Article: A start-up’s guide to HR

Life @ Work

A start-up’s guide to HR

While many start-ups have embraced the importance of a good team, most of them do not put HR on their list of priorities while starting out.
A start-up’s guide to HR

The humble presentation of 127 slides shared by Netflix on their HR strategy surprisingly became one of the most important documents in recent times. The refreshing approach to talent management involving some innovative practices was appreciated globally. The success of the Netflix brand is a testament to the appropriateness and feasibility of its HR strategy. While many start-ups have embraced the importance of a good team, most of them do not put HR on their list of priorities while starting out. So, what are some of the ‘HR Hacks’ for start-ups?

Start with hiring the right people

Start-ups have limited resources and most employees end up performing multiple roles that go beyond the conventional job descriptions. A good rule for hiring is to select the people who fit the job requirements and fit well with the founder’s vision. It is prudent to make detailed lists of different jobs to be performed, required qualifications and skill sets, the extent of previous exposure to such jobs, expected working hours, minimum cost the company can bear for every employee, expected career path for the employees and the values that the founder is looking for. These values set the tone for workplace norms and subsequently, the organizational culture. Even if employees hired initially may quit for greener pastures, they would be an essential part of the organizational fabric. So, it is up to you as the founder to define how you want your future employer brand to look like by selecting its first proponents appropriately. If you want to be known as innovative, quirky, out-of-the-box thinkers, rule breakers or you want to be the results-oriented, focused workplace, will all depend on who you choose to be the custodians of your culture.  

Communicate with your employees

You may be a 5-member team or a 50-member setup, as a founder, it is imperative to have a sit-down with each member initially to understand their needs. Ask questions such as ‘do you know what is our goal for the next quarter?’, ‘how can we reach that goal faster?’. ‘what are the top 3 things that you need to perform better?’, and ‘what are the top 3 issues you are facing while doing your job?’. The employees in a start-up have also taken career risks to be a part of a budding organization and face-time with the owner helps in boosting their morale, providing a sense of being invested in the organization’s growth, work on operational holdups before they become too big to handle, fuel team spirit and coordination, help the founder to be connected to the roots, and foster agility in business operation. As a start-up scales up, these meetings can be cascaded to team leaders and managers.  

Measure performance

Organizations with few employees may tend to bond too closely that may result in clouding the founder’s judgment on optimal performance.  It is, therefore, crucial to set objective measures of performance for every job that would help in gauging the bottlenecks before you bleed too much.  A few talented performers can contribute more than a large number of average performers. Performance measures coupled with career development plans incentivize the employees towards self-development, thereby aiding organizational growth.  Periodic performance reviews need to revolve around the quality of the contribution.  

Comply with the legislative requirements

Ignorance of the law cannot be a viable defence. Look for consultants or partners that can help you comply with labor legislations such as workplace conditions, harassment laws and grievance redressal, to name a few.  Employees feel more productive and engaged in safe and healthy work environments. The presence of a sound policy of grievance resolution will deter perpetrators and encourage victims to speak freely.  

The next step would be to hire an able and efficient HR person to handle the administrative responsibilities as well as provide strategic inputs for better organizational performance through its employees.  It would, however, be a supporting role since the onus of people management lies with the leader of the organization.  The scaling up of the organization would call for more nuanced needs for technological support, lucrative compensation and reward systems, investment in training and development, and other requirements for optimizing the HR function to make it a true business partner.

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Topics: Life @ Work

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