People Operations: The Heroes of Successful Remote Companies with Maria Ursente

People Operations may not be the first remote job that comes to mind. Yet they are the glue that keeps remote teams together. To deliver their best at work, employees must first be happy and content in the workplace regardless if it’s online or not. We spoke with Maria Ursente, a true expert in leading People Ops at successful remote companies. She currently leads the function at In Marketing We Trust (IMWT) and generously shared her insight with us.

What is your goal as People Ops?

My goal as People Ops is to help the organisation win in the marketplace. 

Having this in mind, my focus lies in optimising employee experience. This helps the company’s infrastructure run effectively. Overall helping deliver better business and human outcomes.  

Compared to People Ops at an office, what challenges have you encountered when dealing with remote employees? 

The biggest challenges revolve around adapting and creating processes suitable for the remote workspace.

Onboarding is not ‘first day in the building’.

Communication is not ’talking to your peers over coffee or at lunch in the office.

Recognition is not ‘congratulating someone in the hallway.

We strive to provide the best employee experience by facilitating tools and processes. This creates a culture tailored to the needs of our team members located all over the world. Designing and implementing these processes has been challenging at times. However, these can be overcome by maintaining good communication and feedback throughout the organisation.

A crucial aspect is also culture. Within remote teams, culture doesn’t ‘just happen’, as opposed to a classic office environment. At In Marketing We Trust we take our core values very seriously while fostering communication and ‘working out loud’.

What setbacks have you come across and how did you/or your team overcome them? 

I think one important mention that plays a big part in the employee experience, is being connected from day 1. This can be tough at times. New beginnings can be difficult, even for someone well versed in the remote work environment. Working out loud is a principle that we cultivate and enforce in In Marketing We Trust. We make sure to provide as much guidance and support as possible. 

What additional tasks do you have in your remote people ops role (as opposed to an on-site one)? 

Every process that we have differs, at least partially, from the ones you would have in an office-space. Sure, we still have onboarding, but People Ops and new hire’s tasks are different, as everything is being done online.

We still have regular 360 evaluations but we have them quarterly, making sure that we are providing regular feedback. This being said, every process requires extra tasks as opposed to an on-site one. 

Describe the administrative and compliance-related challenges you encountered, and how you are dealing with them.

For People Ops departments nowadays, ‘Admin work’ is essentially what we are trying to move further from. We’re taking a more strategic approach and role. 

Throughout the entire employee life-cycle, admin work is going to be present. However, we are striving to rely more and more on People Analytics in order to provide better strategic data-backed solutions. 

Automation has also played a big role in tackling our admin tasks.

Describe any processes that helped streamline the employee experience

As I was mentioning earlier, all processes have been adapted to the remote workspace. The employee experience starts from the recruitment process and extends over the entire employee life-cycle. People Ops must act not only as a recruiter but also as a brand advocate from day 1.

Part of the processes that helped streamline the employee experience are:

  • – Tailoring a pleasant and effective hiring process,
  • – Building an efficient onboarding process,
  • – Performance management and on-the-go recognition tools.

What are some of the must-have skills that People Ops in remote companies must possess?

It’s not necessarily about having particular skills. It’s about having the ability to drive outcomes that matter. In this sense, there are some important traits to be taken into account:

  • – ‘Great communication skills’ is one of the most common requirements for any job nowadays. So much so that it really became a cliche.
  • – Working in a remote environment on the people side (or any side, for that matter).
  • – Being able to communicate effectively and ‘work out loud’ is truly a must!
  • – Clearly communicating your desired message.
  • – Dealing with a difficult conversation via video.
  • Empowering the team or implementing any changes are some tasks where great communication skills will be required.
  • – Competency at building organisational systems and culture.
  • – Good understanding of connecting People Ops to strategic company goals.
  • – Empathy – and I cannot stress this enough. Having a deep care about the people that build the organization. Understanding their pains and gains in order to be able to streamline effective processes, drive change and promote healthy company culture.

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