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Personnel Management for Startups

One of the most important assets in any business is its employees. However, startups usually place all their focus on the daily operations of the business, and personnel management/performance management can thus be ignored. These early-stage companies eventually find themselves reaching a cruz where their talent management processes aren’t keeping up with growth. In the early stages of building a company, recruiting and retaining the right talent for your organization is just as crucial as having a great service or product!

In this article, we list some important steps for startups to consider as they build out their personnel management strategy.

Talent Strategy

1) Define their values

Startups should define their company values early on. Values are the fundamental beliefs of an organization, and startups need to find people that understand and embody these values. Company values help shape company culture, which will influence employee experience, engagement, and productivity.

To that end, company values need to be integrated into the day-to-day of your company so that employees can live by and practice these values. Unbelievably, only 27 percent of U.S. employees strongly agree that they believe in their organization’s values! This is because most company values just live in the employee handbook or on the company website, and hence they are rarely reviewed.

Some ways to showcase company values are to:

  • clearly and frequently communicating the company’s values (during feedback conversations and internal memos)

  • aligning core values with behaviors expected from employees

  • continuously monitoring employees’ actions and behaviors

If you are looking for a strategic consultant to help you build your values/competencies, feel free to reach out. At iota consultants, we have a workshop that can help you create unique company values.

2) Create goal alignment

Having clear goals and objectives is imperative. Half of the workforce doesn’t know what is expected of them. Managers should understand the company’s mission, clearly communicate the objectives, and make them easily accessible and visible for all team members.

A common question that startups often face is “should I use OKRs?”

OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) are often used to cascade goals from the organizational level to department level and then to the individual level. This helps create alignment as employees can understand how their objectives contribute to the overall strategies and objectives of the organizations. With many startups, company strategies and objectives are frequently adapting. This means that departmental and individual objectives would need to be adjusted each time a organization objectives changes. For many startups, this is a significant exercise that may not be worth management's time.

We are not saying that a startup should not attempt to align goals. One option can be to set up OKRS at the organizational and department levels and let managers delegate/adapt their own key results as needed.

3) Develop competencies

Competencies are characteristics/skills that are needed to successfully perform the job. They also speak to the types of behaviors an organization values. Each role at your organization will have certain competencies associated with. If you want employees to know how to do their job well, develop your competencies! We list some examples below.

Leadership competency examples:

  • Make key decisions without sacrificing speed and efficiency

  • Provides clear goals and objectives for teams to follow

  • Maintains high ethical and moral standards

  • Is open to new ideas and approaches

  • Is committed to ongoing training

Teamwork competency examples:

  • Clearly communicates with team members

  • Stresses the importance of all team members contributions

  • Respects the opinions of all team members

  • Ability to work within team structure, and negotiate and management conflict

  • Encourages collaboration between colleagues

If you need help developing your competency framework, feel free to reach out!

4) Create and sustain robust feedback processes

When will you address company values, competencies, and objectives with your employees? The answer is through feedback!

Developing a culture of feedback is easiest early on. Creating a culture of feedback in which people feel share feedback in real-time has many benefits including:

  • increases employee motivation

  • increases employee engagement & productivity

  • enables better work relationships

Feedback also is your employee performance data. With that data, you can make better training and talent decisions. Establishing this culture of feedback may be easier than you think as the majority of employees want more feedback. To create a culture of feedback, enforce the right processes and rituals (i.e., hold people accountable to 1 feedback a week). Overtime, sharing feedback will become second nature and people will share feedback because they want to, not because they have to.

When it comes to documenting feedback, pen-and-paper approaches or Google Sheets can be sufficient. As a company begins to grow, having a robust performance management solution would be advisable as it will store all performance data in one place, and it will simplify and streamline employee performance management processes.


Your talent cannot be replicated, and talent is one of the defining features that separate your company from your competitors. Thinking and investing in your performance management strategy will be worth it.

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