Organizational Wellness

Setting Up an HR Department Checklist: Your 14-Step Guide to HR Success

Oct 5, 2023
Last Updated May 17, 2024

Human resources is the backbone of any growing business. This one department is responsible for cultivating a healthy work environment while overseeing recruitment, handling employee relations, ensuring compliance with relevant labor laws, addressing evolving employee expectations, promoting DEIB, assessing compensation packages — and on and on and on.

Especially starting out, it’s enough responsibility to make your head spin.

But all of this responsibility means HR reps have an incredible opportunity to drive results that push a business forward! In creating a great employee experience, they can increase retention rates, boost productivity, drive down healthcare costs, improve efficiencies, and improve the lives of their co-workers. 

To help you get going, this checklist will run you through everything you need to know when setting up an HR department. Whether you’re scaling a startup or growing a local business, this list will help you build the scaffolding you need to create HR that drives results. 


Step 1: Defining Your HR Strategy

An HR strategy is a plan that outlines how the organization's most valuable asset — its people —  will contribute effectively towards the company's goals. It typically includes a clear vision statement that sets out the purpose of the HR team, and details the department’s long-term objectives. This includes outlining key performance metrics and developing an approach to recruiting, onboarding, and managing employees. 

As an example of how this would play out in a growing organization, consider recruitment. In startups, agile recruitment is required to quickly acquire top-notch talent. HR plays a vital role in streamlining hiring practices and creating personalized onboarding, growth, and recognition programs that retain key talent during the early stages. A tailored HR strategy helps address the challenges of limited resources by emphasizing initiatives that boost productivity and reduce turnover.

By crafting a thoughtful HR approach for each stage in the employee journey, small organizations can lay a solid foundation for sustainable growth.

Step 2: Building a Strong Team

Once you have crafted a specific HR strategy, you can start building your team with HR professionals who have skills and experience focused on company growth. Your long-term hiring plan can benefit from involving department heads, as they can predict the needs and skills the organization will need for future expansion. Taking a proactive approach enables HR to hire well-prepared candidates and can build a team with goals that align with the overarching company objectives.

Another important aspect of developing your HR hiring practices is prioritizing diversity and inclusion. Recruiting a diverse HR team helps create a more inclusive work environment, which benefits the entire organization. These professionals lead by example in championing equitable practices, enhancing creativity, and avoiding groupthink.

Strategically recruiting HR experts for young businesses is essential in nurturing employee development, fostering diversity and inclusion, and supporting the organization’s growth.

Step 3: Crafting Policies and Procedures

The next step in the process is crafting HR policies and procedures that align with legal standards and best industry practices. It is the responsibility of HR to ensure that these guidelines are not only compliant but also reflective of the company’s values. They create a safe and inclusive workplace where employees can thrive by establishing protocols for fair treatment and addressing any conflicts.

It is especially important in new HR departments that are trying to support a unique and fledgling culture — all while upholding legal and ethical standards, of course. Flexibility, innovation, and rapid changes are all hallmarks of startup cultures, and policies can reflect this by allowing for adaptability. This means clear guidelines for things like remote work and effective decision-making are essential.

When HR outlines policies and procedures that harmonize legal compliance with the distinctive essence of a startup, it is easier to create a company culture that prioritizes employee wellbeing and innovation.

Step 4: Onboarding and Training

Part of building the right team is creating a streamlined onboarding process. This sets the tone for a new employee’s journey, enhancing their engagement and productivity from day one. HR helps in this process by answering questions and acclimating new hires to the company’s values and expectations.

HR also facilitates training and development initiatives, encouraging continuous learning. By identifying skill gaps and providing relevant resources, they ensure employees stay updated and engaged. It also nurtures employee growth and career development. With frequent professional development opportunities and personalized development plans, you can empower individuals to pursue career growth within the company, ultimately boosting their motivation and retention.

Step 5: Benefits and Wellness Programs

Similar to policies and procedures, HR is responsible for designing benefits packages that attract top talent. This means following a robust compensation strategy that aligns salaries with market standards to ensure both fairness and competitiveness. 

One way to make a benefits package stand out is by incorporating wellness programs. These promote employee wellbeing and work-life wellness, which boost productivity and job satisfaction. These programs are most impactful when they encompass both mental and physical health resources.

Wellhub offers access to diverse wellness services, which can be particularly relevant for startups. The customizable options allow startups to offer a variety of health and fitness resources based on company culture and employee preferences. 

Incorporating wellness programs is equally vital, as they promote employee wellbeing and work-life wellness, leading to increased productivity and job satisfaction. These programs help facilitate a healthier workforce.

Providing comprehensive benefits, including wellness initiatives via platforms like Wellhub, is an effective way for HR to support growth and reinforce a positive organizational identity.

Step 6: Performance Management and Feedback

In order to facilitate employee engagement and growth, the HR department is responsible for conducting periodic evaluations. First, HR defines clear expectations that align with the company goals so that employees can measure their own progress. By emphasizing open communication and recognizing achievements, HR nurtures a motivated workforce.

Another aspect of this HR responsibility is talent retention and development. Through regular assessments, HR can identify skill gaps and tailor development plans to enhance each employee’s professional journey. 

This commitment to individual growth not only boosts morale but also demonstrates the organization's investment in its staff. When employees feel valued and equipped to thrive, they're more likely to stay with the company.

Step 7: Compliance and Legal Considerations

Just as the HR department is responsible for crafting compliant policies and procedures, it is also responsible for ensuring legal compliance with labor laws and regulations. HR leaders have the knowledge to navigate intricate employment laws, so they can protect the organization from potential liabilities and penalties. HR also meticulously handles employee contracts, outlining terms and rights to prevent misunderstandings.

