Why Startups Should Keep HR in Mind
Trying to keep a startup afloat can be a limit-testing experience in every sense of the word. Startups are these fragile little things and they require everything that you have to offer them. Sooner or later (usually sooner), it gets chaotic and it is the few employees that are hit the hardest.
While everyone expects this as a part of the startup ecosystem and while people who work at startups are driven by different motivators than employees in more traditional companies, startup owners still need to understand that these are still people who have certain needs and limits that the most spectacular stock option plans cannot replace. In other words, startups need to do some HR or at least incorporate some HR-like practices.
Burnout is a Huge Problem
Like we have already mentioned, it can get difficult working at a startup, especially in its earliest phase, when it is still unclear if the company is going to find any kind of a sustainable existence or whether it will be able to attract the next round of funding. Often times, there is a certain level of disorganisation to account for and all of this makes for far more work than an efficient company would require. And there is a tonne of it to start with anyway. Startup employees have so much to deal with and when you add job insecurity and the lack of benefits to the heap, it is only a matter of time before the entire startup’s workforce is in a state of permanent burnout.
A very common consequence of burnout is losing employees, at stupendous rates. A recent survey by Kronos Incorporated has pointed out that more than half of HR professionals say employee burnout is responsible for up to 50% (and more) of employee turnover.
This is why startup owners need to be very apprehensive of pushing their employees too hard. This can involve simple observation or even occasional job satisfaction surveys that will reveal people who are at a really serious danger of leaving because of burnout.
Another good idea would be to start employing some kind of light time tracking software that would ensure that everyone is pulling their weight equally and that no one is having to cover for someone else. By sticking to some HR basics, a startup owner can reduce the chances of one of their essential employees leaving simply because they couldn’t take it anymore.
Hiring In a Hurry
This is a problem that rears its head at an otherwise positive period in a startup’s life – the time of growth. It finally allows the startup to take on new people and to grow in a noticeable way. Unfortunately, a relatively large number of startups does this the wrong way, mostly because they are not familiar with the HR basics of hiring the right people.
For one, they rarely have a structured hiring process. Sometimes this is simply a result of not having the knowledge and other times, it has to do with the unwillingness of startups to resemble crusty old businesses in any way.
A relatively common mistake startups make is hiring for cultural fit instead of using it only tangentially to differentiate between candidates who possess an almost identical skill set.
This can turn out to be a huge problem. For one, a startup cannot really afford to go through five wrong hires before they stumble upon the right one. Startups do not have the money or the time to do so. Also, wrong hires are more likely to leave after some time anyway, and it is a well-known fact that high employee turnover can be devastating, financially speaking. It is, therefore, essential for a startup to really start thinking seriously about their hiring (and onboarding) process. It does not have to be stripped of all inventiveness and joviality, but it should be based on certain “classic” metrics and practices that have been proven to yield good results.
The Money Is Tight
When all is said and done, and this may sound a bit callous, but the main reason why startups cannot ignore certain time-tested HR practices is money.
Startups usually operate with a razor thin margin of error and there are far more essential expenses to be taken care of than having to cover for the money and work hours lost through not taking basic care of one’s startup employees.
Not only will these basic HR practices reduce employee turnover and provide a startup with the best new hires, but they will also result in a less stressed and more satisfied workforce that will always be productive.
Instead of a Closing Word
It is hard to be innovative when you feel like you will explode from too much work and no one appreciates what you are doing.
Startup owners need to put themselves in their employees’ shoes.
Good HR always starts with that.
AUTHOR: James D. Burbank has worked in the trade show industry for more than 15 years and he has seen all kinds of startups succeed and fail for any number of reasons. He is editor in chief at BizzMarkBlog and a one of the rare non-Utahn Utah Jazz fan. James also runs – Bizzmark Blog.