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How to scale a Startup from HR Prespective

Hello People Geeks,

We are a 20 employee startup, i am leading the entire People Operations except recruitments. My role starts from Onboarding till employee exits, HR Policies, Performance Management, Culture and Engagement. We are a computer software product development co, employee are aged mostly below 32 years- so full of millennials. This is my first time in a startup so looking for recommendations.
Our plan is to triple (60) down by end of 2020.

As i scale this startup what things should i keep in mind so that we can scale with ease, how will the team dynamics change, how can we i increase the engagement and productivity, how to add value as a HR Leader, How to engage the key stakeholder, any high-impact project ideas? Are there any tools that will be required for enablement, productivity and efficiency of employees, important processes required for scaling the organisation,

Any thing to be careful of? How can i build a culture of growth, openness and higher purpose ?
How to empower all employees. How to take care of their happiness, well being and productivity.

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I’m in an identical position. We should talk!

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Thanks for asking this question. This is actually the topic of a whole podcast episode that I did just recently. https://www.culturefirstpodcast.com/scaling Hopefully there’s some inspiration and stories there that will help you.

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Hi @Richa,

I have been going through this over the past two years as our organisation experiences growth from a small to medium-size enterprise. I am the inaugural HR practitioner (previous ops people ‘did HR’ and made a bit of a mess). It is an exciting process and fraught with opportunity for mistake; but also for making a lasting and positive impact on how the organisation will look in years to come!

From my experience, the most important thing is communication, transparency and continuity. It is very easy for important processes to get lost or papered over as you grow - especially if they are a little more complex or unfavoured. Cutaway what you don’t need or what doesn’t serve the business any longer, but ensure you keep what you do need (including cultural artifacts).

Constant communication will assist your employees to know what is going on just over the horizon as they handle some unstable ground during the growth period. Most of the instability and resistance to change is a result of fear - fear that their territory will be impacted, that their status will be impacted or financial security will be impacted. If you communicate your plans or the ‘next step’, this will alleviate some of that fear. As they say “in the absence of truth, people will make their own”.

I hope that helps a little. I am still learning as I go and I have been doing this for many years. The enjoyable thing about people is that they are never predictable and will always surprise you!

Good luck!

Hi Richa,

We’ve put together a chart of the key phases startups go through as they scale, and the cultural questions they need to be addressing at each point. Happy to discuss further if you want to get on the phone!

Hi Richa,

I’ve been doing a similar thing, leading scaling teams over the last 5 years.
Happy to jump on a vc call if you would prefer better a conversation! this is actually a huge topic.

Looking forward hearing from you,

Hi Richa,

I am in a very similar position!

We have about 30 employees and are looking to quickly scale, being in the start up phase it sounds like you are in. I was hired on to work with the Culture specifically and have recently started more on the HR side of policies, performance, benefits, etc.

It’s an exciting place to be, right?

What I have found is that is super important to know where you employees are at - what do they need? Where do they find the culture is working? Where are the pitfalls of what we are trying to build (a high performing culture) while still ensuring that they are experiencing value. I think it definitely comes with a level of surveying, but also lots of conversations with your employees.

I would hope that you also have a good relationship with the CEO and COO. I know for me it has been pivotal for me to be able to be someone who has a pulse on all that is going on culture-wise, and to be honest in sharing with my CEO and COO where I think we are experiencing some red-flags. I believe engagement comes through feeling valued, safe, that our employees have a voice and an advocate for them. I also have highly encouraged all of our employees towards openness with their managers. I try no to be the middle man - so I may help them think through what or how to share their thoughts, feedback, or concern - but will always encourage them to speak with their manager about where they see room for improvement or where they need extra support.

Lastly! I have found in hiring, it’s SUPER important to hire based on culture. We have found that to be KEY to retention.

I hope this helps some and am eager to hear what others have to say as I think there is so much room for myself to continue to learn more!

Just two things that pop into my mind, based on having worked with some start ups that have scaled fast.
One, drive leadership capability so they can handle and take accountability for “people” issues. If everything comes to you that is hard, you will become a bottleneck soon.
Absolutely make sure you are very close to the leadership team, and that they understand the importance of culture and their role in building and driving it.
And get thinking, even it if is a simple HR system of some sort. I have seen how painful it is once people get to 300 or more people to only then try to untangle excel spredsheets, “paper” based systems etc. Start now.

Good luck - how exciting!!!