10 steps to launching HR from the ground up

I’m Maria Mezher, the People and Culture manager at Morressier. When I joined the team in September last year I had a clean slate (and a big challenge) ahead of me. To paint you a picture of the company’s status at the time: The founders had an incredible mission and big plans, the team was made up of six people and, as it was still early days, not many HR processes were in place. Building an HR department before the company grew any further to ensure they retained great employees and attracted the best talent was very important for both founders.

With this in mind, I’ll give you a step-by-step guide to how I and one colleague set up Morressier’s HR department from scratch in six months:

Team Morressier at work

1. Setting the values

One of our first tasks was setting up a workshop with the two cofounders to determine the company values. It may seem strange that the company values were such a high priority, however this was an essential step to ensure that all our new hires identify with the same values. Here are the three values we settled on:

Purpose-driven:
We have an intrinsic motivation to make a difference
We crave learning and growth
We are genuinely committed to our mission

Precise:
We get the job done — and get it done right
We can count on each other to do our best
We are detail-oriented and organized

Positive:
We have a can-do attitude
We get back up when we fall down (no matter how many times we fall down)
We share information, knowledge and experience

2. Employee Survey

We wanted to get feedback on the issues the founding team were struggling with so that we could identify first priorities. That’s why we created a survey of 10 questions that we now continue to send on a quarterly basis:

  1. How challenging is your work?
  2. How clearly are your responsibilities defined?
  3. How interested is your manager in your professional development?
  4. How likely are you to be working for the company in one year?
  5. Would you consider any of your colleagues your friend?
  6. How often do you feel stressed at work in a typical week?
  7. How likely would you recommend Morressier as an employer to a friend?
  8. How familiar are you with the company’s strategic goals?
  9. Overall how satisfied are you with your job?
  10. Do you have any suggestions of what we can do better?

As we suspected, the results we found at the beginning showed that there was some room for improvement. Employees cited a lack of transparency on strategic goals and wanted a clearer layout of their professional development in the company. Discovering these pain points helped us to prioritize what changes we needed to implement first.

3. Recruiting Process

We’ve set up templates for each step of our recruiting on Workable. Here is a step-by-step guide to our hiring process:

  1. Phone screening by HR
  2. Technical challenge for tech roles, case studies for non-tech roles
  3. Technical interview to discuss the work and to meet other team members
  4. Cofounder interview
  5. Reference calls
  6. Once a candidate has accepted our offer we then close the position and respond to other applicants

4. Tools

When I joined, the company was working with DropBox, Microsoft Office and Google. As we couldn’t use Dropbox due to EU data privacy requirements, we streamlined our tools by switching everything over to Google and only keeping Office licenses for heavy Excel users.

We implemented BambooHR for employee information, absence management and onboarding. Although you may not think it’s essential when your team is so small, having a tool like this from the beginning helps when scaling, decreases manual work and provides better reporting.

I think all recruiters agree that scheduling is the biggest pain point in their daily work, which is why we use Calendly to help out with this

5. 1–1s

Let’s face it, the best management techniques come out of the tech industry these days. An agile environment is what you need to keep up in the fast-paced world of tech. One technique I like a lot is the 1–1. These are 30 minute meetings where a manager listens to their report’s concerns, work, family, challenges. Keeping the lines of communication open helps ensure that the team feels empowered, while knowing that their manager cares about them provides a sense of security and motivation.

6. OKRs

The feedback from our first survey showed that the team was looking for more transparency on the company’s strategic goals. That’s why the management team sat down together recently and implemented Objectives and Key Results for 2018. Each team sets their own OKRs, which are communicated transparently with the whole company. This creates a sense of mission that we’re working towards together and ensures there’s a clear overview of who is doing what and why.

7. Performance Reviews

Within the first three months at the company we implemented quarterly performance reviews with each employee, their direct manager, and one person from HR.

Here’s an overview of how we structure these reviews:

  • Self-assessment
  • Peer feedback
  • Manager feedback that is based on:
    Values
    Team work
    OKR achievements

8. Salary Structure

Salaries can be a very sensitive topic that can cause problems when a company scales. That’s why myself and Morressier’s CEO sat down together at the beginning and agreed on average salaries for a set of different roles.

These are based on three categories:

  • Seniority and skill-set
  • Our budget
  • Market rate

We communicate our decision making process with each team member individually when negotiating salaries. This transparency helps everyone to understand the reasoning behind their salary.

9. Organizational Habits and Events

Scheduling regular meetings and events is essential to ensure that everyone is on the same page and the team stays motivated and connected. Here are some events that we implemented early on:

  • Company update breakfast on a monthly basis
  • Standup with the whole team every Wednesday where everyone discusses what they’ve done the week before and their plans for coming week
  • One event per month, including cooking classes, international breakfasts, escape room and games evenings

10. Onboarding and Inclusion

Hiring a great team is an essential first step, closely followed by establishing a good onboarding process. We subscribe to the mantra that Inclusion comes before Diversity. In order to claim that we’re diverse, we have to make sure we’re building a company culture that includes everyone. We tell every new team member that there is no room for discrimination and harassment and if that if they ever run into this behavior they need to inform us.

Onboarding happens on day one. We kick off by having a meeting with People & Culture and talking them through the company culture, internal policies and technologies we are using before they have meet with people from different departments to understand the team structure, what everyone is working on, and, most importantly: our product. We then all go for a team lunch together. Finally, we send surveys to get feedback on the onboarding process three times: right after the onboarding, after one week and after three months in order to measure the speed of adaptation.

I hope that this guide helps you when you’re setting up your own HR processes. To gain an insight into our company culture, check out this post by Morressier’s cofounder and CPO Justus Weweler. If you’d like to work together with us to make an impact on the world of science check out our open positions here.