Startup HR: Planning vs Doing

Startup HR is something that I have talked about a bit before. Today I will answer a question from a reader who works for HR in a startup company.

The question

Good Morning,

I have been reading your blogs and your Slideshares and it has been easy reading for me and is helping me along my way. I just started working for a start up tech company in Portland Oregon in May. The CFO was basically doing all HR work until now. I am now THE HR department. I am new and I have never had a role in HR before. I was wondering if there was a way to guide me in implementing HR stuff over the next year. What I should be doing in this next month, three months, six months, and so forth.

Please help!

The answer

First of all, have you seen the guide to building an HR department?

I think that will be incredibly valuable for you. It’s really tough to say what you should be doing at specific date-based milestones, because there’s no telling what the business will look like at each of those 6, 12, 18 month marks.

The big picture is understanding what sort of HR needs the business and staff have at each stage of the game and planning ahead to make sure you can hit those targets when the appropriate time comes. For instance, at some point you’ll need to start thinking about performance reviews for staff or maybe you’ll have to find a good applicant tracking system if you guys are hiring. Knowing some of those items on the horizon is how you show the best value for the business. Especially when you’re doing startup HR for a technology company, it’s important to keep those overall business needs in mind, because they can change rapidly.

Thanks for reaching out!


Do you have a suggestion for the reader? Feel free to share! Also, if you have questions, shoot them over to ben AT and I’d be happy to try to fit them into the schedule. Thanks!

3 thoughts on “Startup HR: Planning vs Doing

  1. Amy Smith

    I have been in a similar situation with a construction company early in my HR career. I had to create policies and procedures, files, conduct training, and basically build HR from the ground up. SHRM was a great resource for me. I found a lot of great information on their website and was able to network and benchmark with members from my local chapter. Although it is a challenge-creating an HR framework teaches you a lot about the field. I learned so much during that period of my life.

    Good luck!

  2. Jane

    I was in the exact situation. Start by observing the culture of your company and getting a sense of what drives your people. Know your people and don’t be afraid to care about them. Are you a policy-driven culture, or willing to assume some legal risk to be a little less structured? Read up on any and everything – you’ll learn from the great and read about things you know you want no part of. UpstartHR, INC and many others had great articles for me to leverage. Be willing to learn and adapt. Get out there to events with other start-ups and adapt the things you think will be most effective with your crew.

    Leverage your peers when deciding on systems. I’m happy to be a resource, though am hardly an expert. Have fun and don’t be afraid to fail a little bit.

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