Emerging Leaders Singapore: What Does HR Mean in a Startup?

5 Minutes

On Thursday the 21st of June the Elliott Scott HR Singapore team hosted an Emerging Leaders ...

On Thursday the 21st of June the Elliott Scott HR Singapore team hosted an Emerging Leaders event. Emerging Leaders is a platform for junior and mid-level HR professionals, providing networking opportunities as well as career advice from some of Singapore’s most-renowned HR leaders.

In this session we explored the importance of having an HR presence in even the smallest of businesses with Judit Hordai, Senior HR Manager of RedMart and Anne Caron, Partner at Trellis Asia. Judit helped RedMart build out its HR function when it was a start-up and Anne helps start-up’s in Southeast Asia build their HR department and provides support to their leadership teams. They both shared some key points on HR in a start-up; when to involve it and what to consider: Introduce HR as early as possible: A good time to bring in HR is when the company starts to receive more investment in Series B to C of its funding process, especially as it’s experiencing growth so will need to put a hiring process in place.

Often companies wait too long due to juggling priorities and focusing on turning a profit. As the HR professional will be growing the function and putting its policies and processes in place from scratch, the company will require someone senior with experience to ensure smooth growth, but this comes at a price. A way to tackle this is to start out by double-hatting with the C-suite picking up other areas of business (such as the HR function) until the company is ready. Nail the company culture: ‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast’. Culture is vital in a start-up and needs to be created from the beginning, it can evolve over time, but it’s difficult to introduce and change once the company is up and running. Introduce values that can be put into action, they will be important when matching prospective employees to the organisation. For example, RedMart wanted to encourage a customer first and accountability culture at all levels of the organization. Therefore, every single new joiner has the opportunity to experience how orders are fulfilled and starts off picking, packing and delivering customer orders.

Next scale the hiring process and build an employee brand for talent attraction, this is critical in a start-up as initially there is little to no brand awareness of the company, which makes is hard to attract talent. At RedMart they focused on developing the career page of their website, adding a recruitment video and more information about the company. They also introduced a more robust recruitment process to manage the time it would take to fill a position. Putting processes in place can seem daunting however they are essential to streamline and scale the business.

Mind-set: Working at a start-up is a great opportunity to help build something from scratch and explore new and innovative solutions for problems. This is also a vital value proposition that attracts new recruits to join the start-up. Employees need to be flexible as it’s a fast paced and constantly evolving environment compared to a structured organisation. There is a high level of accountability at a start-up but there is the opportunity to work closely with the founders in a more fluid hierarchy.

Don’t be afraid of making mistakes, take them as a challenge and learn from them quickly. Manage expectations: As the business and expectations grow, it is necessary to be agile, manage and adapt to changes. Employees might start expecting a better value proposition in line with this growth, such as benefits. Change management is important to traverse. Some business changes can be made quickly and others may take longer to enable smooth launch and adoption from employees. Be sure to take the time to develop the right processes for the company, RedMart decided to undertake a two-year journey to put in place the right performance management process and system.

Be Curious: In the workplace ask lots of questions in order to gain a full understanding of the business. Outside of work everyone should put aside time for their professional and personal development. Take on new skills by self-teaching or taking short courses, they will help foster creative thinking and enable the individual to adapt what has been learnt into their role as well as increasing employability.

Many start-up leaders say they wish they had given a headcount to HR earlier. HR helps start-ups to accelerate their journey. This people function has a huge impact on hiring and organisational growth especially when the business is scaling.

You are never too small to have an HR function!

If you would be interested in attending any of our future events, follow us on LinkedIn and keep an eye on our events page.