Top 10 Things Every Startup CEO Needs to Know About HR

  1. Culture matters, right from the beginning – be intentional about it.  HR is in the best seat to help define, articulate and provide oversight to ensure there is consistency across the entire organization with everything that touches the team.  HR should play an instrumental role in making sure all people practices are tied to business mission/vision/goals/objectives.
  2. HR practices should support your culture/values and stage – not detract from them.  As an example, a 37-page employee handbook does not fit a small startup, and can actually act in opposition to the environment you are trying to create.
  3. It’s important to lay out your philosophies early on to ensure your outcomes are intentional and consistent, and result in a solid foundation that supports hiring, engagement and retention of the team you want to build.  Trying to figure this out during a high-growth period doesn’t work – you need to think about this really early and get it right before it breaks/creates distraction.
    • a. Recruiting philosophy
    • b. Compensation philosophy
    • c. Benefit philosophy
  4. Recruiting does not equal “HR”  Recruiting is a function of HR – hire a generalist who can do recruiting out of the gate – not a recruiter who won’t be able to expand into other needed areas of HR.
  5. It’s not all about compliance (although you do need to do some things around FLSA, EEO, Employment-at-Will, Harassment, document retention, etc.).  Yes, staying out of jail is important, but if you’re doing all the right things in building your culture and focusing on attracting and retaining talent, compliance shouldn’t be either a focus or a distraction.
  6. Employment Brand matters – what is your recruiting story?  What’s your candidate experience? What sets you apart from every other company hiring top talent?  You should expect HR to help create and communicate the story – what are the differentiators for your business in getting top talent to jump on your bus/rocketship?
  7. Employee Engagement is critical for retaining talent, and is the result of the juxtaposition of the business and the team.  You’re under a microscope from the earliest stage.  With websites like Glassdoor and other social media sites, your employment practices are on display.  A strong HR function will help to ensure a healthy culture, mitigating the risk of problems here.
  8. A great Onboarding Program can directly impact retention, productivity and employee engagement.  Cover everything a new team member needs to know to be successful (HR, Benefits, Facilities details, Company information, and critical Business information) – they will know they made the right decision to join you!
  9. HR should partner with you to build a strategic team forecast – what resources do you need today, what will you need 6-12 months from now, and what do you need long-term?  An HR strategy involves thinking through your resource needs, leveraging resources for recruiting strategies, and making sure the organization evolves in the way that best ensures that outcome.
  10. Know what you don’t know! No one knows everything about everything.  HR can be a sounding board, a confidant and coach; someone to hold the mirror up to you when no one else can/will, and someone who is equipped and motivated to help you be successful.

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