Start-ups are fast-moving hectic environments but don’t forget your people

Regardless of the size of your business, there are many considerations in the fast-moving start-up environment, including:

  • Getting the right people in key roles.
  • Obtaining reliable suppliers and stock.
  • Gaining a place in the market and securing customers or clients.
  • Having systems in place for IT, purchase, payment and warehousing and so on.

Something that should not be overlooked is the processes to take care of your staff and satisfy your duty of care.

This starts with having behavioural policies that detail the expectations of the workplace and misconduct.

Misconduct can be generally divided into two categories

1. Misconduct against a person:

  • Bullying, harassment, sexual harassment and discrimination.
  • Breach of Code of Conduct involving the above.

2. Misconduct against the organisation, breach of policy:

  • Social media.
  • Use of email, IT, internet.
  • Expenses.
  • Credit cards.
  • Travel.

It the fast-moving environment it is dangerous to assume that your new or inexperienced employees will understand the behavioural expectations of your organisation especially when it comes to interpersonal actions.

Start-up organisations can be caught off guard and not knowing what to do when complaints are made.  Having your blood pressure go through the roof at the mention of bullying or sexual harassment is very bad for your health.

Training is important

  • For staff to understand their behavioural requirements.
  • For managers to have the skills to manage staff and deal with complaints and misconduct.

In my experience, this sort of training is far too often put into the “we don’t have time for this” basket.

Why do managers need training to manage?

A manager may be very good at their jobs such as an IT Manager but have very little people skills. If they have had no training in this area the result can be bullying complaints or loss of valuable employees due to the new manger’s approach, tone, attitude, methods and general lack of people and communication skills.

I have seen this happen in start-ups where the manager is employed or promoted to get the job done without consideration of how they will interact and manage their people.

And what happens when an employee simply can cut it in the fast-moving start-up environment, are the managers equipped to have difficult conversations about performance?

What about the HR Manager?

HR Managers in start-ups may be working alone. In addition to skills in recruiting, leadership development, policy writing, developing and implementing HR strategies and initiatives aligned with the overall business strategy they may be required to manage employee relations issues such as grievances and complaints.

What is the priority, business strategy or people issues?

Your employees must know that they can trust the HR manager or their manager if they come to them with an issue.

Lesson for start-ups

  • Don’t forget your people.
  • Don’t put off having your behavioural policies in place.
  • Train your staff on the expectations.
  • Train your managers, give them the skills needed for people management, especially the difficult conversations.
  • Have a trusted and responsive reporting mechanism in place for workplace issues.
  • Train your HR department and managers in how to deal with employee issues such as bullying in the workplace efficiently and fairly.

Phil O’Brien, Principal, Australian Workplace Training and Investigation

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