HomeUncategorizedHR Checklist for Startups: 15 Things Founders Need

HR Checklist for Startups: 15 Things Founders Need

What is one thing that should be on an HR checklist for a startup?

To help startup founders meet their HR requirements, we asked successful startup founders and business owners this question for their best insights. From employee orientation programs to a strong outsourcing strategy to adopting a future-focused mentality for HR, there are several things that should be on an HR checklist for a startup.

Here are 15 things startup founders need for their HR:

  • Employee Orientation Programs
  • Onboarding
  • Monthly Happiness Check-in
  • Curiosity that Sparks Innovation 
  • Sustainable Work Culture
  • Psychological Safety 
  • Healthy Employee Experience
  • Strong Outsourcing Strategy
  • Make Sure HR is Your Strategic Business Partner
  • Integrate Diversity into The Business from the Start
  • Create Best Practices For Data Integrity Within the ATS
  • Track Time and Efficiency
  • Define Your People Strategy
  • Set Up Your Strategic HR Plan
  • Adopt a Future-Focused Mentality for HR

Employee Orientation Program

This educational session will help new employees learn the ins and outs of business while making them feel like they’re part of the team. Also, it encourages employees to consider long-term employment with the company. This is a great way to provide new employees with the knowledge they need to hit the ground running. A formal orientation program is not only a great way to welcome new employees, but it also helps improve the company’s culture.

Adina David, Recruiter and Career Coach at Paperjobz


Onboarding is a need for your business, this will help integrate anyone new to your startup, this process will make sure your HR has everything they need from new hires as well as set the tone for them and their respective role. The nightmare of having someone not knowing what they are doing when they clocked in or how they get paid will be avoided if you add an onboarding process to your HR checklist.

Bill Lyons, CEO of Griffin Funding

Monthly Happiness Check-in

Most start-ups are lean, where people tend to wear many hats and do work outside of their intended scope. Hours can be long, too. So, it’s important to check in with each team member individually on a monthly basis. Get a feel for each person’s level of happiness, as well as the overall employee sentiment. Then, make adjustments to ensure that people stay motivated, engaged, and happy.

Dennis Consorte, Startup & Small Business Advocate at Snackable Solutions

Curiosity that Sparks Innovation 

When it comes to startups, there’s a tendency to over-index hard skills leading to job descriptions that are like wish lists or exercises in creating the perfect candidate to embody all roles in one while looking at team building as “nice to have ” instead of “need to have”.  

This approach ignores one thing that startups need to have on their HR checklist – curiosity. Curiosity prompts the “what if” questions, and sparks the creativity and innovation startups thrive on. Startups are fluid as much out of necessity as by definition. They practically demand agility and adaptability. Hiring with curiosity in mind supports that.

Nicole Spiegel-Gotsch, Founder & CEO of Mavyn

Sustainable Work Culture

The one thing startup Founders must consider before hiring their first employee is what type of work culture is most beneficial for them? Do they aspire to collaborative operations where leveraging entrepreneurial employee strengths for innovation, growth and cross-functional team projects allows them to do more with less? Or are they invested in directive leadership operations because that is all they have known? These are the types of operations experiencing a tough time right now retaining mid-career employees. Mid-career employees, as first hires, provide experience and some past training. Many are looking for the right type of organization to build and grow through teams.

Dianne Crampton, President of TIGERS Success Series

Psychological Safety

Our startup is building a different kind of company with an employee-first approach. We believe a collaborative approach in every step of the employee journey will help to achieve this, so we engage in “co-recruiting,” where both the candidate and the company equally share needs, expectations, and goals. To pair with this, we have a a collaborative educational onboarding, in which we engage new employees to question and improve the training modules as they progress through them.

Lastly, our startup has a creative cultural development with game nights and open ideation sessions plus employee development opportunities like mindfulness, meditation and dispute resolution training. As a result, the culture we are building here is a healthy, winning culture.

Lindsay Hischebett, Head of People & Partners at Flaus

Healthy Employee Experience

Employee Experience should be at the top of everyone’s HR List right now. There are so many options for our teams – gone are the days employees are lucky to work for a big name or need to be in the office from 9 – 5pm Monday – Friday. Leaders need to be cognizant of their values and how they are creating a unique employee experience that sets them apart from their competitors.

