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Starting an HR Department from Scratch: A Journey of Challenges and Triumphs

Updated: May 3

Starting a Human Resources (HR) department from the ground up can be both a daunting and incredibly rewarding endeavor. As an HR expert who has navigated these waters, I've gathered some insights and reflections on this challenging yet satisfying journey.

The Foundation Phase: Setting Up

The initial phase of setting up an HR department involves laying a strong foundation. This includes defining the strategic role HR will play within the company. Will it primarily focus on compliance and administrative tasks, or will it play a strategic role in shaping company culture and guiding organizational development? Deciding this early on sets the stage for all future activities.

Key activities during this phase include:

  • Developing HR policies and procedures: These are crucial as they guide actions concerning employee interactions and company standards.

  • Implementing systems for payroll and employee records: Ensuring that employees are paid on time and that their information is securely managed is fundamental.

Staffing: The Backbone of the Department

One of the biggest challenges in establishing a new HR department is staffing it with the right people. HR professionals need a blend of skills including empathy, strategic thinking, and a solid understanding of employment laws. Recruiting the right team members who can balance these needs is critical and often requires time and patience.

Developing Company Culture

Another significant aspect of setting up an HR department is developing and nurturing the company culture. This involves:

  • Creating value systems and behaviors that reflect the company’s ethos.

  • Employee engagement initiatives to ensure that workers are motivated and feel valued.

  • Implementing training and development programs to foster employee growth and align their skills with company needs.

Overcoming Challenges

Setting up an HR department involves numerous challenges. One major challenge is securing buy-in from top management. Demonstrating the value of HR initiatives in terms of return on investment can be daunting but is essential for gaining support and funding.

Another challenge is integrating HR strategies with business objectives to ensure they contribute to the company’s bottom line. This requires HR professionals to not only understand HR functions but also have a deep grasp of the company’s business model and market dynamics.

The Rewards: A Thriving HR Department

Despite the challenges, the satisfaction of seeing an HR department come to life and thrive is immense. A well-functioning HR department can transform an organizational culture, streamline business operations, and significantly improve employee satisfaction and performance.

One of the most gratifying aspects of this journey is witnessing the positive impact of well-implemented HR strategies on employee morale and retention. This, in turn, boosts productivity and helps the business achieve its strategic goals.


Starting an HR department from scratch is no small feat. It requires vision, persistence, and a strategic understanding of both human resources and business operations. The challenges along the way are matched by the profound satisfaction of building a department that truly makes a difference in the workplace and in the lives of employees.

For those embarking on this journey, embrace the challenges, and let the rewards motivate you towards building an HR legacy that stands the test of time.

Until next time - Julie HR

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