Don’t leave HR to HR!
This is for the ones who aspire to start their businesses from the ground up and those who have a start-up, HR is far too important to be left to the ‘HR department.’ Don’t get me wrong, I am a loyal supporter of human resource management, having been a practitioner, researcher, and an academician in the field.
My simple point is that the management of your human resources is far too important a task to be left to the ones who you employ to take care of ‘HR stuff.’ It is not a support function you look into when you need to scale up or to check off statutory boxes. It is a strategic partner who you need to know and understand from the start of your journey. Stay with me, and hear me out.
Be the driver
When you start a business, whether you want to be the next Unicorn, or impress a certain Shark, or expand your family business, or just present your idea to the world and earn while you are at it, one of the most important partners are the people who are with you from the start, your co-founders, your CXOs, your full-time employees, your contract staff, basically, your human resources. The team that you assemble at the start will be the team that could make or break the business.
You may be the one who conceptualized the idea, prepared the business plan, brought in the funding, lined up initial interested customers, and did a few more things, yet you can’t be the only one handling everything. As the mind and soul behind your start-up, it is vital that you accept that you still need arms and legs, to put it crudely, to get the company moving. And I hope most of you are nodding along while you are reading this, and it may seem common sense as well. I am hardly presenting this as an original idea. My point to drive home is that when the selection, motivation, development, and retention of the initial team is so important for you and your business, why not invest your time and talent in this from the start the same way you do in the other aspects of your business.
Be active in hiring
It does not matter which position you are hiring for at the start, whether you are looking for a coffee vendor or a co-founder or a temp coder or a permanent member of sales staff, you as the founder need to be hands-on in the hiring process.
I am obviously not saying that the intensity of the involvement is similar in all these positions. You might actually find it a lot tougher to negotiate with a coffee vendor who can provide the perfect dark elixir every morning at an affordable cost and high level of hygiene than you may to stumble across an enthusiastic young coder willing to work long hours to help develop your app.
Be clear on what you are looking for
One of the crucial functions of human resource management is workforce planning, and this is true for any business at any stage of its life cycle. Workforce planning for you as a founder, in the initial phase would mean mapping out all essential and non-essential activities and operations over the period of next 12 months to your planned business goals. Once you do this, you further map the resource allocation requirements for all these activities. For example, if you intend to create a beta version of a mental fitness app in the next six months, you need to know what are the resources in terms of capital, equipment, technology, labour, infrastructure, and knowledge that you would require to do so. Let’s focus on the labour aspect. Say, you decide you would need two coders working for 40-45 hours a week along with you to do this. You then jot down the type of activities that both coders would be involved in, their required levels of knowledge, skills, and abilities, your preferences for educational backgrounds, required prior experience, the behavioural aspects you think are important for them to be a part of your team, and the pay you are willing to offer for the positions. This is the first level of clarity you need in order to pitch to the pool of applicants out there to be willing to come work for you. This clarity is mapped out in what is known as job descriptions.
The elevator pitch
HR is a crucial strategic tool in your arsenal that warrants your attention and involvement. The initial activities of workforce planning, hiring, onboarding, pay design need to be aligned with your values and vision for the business. You can work in tandem with an HR expert or consultant and even outsource part of these functions to more qualified people. What you should not outsource is the final decision on who becomes a part of your initial team. Know their name, their backgrounds, their intents, their life goals, their motivations, their pain areas, and you will gain a committed, engaged, productive team who will partner with you to cross the milestones that you have set for your first year. The talent of your team is what drives your concept to execution. Analytical and process tools will help you monitor, measure, and even drive performance but you as the leader have to be the commander-in-chief in imbuing the right set of values, competencies, and attitudes into your organization through your team.