How to Develop an Enterprise-Quality HR Strategy for Your Startup

They may seem like worlds apart, but the truth is startups can learn a lot from adopting a corporate approach to HR. In fact, by bringing enterprise best practices into smaller, more agile settings, HR strategist Laurie Ruettimann suggests startups can lay a better groundwork for growing much more quickly and effectively.

“[When] there is one HR philosophy… I think that kind of strong guiding principle is often laughed at in a startup, when it could be your secret weapon.”

Laurie Ruettimann

3 Keys to Develop a Impactful, Sustainable HR Strategy

From her days at Pfizer to her current HR consultancy work, Ruettimann has seen a broad spectrum of HR strategies. The most successful are built on solid foundations with core guiding principles that help HR operate both independently and in concert with other departments within the company.

1) Develop your core HR philosophy

“One of the things I’ve learned is that human resources in a lot of these Fortune 500 companies starts at the core,” Ruettimann explains. “There are core alignments. There is a solid infrastructure. They are very thoughtful and strong planners and they know who they are from a branding standpoint.”

“As a result, there is one HR philosophy, Ruettimann says. “I think that kind of strong guiding principle is often laughed at in a startup, when it could be your secret weapon.”

2) Enable and empower HR to flourish on its own

At a startup, leadership can’t afford to micromanage. As soon as possible, senior leadership needs to give HR what they need, then get out of the way.

“The faster HR can say to their leaders, ‘Okay, we have this really strong base of HR, so now you go do you,’ the better,” says Ruettimann. “You want to get to the point where you can convey your HR philosophy to department heads, and let them know you are going to have a strong alignment around benefits, around compensation, around performance management, and this is what you need from them.”

3) Get the basics right before you outsource

Many startups don’t start adding HR capabilities in earnest until they’re urgent needs they’re already behind on. The resulting scramble often results in an ad-hoc, dysfunctional mix —  what Ruettimann calls an “unfortunate melting pot of policy” — without the centralized planning and forethought necessary to keep them focused and aligned.

“The biggest area where I get called in is around the basic HR elements,” Ruettimann says. “What I find is there’s no thoughtful HR strategy, no underpinning of how you do the business of HR at your company.”

“Outsourcing works. You can work with really smart people and companies who have different fits for small, medium, and enterprise organizations, but you have to get the basics right first.”

For more insights from Laurie, see her eBook, I Am HR: 5 Strategic Ways to Break Stereotypes and Reclaim HR.

Photo by: Jonas Nilsson Lee via Unsplash

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Rose O'Connell
Rose O'Connell
Technical Recruiter

Rose O'Connell is a technical recruiter at AthenaHealth. She was previously a Talent Specialist with OpenView.
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