3 strategies for HR to ensure smooth integration of new startup employees

In the initial days of a startup, the founding team is less likely to be concerned about structures, policies, or functions. But, as the startup grows and starts integrating newer talent, these become critical. At this stage, a human resources management system needs to evolve from unwritten rules and agreements into a structured and organized function. For instance, HR needs to think about implementing policies to integrate experienced hires from high profile companies.  So how can HR managers at startups successfully integrate new employees?

Startup founders might be compelled to follow a product-first approach in developing their processes. It is the startup HR manager’s responsibility to strike a balance between product-focused processes and people-friendly processes. By following the following four strategies, HR managers can smoothly integrate new employees to build a people-friendly organization.

#1 Ensure a top class on-boarding experience – the first step to successful new employee integration

HR managers must identify a skillful and empathetic onboarding ambassador with excellent communication skills for the job. While HR ensures that the new employee has all the systems and infrastructure to do his work, the ambassador ensures that the person is comfortable from day one. An automated platform for new hire integration that helps candidates immerse themselves in the workplace culture, norms, and expectations can help streamline part of the integration process.

Team managers should also be encouraged to meet new hires informally and conduct team lunch sessions involving the new hires. By introducing the employee to their team manager early in the process, HR can help the new hire get a sense of performance expectations, milestones, and development plans  for a deeper understanding of what they must do to be successful.  One of the most critical HR job is to deepen the vision and mission of the founders to ensure that new employees deliver on the core culture through rigorous training and mentorship programs.

#2 Continue onboarding beyond the first week

Onboarding processes that last three months to one year ensure tighter new employee integration and better retention rates. Using periodic surveys, HR can help the employee find relevant training programs to fill skills gaps. Eliciting feedback from new hires  can help improve the nascent HR systems and processes at a startup. New hires often bring fresh perspectives and when the management actually acts on their suggestions, it helps boosts their sense of ownership.

At the mid-point of the orientation, it is important to encourage the new employee to gain a broader perspective of the company, its market, and goals.  Startups can encourage employees to come forth with presentations and initiate conversations. Regular checks can help ensure that new employees are assimilating well with their work groups and the overall organization. Mentoring of new employees plays an important part in improving retention, enhancing time to productivity, ensuring continuing career development, and supporting networking - all while ensuring cultural alignment. Making new employees serve in customer service for two to three weeks in the third or fourth month is an effective way to improve their sense of empathy and marketing focus.

#3 Make cultural-fit key to assimilating new employees from high profile companies

While hiring new employees from high profile companies, the primary screening should always be around values, mission, and culture fit, because it ensures that integration goes smoothly without any hiccups. As a startup scales, job roles might narrow, and reporting relationships might get disrupted, making it necessary to involve existing employees in the recruitment of new ones to avoid turmoil. Existing employees are more likely to establish a relationship with the new hire when they can clearly see critical talent, experience, as well as cultural fit.

Once new employees are on board, a relentless focus on culture and mission by the HR and the hiring manager is key to ensuring engagement and smooth integration. Frequent surveys help startups keep a tab on where the company is doing well and where it needs to change.

HR must play a key consulting role to help founders build relationships across the organization

An effective consulting role by the HR function helps founders who are typical “product guys” realize that their first priority is to first manage people and then products. HR should help founders ensure that people who join the company actually love doing their jobs. Ultimately, founders and HR should commit to doing three things regularly: asking, listening, and acting on feedback.

Although it was previously thought that startups need to think about creating an HR function only on reaching 50 employees, experts today suggest that a strength of 20 employees is good enough to have HR support. A fully enabled HR is critical to the integration of new employees in a startup - either in the form of a partnership with an experienced HR services provider or as an in-house people function.

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