Your Essential HR Checklist for Founders & Unofficial HR Leaders
Human Resources (HR) or not-so-newly rebranded People Operations is a vital role in the success of any business. Many entrepreneurs, myself included 🙋🏻♀️, embark on the journey of building a company and quickly underestimate the importance and amount of work that goes into setting up and running core People Operations. HR not only ensures compliance with labor laws and regulations but also serves as the bridge connecting the vision for the company culture vs. how the company culture is actually executed. Just as the culmination of customer points equates to a product’s brand, employee touchpoints reflect and reinforce a company's culture. From hiring and training to fostering a positive work environment, well-established HR foundations lay a strong groundwork for the company’s success and sustainability. As most founders have little-to-no prior HR experience, Camille Tyan and I thought we’d save our peers from another Google spiral by outlining the HR 101 Checklist we wish we’d had when we first started ventures of our own.
Camille Tyan is the CEO and founder of Logic Founders, a fintech startup studio in Paris. Previously, he cofounded Payplug and grew the company to 100 employees, during which he wore the hat of HR before hiring their first HR manager at 30 employees. Trained at McKinsey and Google in his early career, he’s always valued employee engagement and career development as a focal point of building a company.
Stephanie Bowker is one of the co-founders of Ourspace and is focused on all things go-to-market in addition to wearing the hat of unofficial HR. Her passion lies in building brands and teams as the former VP of Marketing at Spendesk, where she helped scale the company from $1M to $50M and created the CFO community with more than 10k members. Her work spans product and growth from established brands like Intuit to being the first product marketer at Gusto, all of which have a common thread of working on tools that increase collaboration and team culture.
Core HR to put in place before hiring your first employee
Hiring your first employee is a big milestone 👏and one that involves several legal and compliant steps to ensure your business is in good standing. While this list is not exhaustive and we’d recommend speaking with a legal or HR professional, here’s the general gist of what needs to be in place before making an offer to your very first hire.
- Obtain an Employer Identification Number
- Create an employee contract
- Set up payroll and benefits
- Comply with tax withholdings and reporting requirements
- Establish vacation and PTO policies
- Maintain employee records
Strategic HR pillars to design an intentional and delightful employee journey
HR plays a crucial role in creating the foundations that lead to a positive employee experience. Here are 6 key employee touchpoints that make up the employee lifecycle and the must-do activities when setting them up from scratch.
When it comes to finding, interviewing, and attracting talented individuals, it's a lot like filling up a lead funnel. You want to make sure people are aware of your company's existence, and it's even more effective if you're known for something unique. Take, for example, Numeral, a company in Logic Founder's portfolio. They stand out in the payments space by emphasizing their culture of high engineering standards.
From crafting social messages to reaching out on LinkedIn, the goal is to make a positive and intentional impact on everyone you interact with. We firmly believe that the first step is to clearly define how you want to be known and what sets you apart. If you're not sure where to begin, here’s the Culture Canvas framework used by Ourspace co-founders, which they used during their initial co-founders' offsite. It’s a great starting point!
Core attract activities:
- Articulate company values and culture
- Set up a social media presence
- Promote opportunities via social, recruiting events, and school networks
- Notion or website to host careers page
- LinkedIn and job boards
The candidate's experience is typically a good reflection of what it’s like to work for a company. It’s a great opportunity for both sides to bring their best selves and to be honest about their expectations. If the recruiting process is slow and confusing, candidates will perceive your company as slow and confusing too. On the flip side, if it’s clear and well-paced, it reflects an efficient and organized culture.
That’s why it’s essential to be well-prepared and intentional in how you design the candidate experience. Start by clearly communicating salaries, benefits, and working conditions right from the beginning. By doing so, you provide transparency and ensure the candidates have a clear understanding of what they can expect even before they begin engaging with your company.
