You’ve Just Been Hired By a Startup. Now What?

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Feb 25, 2019

Startups are known for their laid back culture and environment, which is quite different from older, established organizations. That’s why, when you come onboard as an HR manager for a startup, your first job will be to introduce some order and – yes – policies to what’s likely been a laissez faire approach to human resources and workforce management.

It’s essential to lay a solid foundation for growth. Imposing managerial discipline when it comes to compliance with the relevant laws, monitoring time and attendance and ensuring a fair, just and supportive work environment in an organization that has probably been run more by the seat of the pants method, than by structure isn’t going to be easy. But it is necessary.

Use this opportunity to leverage your background and experience to develop successful HR processes, ensuring the company is compliant and supported.

Create a company handbook

The company handbook sets the tone for the organization. It may seem bureaucratic, but not having one is the easiest way for a company to get into trouble.  If you want to be more innovative or dynamic, start by calling the company handbook something less stiff, like “House Rules,” “Manual for Success,” or “Employee Guidebook.” Regardless of the name, your successful handbook will ensure that employees understand the critical aspects of the company.

If this is your first time constructing a handbook from start to finish, take some ideas from the Forbes Human Resources Council. The Forbes council suggests that the following are often overlooked by young companies:

  • Social media policy – What company information is acceptable to post on social media (if any)
  • Diversity policy
  • Anti-discrimination and harassment provisions — Refer to your state laws and regulations or consult with the company’s lawyer
  • Code of conduct — Policies that will guide the actions and behavior of the staff including the disciplinary process.
  • Cybersecurity policies — Guidelines for employees to follow to ensure security
  • Career development — Even if the company is small, it’s beneficial for employees to understand how they can advance
  • Culture — Description of your ideal corporate culture
  • Vision, mission, values —  The overall objectives of your startup, and the values you will uphold while you’re achieving your mission. This may be part of your section on the company culture.
  • Quality and customer standards — Standard operating procedures when it comes to your customer or client base
  • Paid time off  — How many days off employees are entitled to; vacation; holidays.
  • Performance management — Detailing the review process; compensation , bonuses, merit pay.

Develop a benefits package

Startups are known for offering a fully-stocked kitchen with plentiful snacks and ping pong tables. Beyond those modern perks, a well-rounded benefits package can both attract and retain employees. There are base-level benefits that most companies offer, but if your startup can branch out to additional benefits, you may be able to set yourself apart from the competition to attract top-level talent.

Base-level benefits include:

  • Health insurance
  • Retirement savings plan
  • Paid time off

If you want to add to that lineup of benefits, consider the following:

  • Flexible work options — Working remotely and flex work time schedules are highly desirable; 88% of employees rated flexible work as an important incentive, according to a recent survey.
  • Wellness programs — These programs are increasingly popular, especially among younger workers. Research from Deloitte shows that 67% of employees want reimbursement for wellness expenses, while only 26% of employers offer it.
  • Company-related experiences or perks — Burton Snowboards let their employees have the day off anytime 2 feet of snow falls within 24 hours, and REI gives their employees a $300 product stipend for outdoor activities, according to Startup Grind.
  • Tuition assistance or reimbursement — The average graduate has $30,000 of student loans, and hundreds of companies now offer repayment assistance, according to CNBC.

Prep for health insurance

Health insurance is likely the most complex benefit that an HR professional will coordinate, especially at a startup. Due to the nature of fast growth, you might start off with just a handful of employees, but quickly expand, needing to assess other health plan options to accommodate the growth.

To enroll in a group health insurance through the Small Business Health Options (SHOP) Marketplace, you only need one full-time employee. If you have fewer than 25 employees, you may qualify for a Small Business Health Care Tax Credit worth up to 50% of your premium costs.

As the organization grows, you’ll want to work with a broker to ensure you’re getting the best option for the company and its employees. Not only will your agent help you make decisions, but “a good agent should find out how employees are using their group health insurance to start planning for the next coverage year,” says HealthMarkets, making this person a helpful partner for your HR needs.

Focus on creating a diverse team

Focusing on diversity in your recruitment and hiring will ensure you create a dynamic team. Courtney Seiter started the “People Team” (their HR department) at Buffer. She told FastCompany that hiring a diverse team is a key priority at the company. “People teams can provide the explicit structure needed to bust bias and open the door to underrepresented groups,” she tells FastCompany. “Without this structure, it’s tempting to fall back on hiring people like you, and place too much emphasis on the nebulous concept of culture fit.

It’s also been found that startups with diverse leadership and staff perform better. A study by Boston Consulting Group found that, “Startups founded and co-founded by women are significantly better financial investments. For every dollar of funding, these startups generated 78 cents, while male-founded startups generated less than half that — just 31 cents.”

Become a successful startup HR manager

The startup environment thrives on fast-paced evolution and unconventional company models, which can present an uphill battle for an HR manager. To set yourself and the business up for success, establish your organization’s overall mission and policies by creating a company handbook. Then work to develop a robust benefits package and recruit a diverse team — in time, your role HR will be key in helping the company reach success.

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