As you begin your startup, you're concerned about getting the idea, getting the funding, and getting the customers, but at some point, you are going to need to start thinking about getting a human resources expert on board. It's no fun to have to use your limited funds for someone in a "cost center" role, but bringing someone onboard at the right time will actually save you money in the long run. Here are five signs that it's time to bring an expert in-house.
1. You've got 50 employees. Fifty employees is when the big laws, like FMLA, kick in. Other laws start earlier, at 15 employees, and some start when you reach two, but by the time you've got 50 people on your staff, you really need someone who can help you navigate the alphabet soup imposed by your federal, state, and local governments. These laws seem simple on their face, but they can be very, very complicated. You need an expert.
2. You're growing fast. When you're hiring rapidly, it's nice to have one person who is focused on hiring. Yes, your managers should be making those final decisions and should even screen applicants when possible, but having someone who can coordinate, make sure you're in compliance with the laws, write offer letters, and manage background checks and the onboarding process can really make your office run much more smoothly.
3. You're having a culture crisis. Yes, you as the owner/founder/president set the culture, but as your company grows, it's sometimes difficult to hold onto that culture. Additionally, there's a question of whether holding onto that culture is a good idea. When some employees start to feel disenfranchised, it's a good idea to have an expert in organizational development to help out.
4. You need help communicating. While HR makes suggestions and gives advice, the final decision is yours: HR never, ever sets the policy. (If they do, you're doing it wrong.) Don't hire HR if you'll be attempting to blame your HR person for your unpopular decisions. However, if it's a necessary policy, your HR person should be able to help you explain why it's necessary. She should also be able to help you figure out what best practices are in order to make things even better.
5. You need help with the people side of things. You're an expert in your product, but are you an expert in your people? A good HR person can help you determine what will make employees the happiest and most productive. She can reduce the amount of paperwork on your desk and develop processes that can streamline personnel issues. She can also coach, counsel, and advise employees and help smooth over ruffled feathers. This skill doesn't come naturally to every startup founder, so it's worth looking into.
Not every HR person is a good HR person. You want to be careful that you hire someone with not only the right skills and knowledge, but who can share your vision of how the company should be. You also want someone who can stand up to you and say, "No, that is illegal and unethical." Because the main purpose of HR is to help the business succeed, you want someone who can do that. Someone who can keep you in compliance with the law, help your employees succeed, and hire the best people will be a benefit to your company.