Five HR tools for time-starved startups to help build the perfect team
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Human resources. Photo Credit: Jirsak / Shutterstock

Startup founders often have the best intentions to build a great team, but simply can’t make it happen by themselves. Thankfully, there are many apps for that

As we’ve already talked about before, a startup must focus on human resources from Day 1, particularly when this resource is so precious and sparse for a small team. But not only are you bootstrapped, you’re also time-starved. Startup founders often have the best intentions to build a great team, but simply can’t make it happen by themselves. Thankfully, there’s an app for that. Actually, there are hundreds of human resources software to help you automate some of that human interaction.

To help, we will go through some of our favorite HR tools that increase employee engagement. But don’t stop with these five: Comment on this piece and tell us what works best for you!

Employee recognition is a strong motivator

1. Bonusly

Peer-to-peer recognition is essential. This is especially true considering that the entire team’s perception of a colleague’s commitment directly influences their boss and HR, who decide on one’s salary and perks.

To increase peer-to-peer support, companies can implement what is often referred to as a Merit Money System. Here, organizations give an equal number of points, hugs, well-wishes, etc. to each employee. Instead of keeping onto this, the only rule is that the employee must give it away to other colleagues above, below, or at the same level as them – even across departments and teams – and explain the reason they are giving these points to that person.

Bonusly is one of many micro-bonus tools to help you do just that. What makes Bonusly unique is that you either spend your merit money on your colleagues by the end of the month or you run out. What you give should also be connected to up to nine company values that your team decides are important. Like many merit money apps, your company has the option of turning that into real money, gift cards or even donations to the recipient’s favorite charity. Bonusly is free for up to 20 team members.

2. Kudo Box and Kudo Cards

Your mom surely tried to instill a habit of writing thank you notes. But then, besides weddings and on behalf of your own kids, you’ve kind of lost the habit. That’s not a good thing.

I’ve known thank you notes to be what made one company choose one candidate over the other. They are also often the least likely pieces of paper to be thrown out when people change homes or offices. Why? People have an intense yearning to feel appreciated and accepted.

Kudo Cards – one name for the act of publicly giving thank you notes and peer-to-peer attaboy recognition, called Rippas at Virgin Mobile – are a great way to increase employee motivation. But sometimes your team is scattered. That’s why Kudo Box was invented to allow you to tweet kudos to your remote colleagues. Beyond the fact that thanking clients and business partners is a sales best practice, it’s also a completely free tool.

Company culture must be built from the ground up

3. TinyHR

Company culture starts to form naturally from the first days of your startup. But a good leader can influence that culture, just as new team members do. How your company culture develops affects not only employee motivation but also how long that employee will remain with your team. You have to learn early and often how your employees are feeling day-to-day and how they are reacting to any changes.

TinyHR is a tool that allows you to ask weekly anonymous questions of your colleagues. You get a more honest pulse for how your employees are feeling in that moment, and begin to recognize trends. It’s basically the thermometer for workplace happiness. TinyHR starts at $5 per user per month.

4. Small Improvements

When you start your own small business, one of the things you’re eager to get away from is the painful bureaucracy of the corporation. Among the most hated big business practices is the performance appraisal. Yes, in theory it’s a good idea to regularly meet to discuss both you and your employee’s perception of how he or she is doing and to make plans for the future. In practice, it’s an annually awkward disaster. So while you want to avoid annual performance appraisals, you want to have regular, at minimum quarterly, conversations not only on how each employee is doing with your team, but how he or she will grow with the company.

Small Improvements is a performance management software that helps you manage performance reviews, 360-degree feedback, goals and objectives, and continuous feedback within your team. It provides a side-by-side view for both manager and employee, with a focus on continually reviewing objectives, both with metric goals and in-company personnel growth. And since your internal branding and value messaging is just as important as your external one, you can even customize the look and wording of the app to represent your company fully. The tool starts out with a one-month free trial and then it is $6 a month per employee.

The smaller you are, the more important your recruitment is

5. GapJumpers

Recruitment for your newest team members is essential because it affects your company culture and directly impacts the overall success of your small business. Not to reiterate the time crunch idea, but certainly this can be one of the longest – and in my experience, most frustrating – leadership tasks. Reading resume after resume, you become dizzied with experience, not qualifications. One way to help get through this process is by writing a unique job description that really focuses more on the day-to-day task you need fulfilled and the type of company culture you have, less on the experience needs.

GapJumpers is the voice for recruitment. Instead of using old-school applicant tracking systems or in addition to them, start off your recruitment process by giving your applicants a blind challenge of a real activity you need the ideal candidate to be great at. GapJumpers’ algorithm will then automatically score the candidates on their audition and only those that reach a certain point move forward. This is a great way not only to hire the right person for the job, but to increase diversity in your team and weed out poor performers in your first round of applicant screening. GapJumpers starts at $5,000 for up to two jobs.

What free-to-start human resources tools are missing from this list? Tell us below the tools that work for you so we can build a culture of human resources innovation from the beginning of a startup!

The views expressed are of the author.

Geektime invites global tech and startup professionals to share their opinions and expertise with our readers. If you would like to share your point of view, please contact us at [email protected]

Featured Image Credit: Jirsak / Shutterstock

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Jennifer Riggins

About Jennifer Riggins


Jennifer Riggins is a New Jersey Girl in Barcelona, a marketing consultant with a passion for helping start-ups better sell the benefits they have to offer and individuals build their personal brand, from messaging to marketing to website to pitching.

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