Request a Free Demo

Why HR really is essential to ambitious start-ups

October 24, 2021
By Donal Brady

HR is always at the back of an ambitious founder’s mind – we know – we’re a start-up ourselves.

Start-ups, more than any other business, rely on flexibility and the goodwill of the team. Fail fast and pivot are the watchwords and HR can often seem too process-oriented to be compatible.

Founders often see structured HR and recruiting practices as too corporate, interfering with culture, and threatening the very essence of a start-up:  innovation, speed and flexibility.

As a result, Founders have a tendency to keep the concept of HR at the back of their mind – with potentially lethal consequences in the future.

Why? Well, unstructured HR and recruiting processes can do more harm than good. They create confusion and negatively impact employee morale and retention. The absence of HR structures means that a business isn’t built to grow and scale, and for a startup, that can be terminal. Startup accelerators like Y Combinator recommend that startups deploy HR resources once they get to c. 20 employees or when they get Series A funding at the latest. Thankfully, HR Duo can provide top class HR support to much earlier stage startups at extraordinarily affordable rates.

Why HR anyhoo?

Businesses that deliberately develop a strong HR function show that they value employees and their business. These companies are better at:

  • Hiring employees;
  • Developing employees;
  • Retaining employees.

How HR can help start-ups hire the best employees

We regularly help start-ups that have struggled to attract talent to successfully hire key employees.


As simple as it sounds, you need some basic processes:

  1. Creating job titles and descriptions that aren’t discriminatory – and encouraging more qualified candidates to apply,
  2. By interviewing and running selection correctly. Founders rarely have the skills or knowledge to create an unbiased marking system and often fly by the seat of their pants. The interview process is filled with potential landmines for the unwary or unprepared.

HR Duo help startups create structured interview processes and scoring systems to rate candidates on fair, predetermined criteria. So instead of hampering creativity and innovation, recruitment can ensure a steady flow of bright employees with new ideas.

How HR can help start-ups develop and retain employees?

Start-ups with strong HR practices are better positioned to develop and retain employees, and both are important for business growth. The key aspects to consider are:

1: Reward and benefits are a huge part of the success of a start-up. Without sage advice from an HR professional, conversations about pay increases are fraught and could come down to how managers ‘feel’ about an employee or position instead of the fair market value for a role. Fair compensation practices also prevent you from developing a gender pay gap or risking any discrimination accusations.

2: Invest in training staff. Startups are full of people who are great technically – whether that be engineering, sales or product. No matter their expertise, they regularly find themselves in management roles, without any formal management experience. Management training is important because the quality of your managers is one of the biggest factors influencing whether employees decide to stick with you, or find a new opportunity.

3: Build workplace culture. Robust HR policies and processes are the bedrock of a strong culture – they give direction to managers and staff in terms of day to day expectations. Once they are in place, HR can monitor the pulse of employees and understand the needs of the team.

4: Compliance and policy implementation isn’t a once-off event. As businesses grow, new employees may encounter new workplace issues: e.g. how to manage noise, process expenses and manage paid time off. HR departments work with executives to create policies that answer those questions uniformly. This helps manage small conflicts before they become big ones.

5: Develop career paths and structures. When companies reach c. 30 employees, figuring out where employees can aspire to go and then developing them as people becomes critical to retaining them. HR Duo is expert in creating flexible but challenging structures and career paths that enhance overall company performance while simultaneously reducing turnover

How to embrace HR without losing your flexible culture

HR is always a reflection of a company’s leadership. As long as you value flexibility, and genuinely demonstrate a commitment to it, you’ll be able to deliver HR services.

Here are five things you need to get right – no matter what size you are:

1: Getting the basics right

Understand how contracts, policies and employee handbooks set and underpin company culture and performance. Then make sure you have them inplace and maintained.

2: Managing talent

Have processes in place for Onboarding early employees, Managing and keeping high performers, and know what to do about poor performance.

3: Deploy robust record management

Have a quality, purpose built software system to store key HR documents, and provide guidance and clarity on the appropriate processes for contracts, performance reviews, annual leave, etc.

4: Helping managers manage HR better

When everyone is pushing to hit growth targets, HR can slip to the bottom of the pile. Having a go to resource like HR Duo on hand is the only way to avoid this happening.

5: Ensuring a people perspective for the leadership team

All your decisions have implications for how you manage and deploy your team. Make sure that you have input from an expert who understands the ramifications of those decisions by including HR Duo in your management meetings.

Bottom Banner

See HR Duo in action

Get hands-on with a personalised free demo from our expert team today.