Alexandra McGroarty, Co-Founder of McGroarty & Co Consulting LLC

Strong Outsourcing Strategy

Don’t burden your business with a lot of permanent staff that brings with it payroll issues, benefit issues, and so forth. Onboard your initial staff as contractors. While you need to keep in alignment with federal and state employment laws, bringing your initial staff in as contractors will allow you time to vet the candidates for their knowledge, overall fit within the organization, and ability to function on your team(s). 

During this period, it will save you payroll taxes and overhead while simultaneously ensuring you are getting the best candidate for the job. If your budget allows, you can use a recruiting agency and leverage their time, money, and tools necessary to do the preliminary screening, background checks, etc. If your budget doesn’t allow it, then start by using virtual assistants which can be done very affordably. You can also secure contractor talent through Fiverr, UpWork, Thumbtack and others.

Deryck Jones, Founder and CEO of iGloo Digital Marketing LLC

Make Sure HR is Your Strategic Business Partner

Remember to challenge the policies and processes to be sure that the objective is to grow and develop the employees and business and it cannot fail. The best written plans fall short of the mark if they are not founded in good business logic. The true test of success for HR is to be a critical component of the executive team and those seats don’t come casually. 

Ask yourself often, do my business partners call me for guidance and if not, address it quickly. Businesses cannot afford for HR to be a cost center, they need to be a business imperative!

Maggie Debner, Executive Coach and Consultant at HR MD Consulting

Integrate Diversity into The Business from the Start

Building a new startup team? It’s vital to integrate diversity into the DNA of the business from before day one. Make sure investors, leaders and your team embrace the rich diversity of the world we live in. Hire on potential not an exact match to your shopping list of requirements. Ensuring that your company reflects real life is the best way to attract, engage and retain your people.

Duncan Evemy, Founder & Director of DE Talent Consulting

Create Best Practices For Data Integrity Within The ATS

As a company grows, one of the biggest headaches we see is that the data in the ATS has become almost useless because it was not input to the system completely, or cleanly, or in the same way each time (normalized). Create best practices for the data being put into your ATS when you implement it (or as early as possible). 

“Only candidates with contact information go into the ATS”
“Clean up all First and Last Names, as well as Company names when we put candidates in the system”
“All candidates get 3-5 tags in the system to tell what type of candidate/skill-set that are” 

Creating these best practices will enable you to use your ATS as a candidate source for future roles, be able to automate outreach without sounding automated, and lower your spend on external tools.

Mike “Batman” Cohen, Wayne Technologies

Track Time and Efficiency

Use a good time tracker app to track the time being spent by the employees. These apps also have timesheets and a productivity checker. So that HR can reduce the load by automating basic activities. Few time tracking apps also allow screenshot tracking for proper employee monitoring.

Prince Sarker, Growth Lead at Apploye

Define Your People Strategy

The one thing that every startup should do is define the people strategy aligned to the business strategy. Hire strategically but make sure that there is a clear process for the employee experience that everyone is across including development once the people join. It is unfortunate to see businesses hire fast to then go through a reduction in force as they have not achieved the runway required to survive.

Joanna McCatty, Career Strategist and Founder of Protoscience

Set Up Your Strategic HR Plan

I’ve heard many startup leaders say that a strategic HR plan isn’t an immediate necessity. This may stem from a belief that HR is more of an administrative function than a strategic one. However, it is a critical step in setting up your start up for success in ensuring HR initiatives are part of your strategic planning process. 

Your startup may not need talent acquisition, retention, and engagement strategies on day one, but you still need to plan and prepare. Your strategic plan should include workforce planning, culture development, total rewards design, and more. Not only will this help you in budgeting properly for your labor force, but you’ll better position your organization to take advantage of opportunities in the labor market and avoid potential employer risks.

Mallory Herrin, CEO & Principal HR Consultant at HerrinHR

Adopt a Future-Focused Mentality for HR

Leadership is responsible for embodying the vision of the organization. The creation of the vision comes from personal and professional values whom all can live into.
From there, a strategic direction is developed.

Leadership understands that corporate culture begins at the top and partners with HR.
Armed with a values-based vision and a strategic plan, HR can readily hire those with skills who can keep the wheels on the start-up bus as it’s rolling down the highway as well as those who will grow with the organization once a more stable growth process has been established. HR needs to keep a future focus on the current checklist.

Dr. Wayne Pernell, President of DynamicLeader, Inc.

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