Startups and the HR Turnabout

It’s interesting how human beings continually adapt around things, in order to survive, and going beyond that, strive, to maximise the advantages of the environment, that they are literally thrown or sucked into, and then succeed and thrive!!
I think, that about puts in a nutshell, what the HR struggle is all about, what their dilemmas are, in this fast paced world of here now and then, “poof!” gone forever!!

In the changing scenario of India, or for that matter, a significant part of the world, as India gradually metamorphoses into an emerging entrepreneurial nation, employee turnover or fidelity, is a consistent matter of concern. Couple this with the inherent risks of startups and the HR room is sitting on a tinder box!

No department feels the heat more than what the HR does!! Little surprise there, given the volatile nature of startups.

I find great satisfaction in comparing a startup to a fledgling bird, trying to find its wings, and once the rhythm sets in, within no time it soars towards the skies, bringing in its wake, a host of concerns. The HR can then be aptly compared to the mother bird trying to guide it on, on its path of a new flight!!

Indeed, HR is like the hub of the wheel, around which the startup revolves. And while the functions of optimising human resources in a smaller startup could typically be handled by the CEO, the larger ones generally would have/need to have, the luxury of having a dedicated department.

So why and how does HR do a turnaround and align itself to the dream of one individual, treading a path, no one has ever set foot on before?

For starters, HR in a startup is constantly on “reinvent mode”, to meet new goals, new challenges and meet new targets, in keeping alive the vision and mission of the startup, and then as the startup grows, to change and in a true sense to continually evolve, apropos the current situation. It, also, at times, needs to pull rabbits out of the hat on demand?!!

More specifically, initially, it has to get the correct “hand and glove” fit to recruit across all levels of the workforce from the seniormost aka onboarding, to the junior managers. There seems to be an endless discussion and heartburn about being able to adopt path-breaking policies to attract the right talent with the correct skill set.

Lots of startups recruit through word of mouth or referrals eg. FreeCharge, PriceBaba, or through career portals eg. InstaMojo.

The post recruitment journey too is fraught with mishaps and HR needs to think constantly out of the box to handle a host of issues as they crop up during the life of a startup. To reduce instant attrition rates, for eg. SimpliLearn, uses what is called the “free look” period, where freshly hired people get the opportunity to familiarise themselves with the company while focussing only on training themselves. To keep employees motivated and energised and to provide ongoing training, InstaMojo offers mentoring and e-learning, while FreeCharge organises hackathons etc. This, in the name of retaining precious talent! This is especially for the senior cadres, who necessarily come from the tried and tested, brick and mortar systems, with years of experience and who could feel like fish out of water.

Others adopt all sorts of schemes, from allowing flexible hours, having day-care centres, work-from-home options, vacations, special awards and what-say-you, to ring home the message, that HR cares!!
As the startup scales, inevitably, the leadership finds itself at crossroads, asking this question, To lead or not to lead? And if to lead, then to where? That’s when the role of HR becomes even more pivotal, facilitating smooth and seamless internal communication, so that all that has been so painstakingly built is not lost!

To sum up the HR turnabout HR cannot afford to be a mere bystander or play a passive role. It’s got to be dynamic and hand- in- glove with the constantly changing avatar of a startup!
Cheerio for now!

References,. (2015). Eight HR lessons from start-ups- Business News. Retrieved 11 December 2015, from
India, P. (2015). Start-ups adopting innovative HR onboarding policies. Retrieved 11 December 2015, from
The Economic Times,. (2015). How startups, in growth mode, are poaching talent from MNCs & global consulting firms  The Economic Times. Retrieved 11 December 2015, from