How to implement a HR strategy

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Lisa Thomson Managing Director

Knowing where to start can be a complete minefield, especially if you’re new to setting up HR systems and processes.

So we turned to Lisa Thomson, founder and Managing Director of Purpose HR, to share her best practice principles and top tips for implementing an effective HR strategy.

Tell us about Purpose HR and why you exist?

Purpose HR provides flexible outsourced HR/people services to early-stage and high growth businesses.

I founded the company 7 years ago as I recognised a need for access to pragmatic and ‘fit for purpose’ HR support tailored to the needs of early-stage companies, especially knowledge and innovation businesses who have raised funding (or are in the process), recognising much of this spend is invested in their people as a key asset.

What is a HR strategy and why do businesses need one?

Your HR strategy is the overall plan for managing your people and team aligned to your business activities, market and growth plans. The HR strategy sets the direction for key areas including hiring, performance, development and retention, and compensation.

In an increasingly competitive market for top talent, companies need to focus wider than talent acquisition, considering how they will not only attract but also retain, develop and motivate their teams to achieve their business goals.

What sort of situations could having a HR strategy help with?

Your HR strategy will set out how you identify the roles and skills needed in your growing business, how you attract and select the right people, how you onboard, manage, retain and develop your team as the business grows, and how you differentiate your business and stand out in a competitive market for top talent.

What are the 3 key things you need to have in place?

Firstly as a basic it is key to have an understanding of, and ensure compliance with, employment law, and put in place robust contracts and policies to protect your business and assets – intellectual property, confidential information and protections around competition and conflict of interest. Investors in particular will look for these.

Second, you need to map out what are the key goals and measures to be achieved in your business plan, and what are the skills required to effect these. Then look at your existing team and identify how you can complement it to bring in the right skill sets and experience. Too many businesses focus on job titles or just on hiring people they know, rather than properly identifying and prioritising what is really needed at each stage of growth, bearing in mind that in a start-up, it’s common for people to wear multiple hats in the early stages.

And third, then you need to be able to articulate your culture and value proposition – what is your purpose, why would candidates want to work with you and what is in it for them? This is key to standing out and attracting the right people.

Is it really essential? What can go wrong if you don’t have best practices in place?

The costs of a bad hire can be crippling for an early-stage business. Not just from a legal/compliance point of view if you risk a claim but also from a culture and opportunity cost perspective. I’ve seen businesses badly impacted and distracted by needing to fix ‘people’ issues that have gone wrong without approaching this intentionally from the outset – it’s much better to be proactive and set out the culture and values early than to approach this in a reactive way.

How can having a HR strategy help you raise investment?

Investors will look not just at your product or technology but also whether you have and are capable of building a strong team.

Clearly understanding and articulating this from the outset will set you apart and importantly help to de-risk potential investment. We are often recommended to founders to support their business growth post-funding as investors recognise the cost and value of effective HR and people strategy and management.

If readers can take away one actionable tip, what do you think everyone should do?

Spend some time thinking about the culture you want to build in your business and the values that drive this so you can look for these in future hires you bring to your team. It is easier to train for skills than for values.

Anything additional you would like to add?

In a lot of the businesses we speak to ‘HR/people’ issues initially are led by the founder, CFO or COO and this can be time consuming if it’s not your core skill set. Partnering to outsource your HR/people function in early stages of growth is a cost effective way to quickly and effectively develop and implement a robust and fit for purpose HR strategy. Our experienced team can act as a visible extension to your management team and a dedicated and flexible HR resource for your growing business until you need to hire in-house.

Runway Insiders, if you would like to ask Lisa any direct questions regarding your HR Strategy, you can get in touch with her at or over at

Runway Recap

  • Your HR strategy sets the direction for key areas including hiring, development and retention
  • A good place to start is to map out the key business goals and work out what internal measures are required to effect these
  • Partnering to outsource your HR in the early stages of growth is a cost effective way to quickly implement a robust HR strategy if it isn’t within your core skillset