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The Four Pillars to a Start-Up People Strategy

The Four Pillars of a Start-up People Strategy
How to build the People Framework for your scaling start-up
By Diana Styles, CEO and Founder

Founders, CEOs and People Leaders of scaling start-ups often use the expression of “building the plane as we are flying it.” Originally used when referring to software creation in Silicon Valley, this phrase has evolved to cover everything related to scaling a business. In this exciting phase of your business, this notion resonates as you think about building a team and fostering an environment where your business soars and team members thrive.

We have developed a 4-pillar People Strategy to help start-up companies establish an effective framework based on our experience from decades of leading People Teams of all sizes. This framework encompasses all areas we support in HR. Depending on the maturity level of the Start-up, we adapt the steps to meet the organization where they are at. A small company, under 100 people at Seed-stage or Series A starts with the basic elements to build a strong foundation and a Series E company with thousands of employees is working at more advanced stages. We always start with a rigorous assessment to evaluate what is already in place and then build from there.

The R2Scale People Strategy Framework:

#1 Talent. All the pillars have equal importance and stitch together nicely. We begin with Talent because it is the starting point to scaling your team. The components of this pillar are:
* Hiring Plan and Organizational Design
* Selection & Assessment and establishing Hiring Workflows
* Onboarding process for new hires to create a sense of belonging from day one
* Compensation and Benefits in line with Market(s) and Industry – establishing fair and proper wage scales and salary bands
*Performance Management/Development – fair and equitable process to assess performance and to develop them to achieve desired results
*Employer Branding – proactively attracting the right people who fit your organization and goals. Ensuring your employees have a great experience working for you and will share it with prospects!

#2 Leadership. This pillar, at the highest level, is creating leaders who role model core values and behaviors and bring inspiration and development to the team. Key components of this pillar:
* Top-team, C-Level development, both as a collaborative team, working effectively together and as individuals thriving in their functional expertise and leadership of their own areas
* Emerging leader development – especially in the start-up space, first-time leaders are given huge areas of responsibilities sometimes overnight and often with no prior experience. * Developing these new leaders is critical because your employee experience is often shaped by the direct boss. Basic Leadership skills like giving and receiving feedback etc. are key here.
* Functional Academies – further development in the areas of expertise e.g. Sales Academy, Marketing Academy, Product Management etc.
* Personal Development Plans/PDPs for Individuals to thrive. People crave growth and want support to do well in the role they are in and have a vision for how it is helping shape their future

#3 Culture. Creating a working culture where everyone has a voice:
* Employee feedback/eNPS. Employee Net Promoter Score. The highest gauge of how your employees are feeling about your company is to measure the degree to which they would promote you to friends and family. Borrowing from the measurement for customer loyalty created by Bain & Company, this has become a standard practice and it’s easy to administer. Listening to what feedback you are given and acting on it are the keys to success
* Collaboration Channels, e.g. Instant messaging, Document synchronization, cloud storage, white boards etc.
* Team Celebrations – creating an all-hands approach to a culture of recognition, failebration, and communication
* Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Strategy
* Exit Interviews – gaining insights and learnings from those who have left the organization

#4 Compliance and Labour Law, Health and Safety. Mitigating risk for your growing business and treating your employees fairly and within the law
* Code of Conduct – establishing this in the early days helps both you and your employees establish proper ways of working
* Foundational and basic local labour law wherever you do business
* HRIS and having the right systems to pay people, track time and attendance and when scaling, having an applicant tracking system to manage the selection work flows and the massive amounts of applicants, interviews, assessment and offers
* Employee “Speak-Up” process to safely and anonymously share concerns or report violations
Adherence to Health and Safety laws and workplace guidelines

Don’t be overwhelmed by this comprehensive list. Some may wonder “is all this necessary – at this point?” The answer is a resounding YES! The strength and depth of your team is a leading indicator of your ability to achieve your goals. As you continue to define and refine your growth strategy and roadmap, ensure that you integrate a solid People Strategy to support your mission, vision and values. There is heavy lifting involved to implement a strong people strategy; therefore, the selection of a top, experienced People Professional is one of the most important hiring decisions you will make. The ideal professional will become your right-hand, a trusted partner and confidant. This hiring decision will be a huge difference maker in growing your company.

We can help! Please reach out to us at because this is what we do. Our passion lies in helping early-stage scaling companies grow their business. You are a courageous risk taker and we are people experts. Let us partner with you to put this framework into action and get you Ready to Scale.