Adding Human Resources Early is Key to Fostering Great Company Culture and Helping Startups to Succeed

Startups and small businesses are so busy in the early stages that human resources isn’t always a priority.

But it should be, said Megan Duncan, Founder, and CEO of Cambara Duncan Consulting Firm LLC, based in Austin.

“As soon as a business has 15 employees, they need H.R.,” she said. But ideally, they should be setting up the framework for human resources in the organization at five employees, she said.

Human resources help a company scale and succeed, Duncan said. Those that do it well early on reap huge benefits in the marketplace, she said. Duncan, an Austin native, has years of human resources experience and a master’s degree in Industrial-Organizational Psychology and is completing her DBA in human resources management.

There are all kinds of software programs and apps that help small businesses and startups handle human resource issues, but the best way is to hire a professional to work with a business to lay the foundation for human resources, Duncan said. That way the solutions can be tailored to fit your business’ problems and needs, she said. HR is not a one-size fits all solution, she said.

“HR is important because businesses need to have guidelines and policies to help their employees know how to perform properly,” Duncan said. “Moreover, managers need to have a guideline for what their employees’ performance looks like. It needs to be spelled out for them.”

Human resources keep all employees on track to achieve company goals, Duncan said.

“When you go from five to ten employees that’s not a lot to manage, but when you go from 10 to 20 to 50 employees, you really need to have a foundation in place,” Duncan said.  “That’s a lot of chaos and there is a lot of makeshifts going on. Without consistency, there is chaos. And then you do have the bad employee experience and bad culture.”

H.R. keeps a business in legal compliance with local, state, and national laws concerning the health and safety of employees, Duncan said. It also helps with recruiting, onboarding, training, and retaining employees, and it can help build a positive company culture and productive workplace, she said.

“A lot of times when you’re in a growth phase and you don’t have a person to handle human resources, you’re stretched too thin, and you may not get the best employees that you would like for your organization,” Duncan said.

And startup founders don’t necessarily have the bandwidth to do it all and that’s ok, Duncan said.

“That’s why you hire someone,” she said.

Duncan works with any company that has employees in a variety of industries from high-tech startups to restaurants and retail operations.

HR does help set a company’s culture with the founder and the people who are running the organization, Duncan said. With today’s work-from-home arrangements and remote working brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, human resources can also help foster a culture virtually, she said. 

“HR is a partnership,” she said.

In today’s competitive marketplace, it’s also important to have H.R. in place to keep valued employees, Duncan said. To retain employees, you want to pay people what’s fair, but you also want to have employee development plans in place that allows them to grow within the organization through training and other valued experiences and perks, Duncan said. Some employees value flexible work schedules and paid time off over higher raises, she said. It’s important for employers to be in tune with their employees’ needs to succeed, she said.

Cambara Duncan Consulting offers a monthly consulting service as an HR department on call. Duncan assists with employee job descriptions, recruiting, retention, and employee development, and can create an employee handbook for the company.

Companies should not wait until they hit the 50-employee milestone to establish human resources within their organization, Duncan said. Those startups are most likely to struggle with recruiting and retaining the best employees, she said.

“Also, HR is a strategic business partner,” Duncan said. “HR can identify threats out there as well as new business opportunities. They can tell you what’s coming down the pipeline from a different perspective of looking at the business or industry.”

HR can identify a disruption coming to the industry, Duncan said.