Challenges in a start-up

It is a herculean task to attract key talent in a start-up as you have nothing to showcase.

A start-up requires to have people with both strategic and execution experience

By Partha Das

The HR department plays a crucial role in a start-up, as it usually has huge challenges and teething issues in the beginning. The leaders of a start-up have to take a keen interest to resolve the issues instantly.

HR gears up for having the basic necessities, in terms of laying out the processes and policies- getting the desired licenses, ensuring the labour law compliance and planning each step. The most important factor is to get the right people to embark upon the projects. A start-up requires to have people with both strategic and execution experience. They are the kind of people who have the bandwidth to set up the processes and do multi-tasking. In an established set up, there is much lesser challenge in terms of inventing the wheel. There are defined processes, there is a brand name, etc.

To kickstart the projects, the HR team should be on board as a first step to hire the key positions. Ideally, the right kind of functional heads keep the start-up thing in mind, who in turn are allowed to select their respective teams. To get the best talent, the following things need to be in place in quickest possible time.

  1. A) Well-laid out policies
  2. B) Manpower budgeting
  3. C) Job descriptions
  4. D) Role-based designations and bands
  5. E) Compensation structures
  6. F) Benefits, incentive schemes and referral bonus
  7. G) Robust induction programme
  8. H) Good internal communication channels

Challenges for HR

Attracting talent

It is a herculean task to attract key talent as you have nothing to showcase. You need to sharpen your marketing skills. It is very important to strongly position your organisation. First of all, jot down the good points i.e how your hospital is going to be different from the rest. It could be your objectives, your vision, mission and values, your leadership, etc. All the positives have to be highlighted. Also don’t forget to highlight the differentiators in terms of the type of hospital, kind of infrastructure and equipments and having some of the best talents and best practices, etc. People will think several times before accepting your offer. So, the systems and practices have to be robust enough to motivate them to join.

The job role,the career progression,the organisation roadmap are few of the things to be communicated in the beginning.

Whom to hire

You should hire people with proven track records and having a passion to embark upon such challenging tasks. Next step is to convince these people to join your organisation. The practices and policies should be quite attractive, so should be the role. May be a bit liberal when it comes to compensation in the beginning. The compensation should be coupled with a good amount of target-linked incentives. This should ideally motivate and align them to work with the deadlines, TAT in mind. Even the payments could be subject to achieving the milestones.

Branding plays a very important role. Mind you it has bigger impact when we deliver as promised. Over commitments and making unrealistic statements should be avoided in any kind of communication. To earn the trust of employees, adopting a fair approach is very important. Communication plays a pivotal role for promoting the brand, which is nothing but trust, quality, service, care, deliverables and commitment.

Systems and processes

An organisation with well laid-out systems and processes will score any day better than a place which doesn’t have well defined processes and systems.

Good policies and principles

People always look forward to work for an organisation with good leadership, well defined policies, career progression, good set of policies and practices. They are eager to work in an environment where they feel engaged in terms of learning while working. In other words, working with such an organisation might enhance their knowledge, skills and competencies. They grow along with the growth of the organisation.

The next step is the kind of courteousness extended to the candidate when they come to meet us. We should ensure that he / she is not made to wait for more than five minutes for the scheduled meetings. In case of a delay due to some unavoidable circumstances, he should be communicated and kept engaged. It may sound a small thing but matters a lot. The way we speak and deal with people defines our culture. People look for a professional culture.

All the positives about the organisation have to be highlighted to attract talent.

HR has to take care of the employee engagement from the very day they connect with the probable candidate. The candidate should be able to feel the warmth during the interaction. Communication is the key and what we communicate and how we communicate matter a lot. The job role, the career progression, the organisation roadmap are few of the things to be communicated in the best possible way. The KRAs should be framed with well-defined targets and time lines.

Even a good induction programme is a must followed by periodical training, both functional and behavioural, to sharpen their skills. The employees on board should feel totally engaged. Retention strategies need to be well-defined, so some of the good practices are good enough to take care of the retention. There a few things quite important, especially with the short supply of good talent.

Practical talent management

A brand name attracts talent but is not good enough to retain talented people. The same goes for start-ups. Being well funded or having a promising product or services doesn’t guarantee that the top performers will stay. Thus, a start-up has to practically manage talent, especially the ones who have leadership qualities.

Though most employees in a start-up usually have more than a single role, the top performers can be given decision-making tasks. In addition, we need to have clearly defined career paths for all our employees.

Rewards and appraisals

When it comes to performance appraisals and rewards for managers, things that are taken into account are usually their key performance indicators, targets, growth, etc. Many high-performing managers are given huge monetary incentives. However, that is not just enough for fostering an atmosphere for imbibing leadership.

It is also about offering the right kind of rewards/ incentives. In addition, the top leadership should to be engaged enough to further nurture the high-potential employees who can be the future leaders of tomorrow. A robust Performance Management System (PMS) has to be in place.

Embedding leadership development

Partha Das is chief people officer, Cytecare Cancer Hospital,Bengalaru.

Leadership is key for growth of a company. However, leaders these days don’t just have to stop at that. They have to ensure that the individuals who run the business are keyed up and enthusiastic as well to develop their leadership skills.

For startups, it becomes ever more important to imbibe leadership-related functions as a part of the job responsibilities and enable their employees to grow with them. It starts with well defined KRAs (Key Result Areas) which are in SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time bound) in nature.

If you take care of the HR processes at the very beginning only with a scientific approach, then you will have lesser challenges in the following years.  Once your foundation is laid out, you have to watch out for continuous improvements.


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