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Post Covid: The evolving roles of HR in start-ups



Sanjana Gawli - CHRO, Lokal Kitchen and Fresh Fleet


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In start-ups, especially the Indian new age start-ups, the HR will have to wear multiple hats during various stages of the organization to keep them afloat.

The ambiguity of the Covid-19 pandemic has made people management a critical function. From executing layoffs in a work-from-home situation to announcing pay cuts over video calls. From motivating your workforce via gaming apps to arranging fun Fridays for your staff, the human resource (HR) teams across all sectors are having to come up with innovative solutions for this unprecedented situation.

Moreover, the start-up ecosystem has been very strong in India and is among the top 3 in the world, according to IT industry body Nasscom. According to the data, over 1,300 start-ups added in 2019, over 8,900 tech-start-ups exist in India now. Still, the start-up sector has been hit the most hard due to the coronavirus pandemic. Post covid, many Indian start-ups and entrepreneurs are striving to keep their costs low which in turn means that they are not willing to give out large pay packages. To attract quality talent, the arbitrage that is often offered is that of a bigger team, equity options or a great work culture and an opportunity to build business/function from scratch.

Furthermore, to build the workforce one will need post-pandemic, one will have to focus on roles that will drive the organization’s competitive advantage. HR’s will have to encourage employees to develop critical skills that potentially open up multiple opportunities for their career development, rather than preparing for a specific next role.

A common theme that runs across all start-ups is also that they operate in a very volatile environment. They run the risk of insufficient capital, or unemployment or general inability to compete.HR has a key role to play in the entire process of identifying, selecting, engaging, and retaining top talent. Adapting to the fast changing environment and being ahead of the curve will be critical facets of successful HR start-ups.

Start-up HR’s can also seriously consider in investing basic tech, for e.g. Gartner analysis shows that 16% of employers are using technologies more frequently to monitor their employees through methods such as virtual clocking in and out, tracking work computer usage, and monitoring employee emails or internal communications/chat. While some companies track productivity, others monitor employee engagement and well-being to better understand employee experience. With increase in remote working and access becoming the norm, there would be greater accent on checks that have amenability to be sourced electronically or through robust databases.

In start-ups, especially the Indian new age startups, the HR will have to wear multiple hats during various stages of the organization to keep them afloat. It carries the responsibility of hiring the right fit candidates and staff, promoting a work culture of love and ownership, fun and accountability, adapting to the changing organization realities, employee and stakeholder needs. To deliver all of this HR will have to be a mentor for the young leaders, will need to often act as the listener for employees. In early-stage successful start-ups, often the role is played by the entrepreneur themselves. Assuming that we may be in this situation for the long haul and the impacts may be long lasting, the human resources teams will need to make long-term adjustments to adapt working practices and culture.