Core onboarding activities:
- Create job descriptions
- Align on the candidate evaluation framework
- Define the interview process (screening, case study, reference, etc)
- Create a job offer with salary, benefits, vacation, equity, etc
- Measure candidate experience and collect feedback
- LinkedIn and job boards
- Candidate satisfaction survey
- Applicant Tracking System aka an ATS (once you hit scale)
- Potential external recruiting firm or freelancer
The first week at a new job is a memory that sticks with employees for the long haul. Onboarding is a thrilling yet admin-packed phase in their journey within the company. It sets the tone for their entire experience, and the way it's executed can either boost or hinder their integration and productivity within the team. It's an investment you shouldn't skimp on, even in the early stages of company building.
Core onboarding activities:
- Set up benefits, PTO, etc
- Create a personalized ramp-up plan
- Outline key training
- Clean up team documentation for knowledge sharing
- Set expectations for success and timing of onboarding
- Assign an onboarding buddy
- Plan team lunches or social moments
- Celebrate arrival in team routines (All Hands, email, etc)
- Schedule regular 1on1s
- Collect feedback 30 & 60 days after onboarding
- Trello or task board
- Goodies or welcome swag
When you invest in the growth of your employees, you're giving your company a whole lot in return. It's like a cycle of benefits that keeps on giving! You'll see increased employee engagement, better retention rates, and a competitive edge in the ever-changing business landscape.
Feedback is where it all begins. It's the foundation for building trust, improving communication, and empowering everyone to take ownership of their personal development. And guess what? A whopping 64% of employees, according to a TinyPulse survey, actually crave more feedback.
So, even if you think everything is running smoothly and those performance reviews feel a bit daunting, take a moment to reflect. Are you fostering a culture of feedback? It's not just about feedback flowing downward; it's about encouraging upward feedback and feedback between teams too. This simple shift can be a game-changer, transforming your company's dynamics and unlocking untapped potential along the way.
Core learning & development activities:
- Articulate career plans
- Collect training needs
- Define feedback and performance routines
- Before setting up formal performance reviews, the Defacto team added a lightweight way to collect team feedback with a Slack bot that selected one person a a week for everyone to share praise and areas of growth.
- Performance reviews
- 360 feedback or survey tools
- Training platform
Employee engagement poses significant challenges in today's dynamic business landscape. With remote and hybrid teams, work-life balance hurdles, and the added stress of potential organizational changes in the tech-driven landscape, it's become even more challenging. However, there is a potent remedy: cultivating a supportive work environment centered around transparent communication and proactive recognition.
Picture this: creating a space where people feel supported, connected, and valued. It's all about going the extra mile to bring everyone together, despite the physical distance. From regular team bonding activities to moments of recognition for a job well done, these intentional efforts can work wonders in boosting employee engagement.
Core engagement & retention activities:
- Schedule team activities (lunches, games, etc)
- Establish praise and recognition routines
- Launch an internal newsletter and company-wide announcements
At Ourspace, we've a few routines to celebrate individuals and foster camaraderie among our fully remote team. These include quarterly on-site gatherings for a week of in-person collaboration, monthly "Spacemate Spotlight" sessions during our company all hands, and weekly virtual coffee chat games.
- Employee NPS or engagement score
- Bonus and/or performance-based incentives
While offboarding may seem like a purely administrative step at the end of an employee's journey, it's a critical moment that reflects the organization's values and commitment to its employees. No matter the parting terms, the employee should be treated with respect, empathy, and support. This includes providing a smooth transition, conducting exit interviews to gather valuable feedback, and offering resources for future career endeavors. By handling offboarding with care and professionalism, the organization upholds its reputation, maintains positive relationships, and leaves a lasting impression on both the departing employee and those who remain.
Core onboarding activities:
- Hold exit interviews
- Organize knowledge transfer
- Express gratitude
- Offer career transition support
- Alumni communities via Slack, LinkedIn, email, etc
- Alumni recruiting lists
For founders and Ops leaders venturing into your HR journey for the first time, we hope this checklist helps set your team and company up for success. While every company has its own distinct characteristics, we firmly believe in the universal necessity of fostering an inclusive and well-organized work environment for employees to thrive, which begins with strong HR foundations.