One of the most important pieces of a startup or early stage company is human capital. After all, these are the individuals helping you achieve your dreams and goals. And they make a big impact if they choose to leave. So what resources are you devoting to them?
Often, startups don’t focus on HR practices or resources early on. While the reasons can be many (cost, no one sees the importance, etc.) the impact can be devastating to a company and its employees.
This boils down to a fundamental disagreement about what HR actually is, and what it’s not. Human Resources isn’t just responsible for onboarding and ensuring every form is signed on the dotted line by the individual’s start date. They’re also not babysitters hired specifically to watch your every move.
Human Resources allows employees to feel comfortable at their job, to help set expectations and to ensure a safe workplace for everyone.
Don’t believe us? Here are a few examples:
- What happens if your employees are unhappy at their jobs? Or if they are having problems with someone else on staff? What outlet do they have to communicate their frustration? “As water cooler gossip migrates online … disputes can spread with alarming speed, distracting the rest of the team when they should be focused on delivery of a product” (source).
- Who do you hire? Startups often employ friends to help expedite growth. When this happens, personal and professional issues get thrown together. “Leadership teams will tap their networks for the first 50 or even 70 employees. So you’ve got duality of professionalism and also friendships that run deep. It can be really funky” (source).
- Are you developing an inclusive work environment? A recent study found that women are more often “the most vulnerable employees due to startups’ lack of HR and general anti-harassment procedures” (source).
So how do you fix it? Well, it starts with a tone at the top. Communicate the way your business will function and the types of behavior that will be tolerated, and what won’t be. Have a process in place for how you, as a founder, will handle complaints that come to you.
Then, back it with HR strategies, tactics and resources so your company isn’t blindsided. Decide what’s best for your organization, what your needs are and what gaps you need to fill in. There are several technology solutions out there that can help you streamline the standard practices and procedures and while ensuring you’re in compliance.
But make sure to look beyond just the technology solutions. Never underestimate the power of an actual person.
“An automated platform cannot replace the human experience of talking with someone, especially dealing with sensitive issues … when dealing with cultural difference and employee needs, the best solutions are likely not software or dashboard based” (source).