If you think being a startup is difficult, you’re in for shock when you start scaling.

Being a startup is all about developing the product and figuring out who your customers are; Scaling is all about execution.

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Moving from being a startup in development phase to the scaling phase has huge implications on your operations – you’ll soon realise that some processes that worked quite well are no longer feasible as your customer base grows, or that communication is more complicated now in a team of 25 than when your team consists of only eight, or that there seems to be a gap between what your team can do and what needs to be done.

Your best tool to manage scaling? Your human resources (HR) department.

As a startup, you may have been completely fine without an actual human resources department. But you will need it as you scale, even if it’s just one dedicated employee.

So, how can HR help minimise scaling pains? Here you go:

Plan out how the organisation will grow

You started out with three people. Then five. Depending how the business grows, your company may soon be a hundred-man strong. As a startup, you hire people based largely on the current need and the available resources and more often had to ask people to multitask, change roles, or both. As you scale, these kinds of tactics get harder to manage and you will need to be proactive rather than reactive when comes to your organisations size growth.

Largely hire based on what is currently needed. It is best to plan when you will be bringing more people in as you scale.

List down the jobs that you think the company will need to get done, as well as when you think those jobs will be needed. Create benchmarks for when the plan kicks in – number of customers, sales volume, etc .- and form the structure of your organisation based on how it can help achieve the company’s vision.

Having said that…

Develop talent in alignment with the company’s vision

A gap between the skills of your current employees and the skills the company needs spell the difference between achieving the goal or not. The company’s HR needs to be in tune with its vision; the HR department’s operations should revolve around ensuring that the organisation is equipped to achieve said vision. As the company scales its business and operation, HR should ensure that it is getting the support it needs through people skills and relevant processes.

Take stock of the skills the company needs from its people to be able to reach its goals. Create a skills development  or training programme for employees to undergo, so as to gain the skills that would continue to make them relevant to the company.

Assess employees’ abilities with regularity

A scaling company needs to make sure that its employees can measure up to the increasing needs of the business. Making regular assessments on the current workforce is the best way to know what you have and make informed decisions on what you need. It is also a good way to see a trend on what is changing in your organisation and what adjustments are needed to make your organisation industry competitive.

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Create a regularly scheduled assessment of the level of technical, interpersonal, and leadership competencies of each member of the organisation. Pay particular attention to trends in employee reviews, training results, and measures of productivity. Compare your organisation’s competencies to industry standards or, if you can get data, your competitors.

Have a plan for succession and communicate it

A scaling company needs managers, and while not all management needs would come from the within the current workforce, there are a lot of advantages in tapping into employees who have been there since the beginning. If your have implemented a sound training programme, then you have already have a pool of potential managers within your organisation — a pool that has the advantage of knowing the company’s business more than any newcomer.

Whether it is for a new management position or a newly vacated one, promoting from the current ranks makes the succession and transition less jarring, as the employees are already assimilated into the company culture and had already established a work relationship with the others.

Know your employees’ career goals so you could identify not only those who are capable of managing a team, but those who wish to as well. Communicate your succession plan not only to the current management but also to those in the succession chain. Be open about discussions regarding management changes and establish programmes for employees to develop management skills.

Make data your new best friend

Taking the time to regularly collect data about people-related issues takes the guesswork out and paves the way for proper human resource planning. Employee data provides you with the insight on how your employees are faring as compared with the company’s business growth, and details on operational costs for benefits, training, and recruiting helps you see if you are still on track with your goals and budgets.

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Regularly and consistently track analytic data on human resource-related issues like employee productivity, retention, and attrition. Make the effort to record assessment results so you could build a database with which you analyse trends to use in making decisions.

Clean house and lay down the law

Personality clashes, authority problems, and work ethic disparities are just some of the people-related issues that a scaling company will have. Addressed early on and you could avoid similar situations from happening in the future; write down the solutions and you have created policies to guide your organisation.

First things first: Remember that you’re not running herd on a bunch of seven-year-olds, no matter how much it seems like it sometimes. The best thing you can do is to treat the team like the adults that they are and immediately deal with issues straight on. Do not wait for things to escalate; A difficult situation is going to be just as difficult, if not worse, later. Make sure you record how the issues were addressed, and then go write that employee handbook.

Trim the fat

Scaling is growing and growing involves knowing when to let go of things that inhibit said growth. As the company moves from being developmental to executional, you might find that there are things you need less or have now become unnecessary. Changes in processes, skill set requirements, and management may need to be implemented so that the company can fully scale its business.

Make the hard decisions. Determine which processes, job positions, and even people you may have needed as a startup but are now only slowing you down. It is important that you be objective in looking at business traditions that no longer have a place in your growing business — empathy and compassion are needed to deal with people, but as HR for a scaling company, it is important that you ensure that nothing is hindering its growth.


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