How to scale a startup from the employees’ perspective
India has witnessed a boom of entrepreneurial talent during the last decade, and across the country, many professionals and students are taking the plunge into new and often untested waters. Given the interest from investors and consumers alike, many of these enterprises find themselves growing exponentially, and at most times, see that their people processes are unable to keep up.
So here is a guide to ensure a company to scale up seamlessly with no hindrances or surprises during this process.
Articulate what is essential to you from a people standpoint
Culture is a term that is often used loosely, even though it is one of the most complicated things to get right. As companies define growth and profitability metrics, it is essential to outline the following at the earliest stage.
● Behaviors- Founders, Top Management, and HR Teams need to describe and assert on behaviors that are valued in an organization.
● Determining the kind of organization or the people centric company you want to build - Focus on certain USP’s that speak of the brand and its values, for example (a) the pedigree of employees you wish to hire — if they hail from a premier school or Tier 2 colleges and cities, even for critical roles (b) center on being benefits-heavy or cash-focused and (c) finding a balance between high quality of work and a good work-life balance.
It’s only natural that we would want all of it, but it is important to recognize what you are willing to trade-off. Once established, these must be incorporated into the key HR processes of hiring and performance management. It is important to actively call them out at every opportunity — be it at an employee town hall or a memo from the CEO’s desk.
Design for scale
Companies with a strength of 5-50 members tend to manage everything on excel and email. Investing in HRMS need not be cost-prohibitive, but ensuring that basic employee data is captured accurately will be critical. For those companies with stock programs, having a platform to capture grant dates effectively, manage vesting, store ESOP letters, provide an employee dashboard may seem excessive at the get-go, but will save valuable time and effort in the long haul.
Similarly, for hiring, which is often the most pressing need for any start-up, having the right Applicant Tracking System (ATS) and, more importantly, enforcing its usage will prevent a lot of duplication in the future, as hiring teams/managers change.
Policies or practices shouldn’t be looked at from a short term lens, rather, their importance in the long term should be considered — free food for 100 employees seems doable, but if the organization happens to grow 3x or 10x, it may represent a prohibitive cost.
Ensure that your fundamentals are in place
For people-related compliance, you must broadly ensure payroll compliance (PF, ESI, PT), which is industry agnostic and is compliant to the industry-specific legislations, for example — Factories Act, Shops & Establishments Act and others. The sooner the company starts ensuring 100% adherence to applicable laws, the better. In the past, a number of start-ups have been caught in the dreaded situation of having statutory backlog payments to be made with accompanying fines and penalties in addition to filling gaps in paperwork. This should ideally become non-negotiable since Day 1, wherein you ensure that necessary documents and reports are collected as per timelines.
As this is a fairly technical space, at times, even the most seasoned HR professionals find it challenging to be up to date with the know-how of being compliant. Therefore, investing in external help is worth considering as it will be less expensive in the long run.
Engage through communication
This is the most crucial step to see real progress about scalability, especially when the start-up is growing with the employee count. Many companies use internal social media to engage with their workforce, but sometimes, there is no substitute for face to face interactions among large and small groups. Here, founders need to be seen taking a front role in interacting and engaging with employees - from answering queries on HR policies to discussing non-confidential aspects of business strategy.
Having the right communication channels is essential to make sure that all employees are well informed and engaged. The right mix of emails, polls, quizzes, town halls that enable more interaction and employee engagement is recommended. For companies that have their workforce geographically dispersed, WhatsApp becomes a very useful tool. Broadcast messages or announcements could be shared efficiently with different groups saving loads of time and effort. This especially helps with employees who may be on the field most of the time, away from their laptops and those who may not be email savvy.
While scalability is not a sudden leap that your start-up can take, simple steps can ensure that, as a company, you are best prepared to deal with dynamic situations.