Tales from the Startup HR Trenches: Q&A with Signpost HR Manager Salima Ladha
Salima Ladha, HR Manager at Signpost, reflects on her experiences over the past year and her role in helping Signpost scale to 200+ employees in 2014.
We can all agree tech startups have a lot to tackle. From building a competitive product to becoming a thought leader in their market to ultimately growing their team and brand, while each piece of the puzzle is equally important, growth is often where much of the focus goes. Scaling teams and keeping pace with growth projections is easier said than done.
New York-based Signpost — whose cloud-based marketing software gives local, small business owners the power to effortlessly build and manage customer relationships — is currently facing that challenge. Signpost has seen a year of successes, and is currently looking to accelerate and expand on those in 2015. The company was recently named one of Crain’s best places to work in 2014, with HR Manager Salima Ladha playing an integral role in contributing to that achievement. Having joined the company this past year, Salima has accomplished a great deal in a short period of time — helping to develop and institute new employee programs, policies, and procedures that have Signpost fully equipped to scale with their ramped hiring efforts.
I had the chance to ask Salima about her experiences and the distinct challenges/opportunities of developing HR operations at a fast-growing startup. Here’s what she had to say.
Why did you decide to join Signpost?
Prior to joining Signpost, and before it, OpenView, I had worked in the tech sector with larger companies for several years. When the opportunity arose to join a startup with great potential and a vibrant culture, I knew I wanted to pursue this new adventure and help the company grow and transition into a leader in the space.
In early 2014, Signpost was looking to hire someone to build its HR operations and strategy, and position the function to achieve the company’s growth aspirations. As Signpost was scaling quite extensively, the new HR position was tasked with shaping a robust HR strategy and shifting relevant processes, programs, and practices into a more comprehensive HR management system.
What were the first systems you implemented when you started?
I began by standardizing key HR policies and procedures across our three offices and addressed any critical gaps. This work impacted multiple processes including onboarding, compensation, performance management, and other areas of the business.
We also wanted to get feedback from employees on how they felt we were doing. I focused on implementing a survey to establish a baseline and identify trends to inform future program decisions for improvement.
What were some of the obstacles you anticipated versus what you actually experienced?
Given that I was joining a startup, I was expecting to encounter some resistance to the implementation of structured HR policies and processes. Once I started I was pleasantly surprised to realize that the opposite held true and that our implementation cycles were very quick. As such, we were able to accomplish a lot in a very short period of time.
What onboarding programs are in place to keep up with Signpost’s growth?
Most of our hires are inside sales reps, and as such, we’ve designed specialized onboarding initiatives to help these hires quickly ramp up and be successful in their new roles. Some of the initiatives in place include a monthly new hire class for about 25-30 new sales hires, a comprehensive training program during the first week, and a mentorship program with experienced sales staff and trainers over the first two months at the company.
With our other (non-sales) hires, we try to structure their onboarding process similarly. These hires learn the different functions of the company and get very close interaction with their managers and teams to help ensure their ramp up is smooth.
We are fortunate to have very strong management and training teams who lead most of the onboarding process, particularly as it relates to job-specific knowledge and responsibilities. My role then is to provide an overview on matters concerning HR and outline the role of other teams in the company so that new hires have an understanding of how Signpost works.
How have you tried to make HR more efficient?
Structure! When you first join a startup in any position, the foundation needs to be laid so that you can focus on other things. For me, that structure now allows us to focus on HR strategy and how we wish to grow and develop as a company.
What are you most proud of as you reflect on 2014 with Signpost?
It’s hard to pinpoint just one thing because many come to mind as we’ve grown substantially over the past year together. In general, I am happy we have more structure in place, enabling us to grow and manage our employee base more efficiently.
I am also really proud about the fact that our employees truly act like owners here. Each employee has a stake and takes pride in making Signpost the best place to work. My job is to work with each of them to help propel their ideas into reality. Over the past year, we’ve had numerous employee-driven initiatives including intermural sports teams, charity drives, book clubs and much more.
Additional HR Resources
Looking for more tips on developing and optimizing a startup HR function?
- 3 Reasons Why Your Startup Needs HR by Salima Ladha
- The Biggest HR Mistake Founders Make by Ben Russell
- 10 Hiring & Retention Metrics for Fast-Growing Startups by Tien Anh Nguyen