, pain points, scope, SIPOC analysis and stakeholder analysis – we strip out any possibility of prematurely jumping ahead to fix each set of unique problems. 

Combined with the powerful diagnostic work we undertake (e.g. understanding the voice of the customer, process KPIs, root cause analysis, process and value stream mapping), we have set up a structured way of working that addresses the actual problems faced, rather than the perceived problems, with a robust justification of the chosen action plan. 

3. Change in Mindset

The most powerful transformation after implementing this framework is the fundamental shift in our team mindset. Our Process Improvement Framework is the anchor that supports every change initiative we undertake, and it has created an appetite to learn more about what other departments can offer us in terms of effective ways of working. 

How It Looks In Real Life

To help us lean in and truly have a positive impact on all the departments we support, we continue to tap into new working practices to mature our methodology. We don’t want People Ops to sit in silo to the rest of the business. 

Instead, we want our structured methodology to resonate with those we interact with to ensure effective delivery. This collaborative style is often met with curiosity, as other teams look to understand our ways of working in an organic knowledge-sharing exercise. The inquisitiveness is something we look to build on moving forward as we cross-pollinate with others who sit beyond the realms of People Ops.

4. Close Third-Party Partnerships

Changing processes or selecting a supplier can feel like an impossible task, as there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Additionally, even the most advanced programs are often still unable to address the underlying pain points of the problem.

Now, imagine having a comprehensive, transparent framework to work within. This structure enables us to outline problem statements, understand key requirements, articulate desired outcomes, and create a roadmap for long-term partnerships with third party suppliers.

Furthermore, by walking through the framework step-by-step, we can curate a vision for the project, determine exactly what’s needed from the third party supplier, and use evidence-backed insights to select the most suitable partner and continuously update project goals. 

How It Looks In Real Life

We now are regularly asked to share our feedback on early access platform features before they are live for other companies to use, as third-party suppliers know our insight is founded upon logical and well-thought rationale. Josh Ash of Humaans explains further:

“In my role at Humaans, our team works with People Operations teams and leadership every day, over the course of a year we speak to thousands of teams. We help them understand how Humaans can support their requirements & business goals. The process Alan & the TG team ran was very different to what we’d typically see. With very precise detail, the team had carefully constructed design principles (guidelines for their decision) that mapped directly to their company values; the output of this was a set of requirements that would allow the TG team to execute against their goals while prioritizing their customer’s (their team) experience. It’s generally very rare for a team to approach this process with a set of very detailed requirements (in the micro) that also were built towards strategic long-term vision – super impressive.”

Interested in learning how other People leaders transformed their organizations?

Read their stories here

What’s Next for Our People Operations Team

There’s a revolution happening in People Ops, and we’re happy to be a part of it. And what’s great about adopting this framework is that we’re just getting started.

Specifically, we’re reshaping how our team thinks, works, and acts when it comes to supporting our organization and its goals. 

Our plans for the next 12 months include: 

  • Collaborating as strategic partners. We’ve had numerous conversations about how we adopted Product principles to create our methods. We believe that Process Improvement Frameworks hold the key to unlocking greater value in lean times and shifting the gears on how we can transform what we offer to the business. 
  • Extending our ‘You Said, We Did’ listening program. Improving this program will encourage people to offer feedback and empower our People Ops team to respond appropriately and effectively.
  • Building people data dashboards. People data will guide us to the areas where we can deploy our diagnostic work to deliver better value and engagement for the business.
  • Cross-pollinating our way of working with other departments. 

Final Thought

There’s never been a better – or more important – time to embrace a new way of making decisions. People Ops is such an important part of the organization – we improve the employee experience, provide policy guidance, identify training needs, and are responsible for the employee lifecycle…to name a few. 

In a time where start-ups want to do more with less, you need a Process Improvement Framework in place to help make thoughtful, informed decisions for the betterment of your people and organization and to deliver greater value in lean times.


About the Authors: 

Alan Wilson, head of People Operations at TG, is passionate about the transformative power of Process Improvement for People Ops and start-ups. With a mindset of “leave things better than you found them,” he’s worked to make lasting impacts across various sectors through building frameworks and creating people-first employee experiences. 

Jenna Haill, a People Operations Partner at TG, is a big believer in being “proactive not reactive”. She tries to pre-empt future challenges by understanding the root cause, ensuring solutions don’t plaster over deeper needs. Jenna’s natural preference to work with organization and clear structure also strives to achieve consistent and clear execution. She thinks that working with a framework helps to deliver quality work with simple story telling, as decision making can be simply articulated to anyone by walking them through the defined methodology.


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