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The Tasks of an HR Manager in a Successful IT Startup

Upsteem sat down for a small interview with our HR Manager Sigrid Mõisavald to understand what is behind Insly’s great success and how day to day work happens in our startup.
The chances of an average person knowing what Insly is are not very high, however, the ones who do need it, namely those employed in the insurance field, praise it highly. In many insurance software comparisons, Insly is in top 3 spots. It is one of many Estonian fintech startup’s that have emerged in the past few years. Insly’s main product is a cloud-based solution for improving insurance sales. But it’s not just the product, as in 2015 Insly won the prestigious ‘Most Family and Employee Friendly Employers of the Year’ title in Estonia. To help them grow further Insly secured nearly 1 million euros in investments this past summer.
Q: You work as an HR manager in Insly, which is a fintech startup. How many employees do you have, how fast is your expansion rate and how do you think HR work in a startup differs from the so called “regular HR work”?
We have about 45 employees, most of them are situated in Estonia but we also have some staff working for us in Belarus, UK, Poland and Lithuania. Voluntary staff turnover is very low, as in general everyone is happy to be working for us, which is also highlighted by the fact that we secured the 1st place at the ‘Most Family and Employee Friendly Employers of the Year’ competition. HR work in a startup is definitely different as the company is progressing at a greater speed and every day you have to be ready to change your behaviour and plans. Therefore, HR work in a startup has to be very flexible and easily adjustable. Also, you must always keep an eye on the everyday work environment and make sure people see the results of their work and really understand how they personally influence the processes and contribute to the company.
Q: What do you base you recruiting decisions on and who makes the final decision? Do you also consider the organisational culture in that decision?  
We choose our people very carefully and one of the main factors to consider is the persons’ suitability with the overall organisation culture and with the people who are already employed at Insly. It is very important for us to keep the inter-organisational synergy and co-operation among the staff. At the same time, we can’t lose track of the importance of competency – people have to know what they are doing. While having to consider competency, we also have to consider the company’s growth pace and evaluate the internal training possibilities while hiring new staff. As an HR person in an IT startup one has to be very active and constantly on the look-out and ready to headhunt. Recruitment decisions are done together with the direct manager of the person being hired do ensure proper fit within the team.
Q: Is there enough time to pay attention to the development of the people or are you more focused on reaching your goals?
When hiring a new team member, we mostly rely on the expertise of the existing staff, which means every new employee gets a mentor who can help with most questions. On top of that, we also do a so-called adjustment-training where we explain all aspects of the company, its HR policies and also do an introduction to the insurance business. The development is mostly done through our apprentice system – the junior team members can ask advice from the more experienced ones. In everyday work we use the SCRUM method, which relies heavily on collaboration and team-work. That means – there is always inter-team learning, proofing each other’s work, giving feedback and suggesting on how to do things better and most importantly, recognising the work done by others. We also do performance reviews to map the training needs of individual staff members and book necessary trainings.
Q: How do you make sure that Insly is on the right track with its team development and organisation culture – which indicators do you consider or measure?
The most important indicator is that people are happy when coming to work. Therefore, as an HR manager, I always have to keep my eyes and ears open and take notice of people’s behaviour and what they are saying. It is also important to have an active and open dialog about progress with various managers. Also, I have to make sure that the results of performance interviews and satisfaction surveys are immediately analysed, action plans are created and we don’t lose momentum for making improvements. Previously, I have experienced how attitude of managers can play a significant role in their team’s spirit and results. In Insly we actively support leader mentality and style for managing teams in order to avoid situations, when managers don’t listen or communicate with their teams. Having your manager as an active part of the team and seeing them work alongside yourself and put in effort does wonders for team-work. It gives me great joy to work in an organisation where everyone pursues a common goal and where the staff is happy.
Upsteem is a wholly cloud based talent management solution with all the necessary features. The suite of tools are specifically tailored to effectively and efficiently develop people in your organisation from performance appraisal to training needs and performance goals. Our goal is to help you overcome any people related challenges your company may face at any time.

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