The Smarter Startup

HR Checklist for Startups

Reference Burkland’s HR checklist for startups to know when you should be building and growing your people programs, policies, and procedures.

Some items in this list are required for compliance as you scale your team. Other items are proven People Ops best practices among high-performance startups.

1 or More Employees

  • Create a staffing plan – Burkland’s recruiting team can help you build a staffing plan that aligns with your business plan, growth plan, and strategic goals.
  • Create informative, compliant and engaging job descriptions – Burkland’s recruiting team can write and audit existing job descriptions that capture your company’s culture and the impact of the role.
  • Publish your company’s Mission, Vision and Values– Attract recruits, motivate and unify employees, inspiring them to embody the company’s vision and values in their work every day.
  • Determine employee classifications – Burkland’s People Partners can help you avoid costly fines by classifying and reporting employees and contractors properly.
  • Set up payroll – Services like ADP, Gusto, Paylocity, and Rippling are designed for early-stage high-growth startups and can help you streamline your company’s payroll operations and benefits into a single online platform.
  • Select benefits – The government recently introduced new formal group health plans (ICHRA and QSEHRA that allow organizations of all sizes to reimburse their employees, tax-free, for their individual health insurance premiums and potentially other qualifying medical expenses. Ask your Burkland People Partner for more details!
  • Complete and audit your employee I9s and work visa – Burkland People Partners can build a re-purposable census to easily validate names, addresses, and social security numbers for all employees and contractors.
  • Complete state registrations – Burkland’s Tax team will help your company register employees in new states to be SUI compliant.
  • Create your employee handbook – Many companies wait too long to create their first employee handbook. Burkland People Partners build functional and fun handbooks that serve multiple purposes.
  • Equal Pay Act compliance – All businesses are federally required to provide equal compensation to men and women. Additionally, 17 U.S. states currently have laws around pay transparency.

5 or More Employees

  • Formalize onboarding – Burkland People Partners build onboarding programs that emphasize both automated workflows for a great user experience and employee engagement training that can improve employee productivity by 70% and retention by 82%, according to Human Capital Institute.
  • Goal planning and performance communication and programming – Any remote-first company needs clear communication best practices and measurable goals whether it be OKRs, EOS, KPI, Smart Goals or a simple list of goals and metrics. Burkland People Partners can help your team figure out what is best for them, set up the system and help your team operate it.
  • Focus on culture – Culture is essential to company performance, employee satisfaction, and fundraising success. Focus on defining your culture and measuring your employee’s engagement now to help you make decisions that will impact your culture tomorrow.
  • Recognizing and rewards – start building traditions and recognize people for their contributions, accomplishments and tenure. Recognizing someone’s one-year cliff is a great start.
  • Develop engagement programs – Employee engagement builds loyalty. Burkland People Partners works with your leadership team to identify what’s important to your company and designs programs that encourage desired behaviors leading to more engagement.
  • Implement DEIB programming – Burkland’s People Partners will help your company to include diversity, equity and inclusion into your recruiting, compensation, benefits, performance and development programming.
  • Deferred Savings – If you have 5 of more employees and live in states like California, you may be required to offer a deferred savings plan like CalSavers or a 401k plan. Companies like 401Go, ForUsAll and Guideline make it easy to and inexpensive to administer 401k plans.

15 or More Employees

  • Formalize recruiting – Growing means recruiting, and startups can effectively compete with big names to attract top talent by taking the recruiting process seriously. Burkland’s recruiting team will help you select, implement and operate a new applicant database just right for your company’s needs.
  • Employee surveys – Quick employee “pulse” surveys and polls using tools like on Slack can help you keep a pulse on satisfaction and engagement to identify potential issues and improvement opportunities early.
  • Evaluate your benefits – As you get ready to scale your team to the next level, make sure you’re offering competitive benefits at the best price.
  • Add HR & Recruiting technology wisely – Like another tech stack, more is less. The fewer platforms your employee has to log into, the more apt they will be to use it. Talk to a Burkland’s People Partner for suggestions.
  • Recognizing and rewards – Retaining your top performers is critical to your business and your company culture. Formalizing your company’s recognition programming and aligning it with your company values, revenue goals, is time and money well invested. Companies like Fringe,, and Nectar make it easy to manage globally.
  • ADA compliance – The Americans with Disabilities Act applies to private employers with 15 or more employees.
  • ADEA compliance – The Age Discrimination in Employment Act applies to private employers with 20 or more employees.

If your startup is like most, your people are one of your largest expenses and most valuable assets. Investing in the right HR initiatives at the right times helps you maximize your team’s potential and avoid pitfalls related to regulatory compliance.

Burkland’s People Operations team is here to help with all of your startup’s HR needs along the way. Contact us for a complimentary consultation.