For Startups, HR Is the Key to Growth

There can be no doubt that Human Resources is undergoing a change. Digitalization and innovation inspired by the startup philosophy is transforming the way that departments within a company function, and HR is no exception.

What role does HR have in the growth of a digital business? Is the future of HR all about the constant fight to beat the competition and snag the best candidates, especially in tech? Or is there still something ‘human’ about it that needs to be preserved?

We sat down with Federico D’Alessio, HR Consultant and Trainer, who is currently working with Trovit for most of his time, and has also worked with letgo, idealista and others companies. We discussed what the department of Human Resources in Spain looks like at the moment, the challenges it faces and the areas that need more spotlight.


HR in a Digital World

Could you tell me a bit about yourself and what you do?

Right now, I’m working as a consultant, which is a popular way to work for people in HR in places like London, but quite rare here in Spain. I work mostly with startups and medium-sized digital companies. I also regularly do trainings and webinars on recruitment and employer branding.

As someone who has worked with several companies in Barcelona and Madrid, what do you think about the state of HR in Spain?

In my opinion, the situation of the department of Human Resources in Spain has changed a lot during the last few years. Just like all other departments, HR has become digitalized, and, in the case of digital companies and startups, it is a department that is usually born with a strong innovative incentive and a digital component. What is more, Human Resources has been getting increasingly closer to the business itself, and has started playing a key role in growth not only from the employee’s perspective, but from the economic aspect as well.

Federico D'Alessio – HR Consultant and Trainer working in Barcelona – human resources for startups
Federico D’Alessio, HR Consultant and Trainer

Startups Are Taking HR to Heart

“We have to change the paradigm, the way of thinking. And making this change is one of the biggest challenges.”

So, do companies focus on HR more than they did before?

I believe so. Nowadays, founders of digital companies no longer wait until they reach a large number of employees before they hire a Human Resources specialist. Startups with less than 50 employees do it. They are putting an emphasis on HR because they realize its importance in the economic growth of the business. HR used to be the last car of the train, but now, companies are starting to realize that it can actually serve as a pulling force.  

What are some of the most common deficiencies of HR teams?

One of the biggest deficiencies is to execute without thinking, without giving ideas, without adding value. I believe that HR teams often simply carry out orders, and for this to change, we have to change the paradigm, the way of thinking. We have to argue with tangible data in order to make the improvements that, as I said before, will influence the economic growth of the company. And making this change is one of the biggest challenges.

What’s the role of automated processes in HR?

Today automation has become a part of Human Resources and is, of course, the present and the future. There are automated processes in all areas of HR, which require follow-up and less physical effort by human resources, but they also require a more strategic effort. Now there are several platforms to automate recruiting processes, or peer-to-peer evaluation processes, for example. Times change and we also mutate. Whoever does not adapt, dies.


Waging a War for Tech Talent

“Nowadays, a company that hasn’t really changed the conditions of its current employees cannot attract the right people.”

What are some of the new issues that HR has to face? For example, the changing expectations of job candidates, and the difficulties of finding tech talent…

Right now there is an impressive demand in the tech industry and companies have had to reinvent themselves due to the strong competition, implementing employer branding practices.

Nowadays, a company that isn’t creative, doesn’t study competence, doesn’t have a clear employer branding strategy and – most importantly – hasn’t really changed the conditions of its current employees cannot attract the right people.

Concepts like “employer branding” and “candidate experience” are very fashionable right now, but we often forget that our main candidates are those who are working in our company. We must take care of them.

In your opinion, what is the solution to these problems? What’s the HR of the future like?

Begin to be realistic, sincere, do not create false expectations and know very well what your goals are. Right now there is a real talent war. I think we have to listen to the market, the people, what they want and how we can have a happy, motivated team. We should develop more active listening skills, be self-critical, creative but also analytical. I also believe in developing increasingly complex technical skills. The future, as I said before, is in automation, in analyzing our work with real-time data, but without losing sight of our role, which is to ensure that people are motivated, happy and loyal to our company.

Think HR needs a disruption? Read our interview with Tamsen Wassell on why HR needs to be replaced by Employee Experience!