At What Stage Does Your Startup Need a Full-Time HR Manager?

20th Sep 2014
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I was born in a nuclear family and both my parents were working individuals. When I was born, my mom took a sabbatical for the first few years to dedicatedly take care of me, like so many Moms. By the time I was four, my Mom thought of getting back to work and that’s when I was first introduced to my ‘Ayah’. For those of you unfamiliar with the word, an ‘Ayah’ is a domestic help whose primarily responsibility is to take care of the children in the household. In other lingo too this role is referred to with equal respect as ‘Amah’ or ‘Nanny’.

HRManager

Fast forwarding to 2011 when we started Zepo! We grew from a small team of 4 people in 2012 to a 40+ team right now. And our baby, Zepo, continues to grow! Now, when we have started looking for our ‘Ayah’, our first HR manager, I know exactly what my mom must’ve gone through before she hired that first ‘Ayah’ for me. :-) Because as far as I see it, in every start-up:

“Parents” = Founder/(s) and your early employees

“The Baby” = The Startup and all your employees

“The Ayah” = Your first HR Manager

You’ve seen parents endlessly dote over their newborn, haven’t you? Now, look at a Founder animatedly talk about his start-up. See any similarities? A start-up is as pampered and doted upon by its Founder and those first employees.

The Founder make the first hire. The initial employees set the culture and become the pall-bearers of that culture. But over a period of time, all these people get busy. The humdrum of everyday activities catches on to them. They have to scale the operations, grow the revenue multifold, raise new rounds of funding and the list goes on and on.

So many activities cut into the time of when you also need to be nurturing your start-up. The baby doesn’t get as much attention now. That is when you become hard-pressed for a guardian to take care of the baby and its needs.

As a thumb rule, we think there are two factors that helped us decide that it was time for our first ‘Ayah’ to be brought in.

1.     Rate of Hiring

Earlier, our hiring was sporadic and we didn’t really feel the need for an HR manager. Now, when we are on a hiring spree, hiring around 3-4 team members each month, it has become too time consuming a process for it to be handled by the founder + the employees themselves.

2.     Current Team Size

Some startups hire an HR manager at 50 employees, some when they reach a 100. Our team is now a 40 people team and we think we’ve reached the tipping point where we need to have an HR.

What are the qualities that we looked for in our first HR manager?

An ‘Ayah’ usually takes care of one or two babies in the house. She has to make sure the babies are fed, are healthy, read the right books and are growing up in an environment that fosters growth.

Much like what is needed in a startup, from keeping the employees fed to creating a work culture that promotes growth. Only difference being, here the Ayah or the HR manager has not 2-3 babies but an entire startup to take care of! And that is 30 to 40 employees under one roof. Phew!

So what are we looking for in our first HR manager?

1.     They Care

An HR knows the good from the bad. They genuinely care for each person in the company without any bias or prejudice. And ensure each one gets what they deserve. They have the ability to see the other person’s point of view, without being judgmental and provide for the same.

2.     They are Great Listeners and are Very Attentive

They truly love people and that’s what makes them approachable. They are great listeners and can ‘read’ people. They are great in communication and people skills.

3.     They are Good Counsellors (Problem Solvers)

They are the ‘Agony Aunt’ in any company. You have a problem, this is the person to go to. Be it a current team member or a prospective employee, they always help people in coming to the best decisions (even if that means, that a candidate doesn’t join your company). They believe in relationships and are trusted advisors.

4.     They Keep the People Connected

An HR loves to keep the team connected. They make every attempt to remove any grudges that may occur under work pressure. They make sure that the work environment is always in harmony.

5.     They Nurture Talent

Every team member is different; they have different goals and needs. An HR cares about each one of them and their success and is interested in helping them achieve it. They put in all the efforts to nurture the talent and keep the people motivated.

Our hiring tipping point came at 40+ employees. As founders, you may reach that tipping point at 20 or at 100. But whenever you go looking for an HR manager, look for the guardian, the Ayah. Your HR should be able take care of your start-up (and all its employees) like you do. And you should be able to entrust them with that responsibility.

If you are an HR professional and just caught yourself agreeing to the post, we are looking for you! :-) Join us & help us scale and nurture our startup. We’re hiring our first HR manager @ Zepo!

What has been your experience in hiring HR for your start-up? Do you have tips for us, something we missed?

About the author:

Nitin Purswani, Founder, Zepo

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