What Are Some Common HR Issues That Startups Face?
Startup leaders from various industries have shared their experiences in tackling HR challenges within their organizations. In this article, 13 CEOs, founders, and HR executives reveal their insights, ranging from implementing formal mentorship programs to cultivating a positive culture through planning. Discover how these leaders successfully addressed and resolved pressing HR issues in their startups.
- Implementing Formal Mentorship Programs
- Fostering Collaboration with Town Halls
- Dividing HR and Hiring Manager Responsibilities
- Empowering Employees with Pluralsight
- Supporting Employee Role Transitions
- Expanding the HR Department
- Working with Geographical Expansion in Hiring
- Addressing High Turnover with a Positive Environment
- Resolving Communication Issues through Dialogue
- Improving Work-Life Balance with Flexibility
- Transitioning to Remote Work Successfully
- Bridging the Skills Gap Strategically
- Cultivating a Positive Culture Through Planning
Implementing Formal Mentorship Programs
Startup leaders often face HR issues such as excessive turnover, ineffective communication systems, and ineffective onboarding processes. One HR issue I faced at my own startup was a lack of proper career progression opportunities.
We had identified several high-potential employees who had the skills and drive to take on more responsibility but lacked paths for them to advance their careers within our organization. To address this, we developed a formal mentorship program that matched experienced, senior employees with these high-potential employees to provide them with guidance and opportunities for skill development.
By integrating formalized mentorship into our operations, we created multiple paths for talent management which generated healthier salary structures and resulted in increased employee retention.
Fostering Collaboration with Town Halls
Our company consists of a lot of employees from different generations. We are very much aware of the differences in points of view, values, and goals, so we make sure to do something to manage them all.
Because we want to foster a collaborative environment, we hold regular town hall meetings that every employee is required to attend. Then, we separate them into breakout groups for them to discuss issues with one another and later on share them with the group.
This practice has encouraged collaboration and teamwork within the company, thereby allowing us to manage a multi-generational workforce.
Dividing HR and Hiring Manager Responsibilities
In our organization, we discovered a serious sense of distrust between HR and hiring managers, which in hindsight could have been avoided.
HR wanted to implement a structured, comprehensive recruitment process that incorporates several sources of information before hiring. The hiring managers, however, wanted to make hiring decisions more flexibly and without interference, being ultimately responsible for managing the new hire thereafter.
To combat this disconnect, we implemented a policy whereby HR is solely responsible for shortlisting and candidate attraction. Once candidates have been handed over to hiring managers, HR ceases subsequent involvement.
This compromise allows HR to adopt a comprehensive and thorough talent management strategy while also affording hiring managers their autonomy, giving them the best of both worlds.
Empowering Employees with Pluralsight
QBench leveraged Pluralsight as a comprehensive platform for IT security training, empowering our employees with the necessary skills to combat cyber threats.
Through Pluralsight’s vast library of courses, our workforce gained expertise in areas such as network security, encryption protocols, and secure coding practices. This investment in employee development has significantly bolstered our organization’s overall cybersecurity posture and confidence.
Supporting Employee Role Transitions
One HR issue that can be easily overlooked is managing the transitions of employees from one role to another. To address this issue, startups can provide training and resources for professional development, create clear career paths and advancement opportunities, and establish mentorship programs.
For example, an employee who is transitioning from a junior to a senior role may need guidance on how to manage a team, navigate new responsibilities, and communicate with clients. By providing support and guidance during these transitions, startups can not only retain top talent but also foster a culture of growth and development.
Expanding the HR Department
One HR issue we faced was a lack of HR department staffing, which resulted in deficits in employee management. To correct this, we invested in hiring additional HR professionals to help manage the workload. This provided more personalized support to employees, increasing satisfaction and productivity in the workplace.
With more support, we were able to tackle issues such as employee concerns and benefits plans more efficiently. Our team was able to feel supported and empowered, which helped in creating a positive work culture.
