Scaling your people processes from Pre-Seed to Series A
As a startup gains momentum and progresses from the Seed stage to the pivotal Series A round, transforming from a tight-knit team of less than twenty people to a burgeoning diverse workforce of around eighty is an exciting yet challenging journey. The HR teams’ strategies during this period can significantly impact a company’s growth trajectory and overall success.
How can you best prepare to ensure your company thrives at this crucial moment?
In this article, we’ll delve into detailed insights from HR and talent experts at established VC funds such as CREANDUM and TheVentureCity as well as the HR agency Unleashed, which works with ambitious start-ups to co-design and build scalable, high-impact people strategy and infrastructure. This article will help you navigate the intricacies of scaling HR processes effectively and maintaining a thriving company culture at several growth stages.
From 0 to 20 employees
This is the initial stage, when most startups have secured pre-seed funding or closed their first customers and have started to hire the first employees.
As Michelle Coventry, Head of Talent at CREANDUM, says, “At this stage, it’s crucial to get the fundamentals right. Too often, we see founders outsourcing their talent processes to juniors. Setting up an end-to-end employee experience — designing your people experience with a product mindset covering everything from talent acquisition to assessments through to onboarding processes — sets the bar for your company’s DNA. Pay attention to the details and trust in the v.1 of your processes to set a foundational operating system right from the start.”
From 20 to 40 employees
At this point, the hiring cadence is at full speed and most founders hire a second people ops partner to maintain and build on the ‘version 1.0’ people experience partner. Now more than ever, there is an experienced ecosystem of people partners who can straddle TA and People Operations ensuring a joined-up employee experience. Bringing this experienced talent in earlier than you feel is necessary will pay dividends in setting you up for scale-up success.
From 40 to 60 employees
As your startup grows to a scaleup, it’s crucial to maintain, iterate and develop your strong company culture and ensure that everyone is aligned with your mission and values.
Carlos Montes, VP of People at TheVentureCity, emphasizes the importance of setting a solid foundation in three areas: culture, communication, and goal alignment. “At this stage, it’s common for teams to begin operating in silos.” To prevent this, Montes recommends ensuring cross-functional alignment by creating regular touchpoints through transparent goal setting and KPI tracking as well as company, team, and 1:1 meetings that can help keep everyone informed and aligned.”
Likewise, Hanna Keal, Chief People Officer at Unleashed, emphasizes aligning your people processes with your broader business strategy:
“By seeking regular feedback from your team, you can define clear objectives and design principles for different parts of your People infrastructure. For instance, if you’re building a compensation philosophy, your objective could be to ‘fairly reward high performance,’ and you could choose ‘transparency’ and ‘clarity’ as your key design principles. When your team is small, you can build a simple process with these principles in mind — and then revisit them to help you evolve your compensation framework as you grow. This continuous iteration approach is much better than simply fixing processes when the need arises.”
From 60 to 80 employees
One common mistake Carlos Montes notes is hiring too quickly and focusing only on a candidate’s background and experience. Ensuring a cultural match should be a top priority to bring people into the team who align with your vision, mission, and values.
As you approach eighty employees, listening to your team is crucial as they will likely be experiencing the common struggles that come with — often rapid — company growth. Setting up pulse surveys can provide valuable insights into your team’s sentiments and needs. It’s not enough to collect this feedback, though. You must also commit to making necessary changes based on the input received.
For this crucial phase, Montes also emphasizes the importance of founders still having a final conversation with every candidate before they’re hired. This ensures that the team continues to grow in alignment with the company’s mission and values.
How do I know if my company is on the right track?
Tracking the right KPIs can give you an objective way of measuring how well your organization is doing in terms of employee satisfaction and performance.
- Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS) — The employee net promoter score shows how workers feel about your organization, and it is based on one simple question: “How likely are you to recommend us as a place to work for your family and friends?” You should aim to continuously measure and improve your eNPS, as it signifies a favorable work environment. However, remember that this score should be interpreted in context — especially if you’re pushing employees to achieve ambitious goals.
- Turnover rate — A low turnover rate is usually associated with a healthy culture. However, it’s essential to be aware that not every hiring decision always works out, and this is something that is natural and should be accepted. Therefore, a certain degree of turnover is natural. However, you can dig deeper into whether your turnover rate indicates an underlying problem by conducting exit interviews and asking voluntary leavers for feedback.
Key takeaways to consider as you scale your business
Scaling your people processes from Pre-Seed to Series A involves careful planning, proactive hiring, and continuous communication to maintain a solid company culture.
Here are some key takeaways for each stage:
- 0-20 employees — Founders should not fully outsource their talent processes to interns or junior employees. Instead, they should focus on setting up an end-to-end employee experience, including interviewing and onboarding processes.
- 20-40 employees — As hiring speed increases, consider hiring a talent acquisition person and a part-time HR advisor. This ensures that both the operational and talent acquisition aspects of HR are covered.
- 40-60 employees — Maintain a strong company culture and ensure alignment with your mission and values. Regular touchpoints such as OKR check-ins, 1:1s, and all-hands meetings can help keep everyone informed and aligned.
- 60-80 employees — Ensure a cultural fit when hiring, and gain insight into your team’s sentiments and needs through regular surveys. Founders should have a final conversation with every candidate before they’re hired to ensure alignment with the company’s mission and values.
- Tracking progress — Use KPIs like the eNPS and your turnover rate to measure employee satisfaction and retention. Remember to interpret these scores in context and use feedback from exit interviews to determine any underlying issues.
Keep in mind that the strategies you implement during these stages can significantly impact your company’s growth trajectory and overall success, so it’s important to get them right. If you’re looking for a people enablement solution to support you on this journey, feel free to check out our Leapsome for Startups program or directly book a call with us.
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