The Smarter Startup

HR Tips for Startups

HR tips to help your growing startup optimize employee recruitment, engagement, retention, and compliance.

While startups may not have the same level of resources as larger companies, they can still take advantage of best practices in HR to ensure their employees are engaged and productive.

In this post, I’ll share a few of my favorite HR tips for startups. For a related resource, also see my HR Checklist for Startups.

10 HR Tips for Startups

  1. Build a strong employer brand: In a competitive job market, having a strong employer brand can help you attract top talent. Define your company’s mission, vision, and values and communicate them effectively to job seekers. Pay particular attention to how your employer brand is being articulated through your job listings, website, and other key recruiting touchpoints.
  2. Amplify your unique EVP: Just as strong sales organizations have distinct and clearly articulated Customer Value Propositions, strong HR organizations have clear Employee Value Propositions. What are the unique and special benefits employees receive from working with your company? How can you amplify these benefits across your recruiting materials?
  3. Prioritize onboarding: It pays to invest in onboarding. Effective onboarding and training are shown to increase employee productivity by 70% and retention by 82%, according to Human Capital Institute. Onboarding should typically last at least three months for new hires. However, you may find benefits to extending it as far as six months or even one full year.
  4. Listen actively to employee feedback: One of the best ways to improve employee engagement and retention is to listen to employees and be responsive to their feedback. Being responsive doesn’t mean giving employees everything they ask for, but it does mean making sure their feedback is listened to, acknowledged, and respected. I recommend using anonymous surveys to solicit feedback. Employees are more likely to share open and honest feedback when they know it is anonymous.
  5. Create your employee handbook: Your company’s employee handbook is an essential HR document. It should establish clear expectations, help employees understand their roles, and provide easy access to company policies and procedures. Don’t wait until you have a large team to create your handbook. Burkland’s People Operations team has helped create impactful employee handbooks for startups with as few as three team members.
  6. Provide ongoing training and development: Investing in employee training and development can help you retain top talent and improve overall performance. What kind of opportunities can you provide for professional development, mentoring, and feedback? A great way to approach this is to empower team members to take their professional development into their own hands by establishing a stipend. Not everyone learns the same way—some prefer books, conferences, or online training, so a one size fits all approach won’t work for every employee. Establishing a budget for employees allows them to utilize resources that work best for their learning style. A typical professional development stipend for a startup can vary from as little as $500 to $2,500 per year.
  7. Establish clear communication channels: Effective communication is key to building a strong team culture. Establish clear communication channels that allow employees to share feedback, ask questions, and stay informed about company news. For company wide communication I recommend Slack, which many startups utilize as their main communication tool. For communication within specific teams, it’s generally best practice for managers to meet at least once a week with their direct reports, as well as once a week with their teams to encourage a strong flow of communication.
  8. Take employment laws seriously: As your startup grows, it’s critical to maintain compliance with federal, state, and local employment laws. This includes equal compensation, pay transparency, ADA compliance, and employee registrations. In California, for example, violating pay transparency laws can bring fines as high as $10k per violation and expose your startup to employee lawsuits.
  9. Consider a PEO: A Professional Employer Organization (PEO) is an outsourced HR partner that handles administrative tasks like payroll and benefits on behalf of your startup. PEOs invest heavily in legal support to interpret new employment laws and continually update their programs to ensure federal, state, and local compliance. Enrolling in a PEO plan can mitigate your legal and financial risk while providing competitive benefits to your startup. Burkland partners with many PEOs and is skilled in matching PEOs to specific client needs.
  10. Foster a positive work environment: Creating a positive work environment can help you attract and retain top talent. Foster it by promoting work-life balance, recognizing employee achievements, and providing opportunities for social interaction. For example, as a remote-first workforce, Burkland actively fosters opportunities for employees to engage with each other and get to know members of the organization. We recently launched a new employee newsletter to share news, updates, and events from across our organization. Burkland also sponsors fun employee engagement events like wellness challenges, virtual escape rooms, movie watch parties, trivia contests, and donuts over Slack.

I hope these HR tips gave you some valuable new ideas to implement at your startup. Startups have unique challenges and opportunities when it comes to managing human resources. Burkland’s People Operations team is here to help. Contact us to request more information.