Hiring 8 min

How to Scale Your Startup by Systemizing Your HR

April 25, 2019

A skilled and reliable workforce is the foundation of every successful business. It’s crucial to get the right people on board so your organization can operate efficiently. That’s the best recipe for good day-to-day operations and ultimately the key to long-term growth.

Unfortunately, the hiring and onboarding process can be tough, especially for startups and small businesses. Without the well-established HR infrastructure of larger organizations, you might miss out on the best candidates or worse, hire the wrong people.

As a result, many startups simply do without adding new hires to their organization altogether. Instead, they pile extra responsibilities onto their existing staff. This is a recipe for disaster. Overworked staff are likely to leave your company, and other competent staff who can handle the pressure will burn out.

We have a strategy to help you avoid those problems. Developing a recruitment process your organization can actually use will help you strategically scale.

Before the Recruitment Process

Most organizations are built on a framework of systems composed of things like job descriptions, organizational hierarchy, and a general understanding of how to get stuff done.

If you are running a small company or startup, all that information is available—it’s just usually stored in someone’s head. Tasks for the day are never written down, and information is shared in quick phone calls or snatched conversations. When there are three people or so in a business, you can kind of manage with this informal framework. But as your company grows, this structure quickly cracks.
Each time you hire a new employee, this informal information needs to be shared, which can be a time-consuming process. This can create strains, which impacts delivery of services to customers and impedes growth.

Ultimately, you want to reduce the amount of time you have to spend sharing your business’s systems with new employees, which means making all the information stored in your head available for easy reference.

The best time to start preparing this information is before you hire any employees. Instead of jumping to the hiring step, start by defining what you want them to do.

For example, if you want to hire a writer, you may want them to write three 1,500-word articles about your business each week. To do this task, the writer will need to understand what is required of them. As the person hiring for that role, there is a good chance you understand how to do that task, because you are currently doing it yourself.

Start by breaking down the role based on the tools you need every time you complete those tasks. For the writer completing three articles a week, those tools may be:

  • A guide to keyword research
  • Editorial guidelines for tone of voice and article structure
  • Content you should link to
  • Instructions for using your content management system

These guides don’t need to be long but should include all the necessary and relevant information for completing a given task.

There are other things your new employee will need to know that go beyond the job description, including things like, “How do I invoice?” or “When do I get paid?” that you should create guides for as well.

If you are working for a larger company, you might want to add to this knowledge base with introductions to new colleagues. Some guidance on where to go and what to do on their first day will also doubtlessly be appreciated.

It might also be worth using a password management tool to share passwords, which can be especially useful for distributed teams or companies with high employee turnover.

Having this onboarding process in place before you hire will help you get the most out of your staff. If a new hire is well-informed of their duties and made to feel comfortable in their role, they will reach their potential more quickly.

Of course, it’s not going to be perfect the first time around. You will need to add to this knowledge base when you hire someone. Here is a quick onboarding checklist you can refer to.

Martin Norbury, an expert at scaling businesses, identifies a lack of structure as one of only three things that prevents businesses from succeeding.

Find the Right Person

With an onboarding process in place, you’re ready to start finding people to work with. For startups and small businesses, it’s always a good idea to outsource work before creating full-time roles. This is generally more cost efficient, which is an important thing to consider when bootstrapping a company.

You can readily find freelancers in all niches. There are many sites and online portals aimed at connecting clients and freelancers. Upwork and PeoplePerHour are well-established, trustworthy examples.

As a firm looking to outsource but with a view to hire in the future, you shouldn’t only rely on those portals. They will connect you with good candidates, but those will often be career freelancers. That means they’ll be looking for a client-freelancer relationship alone. It can be difficult to scale their role into a full-time one, even in the longer term.

A little initiative can open up other channels for finding the right workers. LinkedIn is a great place to post a job ad, and there are plenty of Facebook groups to explore, which may put you in touch with relevant professionals. Gumtree is a more out-of-the-box, but still helpful platform you can also use.

Your job ads should include all the fundamental nuts and bolts of the role you’re recruiting for, such as:

  • Qualities and skills you want in an applicant
  • What the applicant will be required to do.
  • Payment terms
  • Hours per week and potential for overtime

Be sure to include any other relevant information on the role and your company to help get the recruiting process started.

Shortlisting the Best Candidate

As a way to begin screening candidates, give them a sample task that’s as similar as possible to what you’ll be asking them to do if you hire them. That way, you can properly assess their skills and suitability for the role.

For example, when people apply to a writing role, before even reading their resume, you might send them a secondary unpaid test, such as a 500-word writing sample based on the kind of content you want them to create.

Assigning this task can show you which candidates are willing to put in the extra work from the start. Based on companies where they’ve tried this method, on average only 1 in 8 people complete this test.

After an applicant completes the test, and you’ve read the work they produced, then read their resume. This way the quality of the work they produced, (and not the resume) will influence your choice. It’s all too easy to do the reverse and be swayed by a good resume before you see the quality of their work.

Of course, you don’t want to ignore a resume. It’s a good baseline for assessing a candidate’s potential against the kind of role you want them to fulfill. Pay attention to things like:

  • How long they spent at previous jobs
  • Whether they were promoted or remained in their same position

These are things you need to consider when hiring. In general, if you want someone to fill a role for a long period of time rather than climb the ladder, then a history of being in the same position for a few years is a good sign.

If someone has a resume filled with promotions, or they change jobs often, they are likely to look for growth opportunities from their position. You need to consider this as you shortlist candidates.

You can then test your assumptions in a formal interview setting.

After running your tests and having an interview, you should be able to identify which applicants you want to proceed with. That means you’re nearly ready to start working with someone.

Once you’ve hired a new employee, but before you’ve forgotten about the hiring process altogether, it can be helpful to ask for feedback from your chosen applicant. They’ll have the best idea of how well your hiring process worked. They’ll be able to tell you if your ad had all the information they needed or to suggest other details they might have wanted. Any areas of confusion along the way can also be identified. This will help you adjust your hiring process as you fill other positions.

Scale the Role

When you’ve identified who you want to work with, it’s time to run the onboarding process mentioned earlier. As your working relationship develops, you can organically introduce more tasks for them to tackle.

Do this slowly. Get them used to their responsibilities, then add new ones.

For example, with writers, you can start with writing web content. Yet over time, the role will expand into writing meta descriptions, blogger outreach, and other tasks. As you give more responsibilities to a new hire, you’ll learn about their capabilities.

If your new hire is a contracted freelancer, they will pick up more and more hands-on experience. And as time goes on, you will know if the freelancer is a good fit for your company and if their position could be turned into a full-time one. A transition from their current position to being a full-time employee should be smooth.

By gradually scaling their responsibilities you may have already become their main source of income. They will also already have a strong working relationship with you and your organization. Even if they don’t wish to go full-time, you have a tried and true system in place for finding someone else who would.  

Conclusion

While this guide is perfect for startups and small business without traditional HR infrastructure, many of its fundamentals still apply to and benefit larger firms.

With the right knowledge base in place and a smooth hiring and onboarding process, you can hire multiple people for the same role and deal with employee turnover far easier. While you may need to adjust this system for your business, it should put you in a good position to grow your company.

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Nico is an online marketer with a passion for travel. Every week, he searches for lifetime deals from sites like AppSumo and StackSocial along with independent developers and posts them on Launch Space. If you’re interested in great deals, here’s a list of the 30+ lifetime deals for your business.

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