November 21, 2018

Bare Bones HR: What Every Startup Needs

Written by
Chanell Turner
Tags: HR

You can’t believe it finally happened! Your startup is now making revenue and is successful enough to be self-sustaining. Everything seems to be coming together: your bootstrapped team is working seamlessly, investors are happy, and marketing efforts are bringing in even more business.

Now, you are on the lookout for the next issue to tackle in the infancy of the company. There are a lot of factors to pay attention to as the startup begins to grow, but one of the most critical is Human Resource Management. From developing a strategy to attracting and retaining the right talent to ensuring all HR regulations are adhered to, HR management can become complicated.

ALSO READ: Knowledge Management for SMB: How to Retain Expertise During Turnover

Your HR department will determine:

  • How you know what pay is fair for new employees
  • What communication strategies can you establish to ensure everyone is on the same page?
  • How to terminate employees who might not be working out?

These are all questions startup entrepreneurs will have to deal with sooner rather than later. While you may not need to hire a full HR team right away, read on for six things every startup needs to create HR success.

Which HR software is right for your business?


HR Experts

A company in the early stages of development and operation might not need to hire a full-scale HR team at this point. However, someone on the team needs to be knowledgeable in two primary areas: creating a healthy company culture and HR regulation and policy. Hiring a part-time HR professional or even looking at affordable consultants can help with this. This individual can set the foundation for developing a cohesive culture and good sound policy.

A Clear and Straightforward Mission Statement

While an HR professional can take care of the policies and administrative regulations the company should follow, a startup needs an element to unite it and set the tone for future hires. A carefully crafted mission statement that describes what the company stands for and the principles vital to its practices tells future hires the qualities leaders of the company feel are most important.

This statement should act as a mechanism to weed out individuals who do not fit the mission the company is trying to accomplish. Think about including mission and values statements on your company’s career page or job postings.

An Employee Handbook

This is another policy-driven element startups need to ensure that hires new and old start on the same page. Creating an employee handbook also causes management to think through questions hires will have about procedures and their place in the company.

Start by answering these questions:

  • How much notice do employees need to give before asking for time off?
  • How is overtime calculated and allocated?
  • Is there a dress code?
  • How will the company handle issues of harassment and racial insensitivity?

All of this should be discussed in the employee handbook with the expectation that new hires will read through it and ask any questions they may have. Train managers on the correct answers to these questions.

Track Time and Duties Assigned

Startup entrepreneurs may not have the money to purchase an all-in-one HR management system to track time and compensation. That’s entirely okay in the beginning; there are a lot of free options for having employees track their time and duties completed. Programs like Trello, HubStaff, or even Google Sheets can be used to monitor time and tasks, and there are some well-priced employee engagement and performance management software options that can help employees stay on track toward goals.

Look for cloud-based applications that allow others to view and edit content as needed. Project management tools are a great way to know if everyone is staying on task and track information to use with performance reviews. Understanding how employees are performing is key to any basic HR management strategy.

Create a Strategy for Learning and Development

It may not be the primary priority in the beginning, but learning and development will be critical to any long-term growth and success for a startup. The more training workers receive, and the more knowledge they gain can help the company move forward considerably and promote their own development.

Leaders should work alongside HR professionals to develop a training and development program. This step can look like a monthly workshop where an expert is brought in to train workers on software or processes, purchasing a stand-alone or subscription learning management software, or paying for workers to attend training or classes. Continued education not only benefits the company, but it lets workers know from the beginning that leaders care about their professional development and career goals.

Protocol for Performance Reviews

Workers can only improve with feedback. Someone has to tell them what they are doing right and what they may need to work on. It may be hard to believe, but many companies do not engage in regular performance reviews. This impedes progress, so owners should make sure their startup does not follow in the same footsteps.

Get ahead of the game by working with the HR team (or employee) to develop standards for performance reviews. Plan to answer these questions:

  • How often should they occur?
  • What should managers be on the lookout for?
  • Should it be 360, pulse surveys, quarterly reviews, or does another format work for the team?

The goal is to have a starting point for managers or team leaders to begin to assess how their team is performing. Setting relevant benchmarks and goals is another crucial part of this that leaders need to make a priority. Also, it is critical for team leaders and managers to encourage workers to give feedback concerning the company and the performance of leadership.


In the hustle and bustle of the workday and the busyness of keeping a startup afloat, owners cannot forget to support their most precious resource: the employees. Sales cannot happen if customer service is lacking, partnerships are less likely if employees are not ready to facilitate them, and the company will not move forward if workers are not equipped to be innovative and creative in the development of ideas.

The company’s forward motion is facilitated by a stellar HR team with an in-depth understanding of sound policy and regulations. HR policy not only helps employees manage their day-to-day administrative needs, but it can also expose them to sensitivity and harassment training and help them understand laws all employees have to follow. Startup leaders cannot leave HR by the wayside as they strategically put the company in a position to grow. HR management gives startup owners the tools to take care of the company’s most vital resource.

Chanell Alexander is a writer for TechnologyAdvice. She is a freelance writer and digital marketing strategist. She has over seven years of experience in the nonprofit field, and enjoys blending innovative technology solutions with communications. When she is not writing, Chanell enjoys traveling, contributing to video game blogs, and embracing her inner foodie. See what else Chanell has been up to on her LinkedIn profile and Twitter page.