3 hurdles to HR success in startups

Your HR is the heartbeat of your business, as irreplaceable as the break room Nespresso machine (or jar of own brand instant coffee, we’re not fussy). 

But what if your beloved coffee machine had arrived without a manual, a bag of beans and a ‘best of luck’ note?

There’s no HR-specific manual tailored to your business because it’s as unique as your people are and will be. The unmapped paths ahead often lead to hitches and hiccups, potentially resulting in catastrophic brews if overlooked. 

If you’re feeling a tad overwhelmed with the onslaught of overcoming HR challenges in a startup, don’t sweat it! You’re not alone. 

We’re about to take a dive into the top three HR hurdles and provide you with a lifeline—a clear guide to the other side of the labyrinth. 

Take a deep, calming breath…aaand exhale. Confidence stocked up? Great!

Let’s go ahead and revamp your HR into a powerhouse of potential.

#1: Uncertainty in Recruitment 

Your business is one of a kind, and your people should be, too! More often than not, this is where new businesses will fall at the first hurdle.

We get it, finding the right person for the job is like hunting for a needle in a haystack. But you’re not exactly sure what a needle looks like, or where the haystack is, and everyone is shouting, and something smells like burning.

The fallout? 

You risk repeatedly bringing on the wrong talent. That means high turnover, more hiring expenses and the dreaded domino effect of employee dissatisfaction. 

All of which is no bueno for a fresh business. In startups, this impact is amplified as everyone has to be pulling in the same direction to get things off the ground. 

The solution: Beat uncertainty with preparation and precision. A combo of crisp job descriptions, clear company values, and fool-proof candidate evaluation processes form the holy grail of successful recruitment. Don’t be one of those “I will know it when I see it” types. It’s unfair for one but most importantly, it just doesn’t work in the long term. 

Ideally, your business plan would have had some of your first hires mapped out but we get it, things change. Still, take the time to reflect on what skills and attributes are going to really be needed to take your business forward. Do you have all of the resources in place to bring someone on and support them once they are here? If not, take a pause and get everything lined up before proceeding. 

Want to make sure you have the basics nailed? Check out our post on how to navigate your first hire.

A bird’s eye view of an HR team sitting at a table with assorted laptops.

#2: Overlooking Company Culture

Company culture’s not all about Friday beers and ping-pong tables (No shade, I’m more take a nap on a big company beanbag kinda guy). 

Jokes aside, culture can make or break your company and it starts being formed from the very first communications you have with your people. When overlooked, you’ll be dealing with a disconnected team, lower productivity and zero engagement – ouch.

This is bad news for your business – it can lead to a high turnover rate, low employee morale and even higher stress levels. In fact, research from Westfield Health found that 64% of people would leave their job if the company culture was not a good fit, and 86% of employees say that a good culture makes them more productive.

A strong company culture will move mountains. Having people that feel treated fairly and are united behind what you do and how you do it will result in a performance culture that will make hit unicorn status fast.

The Solution: Building an awesome company culture isn’t all that tricky. It starts and ends with listening to your employees. Ask questions, get feedback and involve everyone in the process! You’ll be surprised at how quickly your team will open up with you (and even more surprised by how their ideas will benefit your business). It almost sounds like a cliche at this point to say ‘listen to your people’ but it’s advice repeated so often due to the sheer validity of it. It does have a second half, though. You have to act on what you’re people say, otherwise, why are you even asking? Most people, at some point in their careers, have worked somewhere where an employee survey comes around which is quickly followed by the question “What exactly happened to the last one?”. Don’t be that company. 

#3: Neglecting Effective HR Policies and Procedures

It’s tempting to skip over the HR policies and procedures that are typically associated with larger companies when your business is in its infancy.

Who’s got time for training sessions and employee handbooks while they’re building an empire?

Perhaps it’s best to see that your business is already an empire. A small one, sure, but it’s there already!

Slip-ups here can result in a Pandora’s box of legal and compliance risks and potential damage to your reputation – you’ve got employees and vendors counting on you, and they expect to be treated fairly and appropriately.

The Solution: Don your policy-making hat and draft some rock-solid HR processes. Cover the essentials: employee onboarding (make them feel welcome from day one), performance management (show them their growth matters), and proficient conflict resolution. Stay in sync with the ever-blooming employment laws and best practices to stay ahead of the game and tackle issues before they arise.

It can be heavy work but getting your policies in line now will help you tenfold further down the line. 

Closing Thoughts

Alright, we’re ready to go! You’re now fully equipped to start breaking down the barriers to HR startup success and make sure your people are well looked after. 

There’s plenty more to learn before you become an HR guru, but with these tips and tricks under your belt, you’re well on your way to success. 

Hurdles will no doubt always exist, but if you’re still feeling lost, we’ve got a pretty stellar set of HR and recruitment solutions for startups here at Talent Tent! For more helping hands, hoops, and high-fives, head on over to our contact page here or scroll down a bit further and you can book a free 30-minute people consultation.

Luke Richardson

A highly experienced recruitment leader with a background in regulated, consumer facing financial organisations, broadcasting and media, tech start-ups and hospitality.

A serial hobbyist, lover of animals and the go-to person when looking for an “out there” idea or solution.
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