Using HR Data To Grow Your Startup

In his book Fish, Stephen C. Lundin tells the story of Pike Place Fish Market, a story of employee engagement and personal leadership. In this place, employees, whose tasks involve cleaning and gutting fish, cleaning up the “muck,” wrapping fish as customers wait for their orders, and even throwing those wrapped packages to those waiting customers. All of these employees, involved in a pretty dirty work environment, are having so much fun that people are stopping to join and film them. Why do you think that is? The answer may lie in the owner’s “gut” feelings about keeping employees motivated and happy. But his decision is actually supported by science. HR data shows that happy employees make good business sense; that and a great place to work.

You are an entrepreneur, and your business is growing to the point that you will be employing people to assume various functions in your company – an accountant, and IT manager and other IT staff, clerical personnel, and a warehouse manager. You have to interview, hire, provide orientation, determine salaries, and figure out how you keep those who are productive and valuable. You have been thrust into a leadership role, perhaps without any HR experience or academic background. Where do you go to find the information you need to make good hires, to keep good employees on board, and to create an environment that fosters productivity and job satisfaction?

Much of the information can be found in HR data. There is a body of research out there related to HR practices that small business owners can learn from, as they wade into HR decision-making.

The Interview Process

There has been a lot of research on structured vs. unstructured interviews. A structured interview is one in which the questions are crafted in advance, are asked of every candidate, and the results are used to compare candidates, in order to make a decision. Certain studies indicate that a structured interview can be more effective because true comparisons can be made. And it removes the subjective factors such as appearance.

Your key takeaway should be to devise questions that are specific to your company and to your goals. A bank, for example, has very different goals than a graphic design startup. The questions must be devised to get at the real “fit” of a candidate with company goals, culture, and procedures. If you can develop 10 good questions that get at your priorities, a structured interview may be the way to go.

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Onboarding Activities

Once a new hire starts work, there is a process of orientation or onboarding. The purpose is two-fold – educate on typical processes and procedures, etc. and providing opportunities for the new hire to become acclimated to the climate and other employees. Studies do show that 77% of employees who go through a solid onboarding process do make it through their probationary period and meet milestones of company expectations.

Your task is to plan and implement onboarding activities that puts your new hire at ease, fosters self-confidence, and provides the mentoring that s/he may need – these are the things that the research says work.

At some point, as you scale, you will need to develop an HR policy manual. This will require lots of thought and careful planning.

Employee Retention

One of the most comprehensive studies on employee retention was completed by the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development. As a part of its study, it reported that 78% of employers have difficulty keeping their good employees.

Here are the recommendations that came out of the collected data, along with some other current research.

There is a Salary “Sweet Spot”

A separate study of salaries in what are considered high growth career fields (e.g., tech, e-commerce, digital media) showed that employees whose earnings fell between $80,000 – $100,000 were more likely to stay in their positions for at least two years, while those below and above were more likely to leave. Finding the salary sweet spot in your niche may take some research, but it is worth the effort if you find exceptional employees and want to keep them.

Recognize and Care for Your Top Performers

Salaries do contribute to job satisfaction, especially for high-performing employees who are segregated upward from low-performing ones. Pay, however, is not the only type of recognition that employees cover. Additional recognition in the form of office space, bonuses, public praise, and other perks are also pretty important.

Promote Employee “Ownership”

When employees feel “invested” in the business, they tend to have greater job satisfaction, are more productive, and stick around. When they believe that they play an important role in the company’s success, they want to stay.

Provide Perks that Mean Something

Today, as millennials move into the workforce, it will be important to take a look at what types of perks they find valuable. And sometimes, it may be wise to individualize perks by allowing employee selection among several options. One might prefer a gym membership while another season tickets to a sports team’s events.

Promote a Company Culture

A sense of community among a workforce is considered important to employees. Sharing the same values and norms, having one another’s backs, and operating with a strong sense of integrity are some of the “cultural” aspects of a workforce that exhibit job satisfaction.

Provide Professional Development Opportunities

A research study published by found that employees who were given opportunities for professional growth, paid for by their employers, had a higher retention rate. And if there is obvious upward mobility within a company, employees who believe that they can strive for those positions will stick around.


Again, adopting flexibility in terms of hours and where employees work may be necessary, especially for millennial employees. There is a sense on the part of younger employees that they should be provided with work goals and that they should be empowered to achieve those goals in their own fashion, and be evaluated on accomplishments, rather than hours on the job.

From the interview process through methods to retain high performing employees, there is a body of research that can point startup owners in the right direction as they anticipate adding to their workforce. Every business is unique, however, and the wise small business owner will use the data, tempered by his/her own assessment wisdom.

Download the white paper and see how you can create an integrated, engaging employee experience using people analytics!

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About the author:

Janet Anthony is a blogger from Kansas City and content writer at BestEssay. Education who has been writing professionally for five years now. Her motto is “What you do today can improve all your tomorrows”.