7 things we learned about what HR/People Ops means to Olya Yakzhina and Karthika Baiju

Karthika Baiju and Olya Yakzhina

The world of HR and People Ops is constantly changing, and it now means a lot of different things to a lot of different people.

Evangeline Richards and I recently talked with Olya Yakzhina (People Manager at Switchee) and Karthika Baiju (Head of People at Vita Mojo) as part of our series of events within the London Heads of People Community to get their thoughts and views on the shifting tides of HR — you can see the full event here: https://youtu.be/Fkgr9fk0sCA

If you don’t have time to watch. Here were seven things we learned when we spoke to Olya and Karthika.

1. Cram up on your employment law (or find a specialist)

Very few companies have an employment law specialist. Instead, businesses often rely on outside legal help for certain situations, but is this enough? As Olya points out in her role “it’s a constant check in” to ensure legal requirements are always at the back of her mind and she notes, “not one day goes by when you do not need to think about employment law and the legalities.” Our advice would be to find a course or at the least make sure you can establish close connections with some trusted advisors.

2. Don’t let contractors feel like outsiders

Olya and Karthika discuss the need to break down the “psychological separation” that can build up with people who may not feel they are part of the ‘core team’. As Olya says “If somebody feels they are just clocking in and clocking off on their contract, they may not have the same ‘in group’ affinity to the culture and may feel like outsiders…and that’s when you can start getting some withdrawal…and it can be very dangerous because if that person has to know certain things and doesn’t pay attention they will become less productive in the long run.” Work to ensure that everyone feels part of a team.

3. Always consider the psychological safety of your team

Karthika stresses the importance of “psychological safety “ as well as the need to be open minded — especially when supporting large distributed teams across different countries, time zones and cultures. “It’s not necessarily about pushing your benefits on them, it’s about rewarding them in the right way, it doesn’t have to be a financial way, it could be some other way. Talk to them, do one-to-ones, do pulse surveys, find out what they specifically need, and what you are missing cross culturally.” If you keep a continual focus on ensuring everyone in every role feels the same level of psychological safety you shouldn’t go far wrong.

4. Give staff your time to get the best from them

According to Olya (who also studied counselling) you may not get to the good stuff when talking to your staff until well into the third session or third hour with them, as that is how long people generally need in any situation to really dig deep or open up. “It’s not easy to find out what people actually think, and it takes the time to build the trust for them to open up” she told us. So for anyone who is managing, mentoring or helping others in a business — don’t worry if things don’t come instantly, just keep checking in.

5. Hire for attitude

Because, as Karthika notes, “you can always skill someone up, and if you are hiring a junior individual into the HR or people team, don’t just treat them like an administrator, really skill them up!” However, they both acknowledge that there is a barrier to break down, to overcome the bias towards recruiting for length of service. Karthika reminds us that it’s not just about the 10+ years of work experience.

6. Nurture your work culture, now more than ever

Whilst, in the light of the pandemic, a rise in agile HR practices and remote working has brought some positives back into the workplace, Olya points out that with this splicing of face-to-face and work from home, as well as large scale staff departures, there is a risk to positive work culture. “If you have a big hiring spur, and you have 25 new faces in your company, think of that first social event when people see each other face to face, it’s going to be a big shock to them!” Her advice? “Keep continually talking to people and ask them how they feel, and keep doing things to show your culture is alive.”

And finally….

7. Karthika and Olya run a podcast together!

We thought they seemed friendly! Go check out the modern employer #wildcards where they come together every week or so to tackle the burning questions in HR such as ‘unravelling the future of work in 2021’ Find them here

The London Heads of People Community is a group under the #ByRecWorks group of initiatives and user groups brought to you by London based tech recruitment company RecWorks. For a full list of what we’re involved in you can check out more here.

Founder of RecWorks (Tech Recruitment), Tech Career Hacker, Java User Group Founder (LJC), London CTOs Organiser, Mentor Match-Maker