Part of ensuring compliance is maintaining workplace safety by implementing protocols and encouraging a culture of health. HR professionals ensure adherence to safety regulations and manage sensitive employee information. By understanding the laws and regulations associated with data privacy, a strong HR team can prevent data breaches, protect workers, and shield the company from potential lawsuits.

Step 8: Plan How You’ll Scale

The rapid change of a high-growth environment can lead to disorder, HR can provide critical strategic guidance that smooths transformation.

As companies expand, HR plays a vital role in scaling practices and strategies. They adapt recruitment processes to attract diverse talent, tailor onboarding to new team dynamics, and adjust training programs for evolving roles. They then help the company’s culture take root by sharing it with new hires, manage expectations, and address concerns.

This all makes HR's adaptability and strategic insight instrumental to sustained growth.

Step 9: Foster Employee Engagement 

All HR strategies boil down to one key goal: a positive, safe, and collaborative work environment. Engaging employees is a critical part of achieving this goal, as it can increase satisfaction, boost morale, and help to create a better work culture.

HR has the power to keep employees engaged through initiatives like team building activities and recognition programs. These actively build trusting relationships between co-workers and with company leadership. Trusting relationships are the foundation of employee engagement, as they allow employees to seek and give feedback, propose new ideas, and communicate openly. 

A robust HR system can also proactively identify low engagement levels quickly and tackle them with meaningful solutions. This can include discussing individual goals with employees and providing feedback on performance, both positive and constructive. Such active interventions can increase sinking engagements, preventing unnecessary turnover. 

This all comes together to create a positive work environment where employees feel involved and trust HR is there to deliver a great employee experience.

Step 10: Select HR Tools

It can be overwhelming to manage so many responsibilities without the proper tools. Fortunately, HR can harness technology to streamline critical processes like payroll management and performance evaluations. Such softwares helps departments maximize their efficiency, minimizing administrative work so they can focus on strategic initiatives. They can also enhance engagement and onboarding experiences for a more cohesive workforce.

For example, Wellhub’ integrated hub allows organizations to easily manage their wellbeing program. Our simple admin tool lets HR leaders invite employees to participate, manage payments and subscriptions, and track employee wellness activities and trends — all in one place. This technology helps HR departments automate the management of their workforce wellness program.

Step 11: Conflict Resolution and Mediation

Perhaps one of the HR roles that most people are familiar with is managing workplace conflicts. HR ensures that disagreements are handled professionally, emphasizing active listening and empathy to reach amicable solutions.

Strategies for a harmonious work environment include promoting open communication, setting clear expectations, and offering conflict resolution training. And establishing policies for HR investigations and vetting employee complaints before any arise helps companies be ready to quickly and effectively move past any such hurdles.

Step 12: Succession Planning and Talent Development

Succession planning is a strategic process that revolves around identifying and nurturing employees who possess leadership potential to prepare them for key roles in the future. HR takes on a vital role in this process by pinpointing individuals with high potential and assessing their skill sets and development. 

Success planning strategies often include targeted training initiatives, such as mentorship programs that pair emerging leaders with seasoned executives, and opportunities for cross-functional experiences.

By investing in the growth and development of employees, companies nurture a motivated workforce and mitigate turnover rates. They also forestall productivity losses by smoothing the transition from one employee to another when a critical staffer leaves their role.

Step 13: Performance Incentives and Recognition

HR can also design performance incentive programs to motivate employees and acknowledge exceptional accomplishments. By aligning incentives with individual and company goals, HR boosts both productivity and job satisfaction. 

Bonuses, awards, public recognition, and other perks can be used to reward employees for their work. These types of initiatives will not only encourage greater performance but also serve as a sign of appreciation from the company.

Ultimately, HR departments play an essential role in helping companies pursue long-term success through effective talent management. By focusing on recruitment, retention and performance, HR teams can ensure that the organization is well-positioned to achieve its goals.

Step 14: Employer Branding and Recruitment

Finally, HR plays a leading role in crafting a compelling employer brand that attracts top talent. They strategize ways to showcase company culture and values through engaging content and interactive social platforms. 

By highlighting the workplace's unique attributes, HR helps prospective employees envision themselves as part of the organization's success story.

Wellhub further enhances employer branding by providing diverse wellness options. HR's concerted efforts in showcasing culture and partnering with platforms like Wellhub contribute significantly to building a strong employer brand that resonates with top talent.

Structured to Scale Employee Wellbeing

The list of things you need to do to set up an HR department can feel endless. You’re defining roles, needs, and responsibilities, coming up with a comprehensive strategy, designing onboarding, crafting recruitment, and forming performance reviews, to name a few. Investing in ways to streamline these processes helps you move faster and have a greater impact.

Wellhub can help you set up and oversee your employee wellness program. Our flexible subscription gives employees access to thousands of on-demand and in-person wellness activities and apps. We make it easy for HR leaders to run the program from launch through impact reporting with a dedicated support team and all-in-one admin platform.

Embed employee wellness in your HR strategy from the start. Talk to a Wellbeing Specialist today!

Company healthcare costs drop by up to 35% with Wellhub! (* Based on proprietary research comparing healthcare costs of active Wellhub users to non-users.) Talk to a Wellbeing Specialist to see how we can help reduce your healthcare spending!





Wellhub Editorial Team

The Wellhub Editorial Team empowers HR leaders to support worker wellbeing. Our original research, trend analyses, and helpful how-tos provide the tools they need to improve workforce wellness in today's fast-shifting professional landscape.


Our weekly newsletter is your source of education and inspiration to help you create a corporate wellness program that actually matters.

By subscribing you agree Wellhub may use the information to contact you regarding relevant products and services. Questions? See our Privacy Policy.