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Lean and Powerful HR Practices for Young Companies

When you’re growing a startup company, creating employee handbooks, developing on-boarding procedures and other HR processes typically isn’t your top priority.  Great talent, however, is essential to the success of any young business, so great HR systems are essential too.  This can be achieved with a modest budget if you follow best practices.

Stay lean
Hire or contract one talented HR professional who is capable of tackling the big talent issues, such as the development of hiring plans and compensation strategies.  Fulfill the rest of your company’s tactical HR needs – such as the day-to-day functions of payroll, and benefits – by outsourcing to high-quality companies. This model serves many companies well until they reach as many as 100 employees.

Build culture
One primary mission of that first HR professional is to help clarify a new company’s corporate culture, as well as its core approaches to HR and talent acquisition.

Philadelphia-based entrepreneur and HR professional Ellen Weber advises startup executives to read the core-values statements of Apple, Zappos and other successful companies, then craft their own statement that uniquely defines the company’s intended culture and core values. Use that definition to establish “a minimal set of guidelines” for core operations, including how you conduct business, make key decisions, assess staff performance, compensate employees, and recruit and develop talent.

Hire tactically
Know when to hire a superstar and when to hire a yeoman. A good rule of thumb is to restrict those superstar hires to positions that are pivotal to achieving the next critical step in the company’s development.

And consider contracting recruiters who have specific expertise with the kind of talent you are seeking. Choose your recruiter carefully and acknowledge that you may need more than one, since the recruiter who brings you outstanding marketing professionals may not tap the best engineers.

Finally, remember that as leader of a startup, you can tap many sources of HR expertise, from contract recruiters and HR service providers to professional colleagues, investor groups, and industry associations. Amassing the talent to realize an entrepreneurial dream is an exciting venture, and there are many experts who will be happy to help you achieve that goal.

Written by Alan J. Kaplan, Founder & CEO, Kaplan Partners, 2014