Working with Geographical Expansion in Hiring
We’re in the hybrid workforce management solution industry, and the pandemic caused our entire industry to go into a massive growth period. We are a relatively small player, but we’ve been around a long time and have a significant level of expertise in our industry.
Nevertheless, we were struck by an unforeseen problem of needing to grow too quickly, not just in our local markets but internationally as well. We solved this by really branching out geographically in our hiring, as we found it was easier to hire experts in the geographies in which we would operate and then teach them our business than vice versa.
Addressing High Turnover with a Positive Environment
At TrackMage, we were losing employees too fast, a problem commonly known as high turnover. We realized we needed to give our people more reasons to stay.
So, we put more energy into creating a positive work environment—more chances for career growth, fairer pay, and making sure good work didn’t go unnoticed. We also opened up the lines of communication. It worked; people started sticking around longer, and our turnover issue improved.
Resolving Communication Issues through Dialogue
One time, I found myself grappling with a team plagued by communication issues and a deteriorating atmosphere. Recognizing the detrimental impact it had on our productivity and team dynamics, I made it a priority to engage in open and extensive conversations with the team, urging them to express their concerns and viewpoints honestly.
These discussions were not easy, as they forced us to confront uncomfortable truths and face the possibility of some team members departing. Despite our best efforts, not everyone could be appeased, and some individuals either chose to leave or we ended up mutually agreeing to part ways.
However, while the departure of team members was undoubtedly challenging, it proved to be a turning point for us. The remaining members felt a profound sense of relief and freedom to express themselves without fear. The heavy weight of the toxic atmosphere was lifted, and we finally addressed the underlying issues head-on.
Improving Work-Life Balance with Flexibility
Recognizing that work-life balance is crucial, we introduced flexible work arrangements. This included options such as remote work, flexible working hours, and the ability to take time off when needed. By providing this, employees can better manage their personal responsibilities and feel the benefit of the trust we give.
Transitioning to Remote Work Successfully
The greatest challenge we encountered was transitioning entirely to remote work. We had to rebuild our communication methods, task accountability systems, and team-building processes from scratch.
Our solution was to employ the right tools to facilitate this shift. Everyone received appropriate training on how to use these tools, and we established clear rules for meetings.
Punctuality became particularly crucial for us. If one person is late for a meeting, it wastes everyone else’s time. Therefore, we always start meetings promptly and strictly enforce this rule. Through these measures, we’ve managed to adapt to a fully remote work setup efficiently and effectively.
Bridging the Skills Gap Strategically
Attracting and retaining skilled talent can be a daunting task for startup leaders. However, our organization faced a unique HR issue: the “Skills Gap.” We noticed that while we received numerous job applications, many candidates lacked the specific expertise we required, hindering our growth potential.
To tackle this challenge, we implemented a two-fold strategy. Firstly, we partnered with local educational institutions and developed an internship program to bridge the skills gap. This allowed us to mold young talent and equip them with the necessary skills through hands-on experience. Secondly, we revamped our employee training programs, focusing on upskilling our existing workforce. This not only boosted employee satisfaction but also enhanced our internal talent pipeline.
As a result, our organization witnessed a 35% increase in the number of qualified candidates applying for positions, and employee turnover was reduced by 20%.
Cultivating a Positive Culture Through Planning
Three years after launching an agency, we discovered we had a culture problem. There were three of us involved in leading the business, and we all had very different personalities. The founder was very outgoing, shameless some would say, but a big personality and someone whose presence was noticed. My other colleague was also a big personality, hugely hardworking but brilliant to be around.
We didn’t pay any attention to the culture. I think we assumed, certainly I did, that with these big personalities around, the culture would take care of itself. But as we grew beyond 12 and then 20 people, we found it was taking on a life of its own.
The moment of realization came in a strategy session between me and the other Director. We dedicated the entire session to working out what culture we wanted and how, as a leadership team, we could create the right environment for it to flourish. It was the first time we had done any planning around culture, and it became part of our planning process.