5 startup HR challenges and how to tackle them

HR challenges

Startups struggle with numerous things. Funding, scaling, and lead generating just to name a few. But while all these aspects are vital, they are nothing without having the right team. After all, they’re the essence of your company — your most important asset. But building and managing a team can sometimes be the most challenging of all. Especially if you’ve never done it before.

As a startup, there’s pressure to grow fast. Under this pressure, other key aspects might be overlooked. Thinking about HR issues is likely not the top priority of a stressed founding team. Establishing onboarding protocols and HR processes can seem important, but at the same time not as important as getting more clients. But nonetheless, startups need to think about this today.

Let’s go through 5 common HR hurdles that startups struggle with. The first one, of course, is hiring.


So, you’ve got your founding team setup. Perfect. Next, it’s time to find the rockstars that will compensate for your weaknesses and skyrocket your business to the next level. You should pay extra attention to your first ten key hires. These will constitute the lifeblood of your company.

So the bets are high. How do you maximize your chances of hiring a great team? First, set out to hire deliberately — don’t just go with the first one that seems good enough. Hire to create diversity within the organization, where one person’s lack can be compensated by another’s skill.

As a rule of thumb, look for employees that:

  • Compensate for your weaknesses: Don’t hire people whose job you can do — and don’t be the smartest person in the room. Build a team that compensates for lack.
  • Share your company values: It’s important that you hire people who are a cultural fit.
  • Have a growth-mindset: Hire for potential, not only for skill. Curious people that are willing to learn, are better than skilled, but hard-headed, individuals in the long run.
  • Are team players: Suffice to say, you’re building a team and you want people who can leave their egos at the door and do what they can to move the team forward.

It’s hard to know all this from the start. Therefore, you should always hire with a trial period. Within three months or so, you should have seen whether new hires tick the boxes or not. And while they likely won’t excel in all the above areas, as long as they possess these qualities to a certain degree you should have a strong hire on your hands.


Once you’ve found your perfect fit, it’s time to get them up to speed. By simply putting them in place and expecting them to figure it out, you’re in for a long runway. Your goal should naturally be to have them kicking ass as soon as possible, and this is done through proper onboarding.

  • Clean workspace: Seems obvious, but might not be.
  • A proper introduction: Show them how the company works and who does what.
  • Access to the digital infrastructure: Get them onboard with GDrive and any task management systems you need.
  • A clear understanding of the goals: Why are they doing what they’re doing? This is key for engaging employees.

These are the absolute basics. But if possible — and not all organizations can do this — provide them with a mentor. Having someone guide you through the initial stages can help tremendously. Even if you’ve got a very competent new hire, they likely can’t hit the ground running at full speed. But with the right mentor, you should soon have them performing at top capacity.

Once proper onboarding has been done, make sure to schedule regular check-ins. These can happen as frequently as every week, and go on for the first two-three months. That way you can get a feel how they’re doing, and resolve any issues that arise. Carefully monitor their performance so that you can both help ensure the new employee can do their truly best work.


Onboarding naturally leads into the concept of training. While onboarding is a finite aspect, employee development should ideally be ongoing. Of course the employee is set to develop organically in their role, but organized training will help further that.

Regardless, there are some clear benefits of training your employees. This can help attract and retain talent, increase employee engagement, and be an overall good return on investment.

How your employee training looks like will obviously differ vastly depending on organization and role. But there are a few things you can do:

  • Set clear targets.
  • Set clear personal goals for development.
  • Provide mentoring and feedback.
  • Provide professional training.


Regardless of proper onboarding and training, employees don’t always work out. This could either be because they’re not performing at the desired level, or that you simply have to let someone go because of organizational reasons. Either way, it’s not fun. More than likely, it’s the worst part of any manager’s job.

Measure performance carefully. Both in more qualitative terms such as simple attitude and effort, as well as actual quantitative results. If you identify serious performance issues that lack proper explanation, you should consider terminating the contract. Just ensure the process is objectively driven and documented accordingly.


Documentation can seem dreary. Especially to a fast-moving startup. But it’s key. Lack of documentation happens to all types of organizations, big or small. And while not keeping proper track of all things might seem somewhat trivial, in the long run it will hamper your management process. As a consequence, this will lead to reduced trust from your employees.

Documentation isn’t simply up to HR. Monitoring execution should be up to the team at large. Establish proper processes for keeping documentation of key aspects of the business. And the sooner you can do this, the better. You might start out small where documentation isn’t vital, but if things go well — you might soon find yourself in a very unorganized large organization.


The above challenges are by no means unique, and it’s something almost all startups face at some point. Over time, you will need an HR team to properly handle these challenges. While it can consist of the founding team in the beginning, it should gradually shift over to its own department. With a proper HR structure, you will find it easier and smoother to scale and mobilize your business. Because after all, your employees are your most crucial investment.