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People Ops Throughline for Startups

Over the last couple of months, we’ve been talking about your throughline, the energetic connective tissue that anchors your actions (personally, or at work) to a thread of energizing purpose.  

This month, for your poolside WFH reading pleasure, let’s consider how startups also have a throughline tied to vision and purpose, the unseen glue that keeps team momentum flowing.

We got many kudos (thank you!) about our recent post offering some HR strategies based on the company’s growth stage – from scrappy startup scull to growth stage to iconic ocean liner.  

At Forshay, we have some “sea cred” around the startup phase, from steering our own scull, to helping clients navigate the choppy waters of the early stage.

So let’s take a deeper dive. 

What should startups focus on to create stickiness that attracts and retains talent over time? What can People Ops do, and when, to increase the odds that employees will succeed now and stick around for the future?

Attracting and keeping top talent: What to focus on?

An August 2022 study by ISL Talent surveyed people who had changed jobs the previous year. Their findings showed that while compensation is important (how many times do surveys need to tell us that?), top talent knows that there is more to work than a paycheck. They cite a passion for the work (91%), access to learning opportunities (88%), and confidence in the founders (81%) as very important. 

Translated – we could say that employee happiness is tied to an enterprise throughline that includes supporting curiosity, life-long learning, and leadership.

Culture of performance 

Almost 80% of respondents in the same study agreed that a clear company mission and values are essential, yet companies need to “talk their walk”. 82% said clear communication is crucial to company culture, and 78% said that the office and team environment matter. 

Those stats speak to a culture of performance, but what does that look like in action? How do you measure alignment to the throughline? 

We’ve seen that simpler is better for startup clients. We helped one of our cybersecurity clients update their values (including voices beyond the founders), starting with clarity on what was super core to their organization. After that, it was much easier for them to be clear about priorities and performance expectations.

Beyond performance, let’s look at a few more strategies for startups. 

Three Strategies for People Ops Startup Sculls

Contract Recruiters

Working with a strong contract recruiter can be a win-win. Across gaming, SaaS, AI, and biotech, Forshay has been engaging hourly contract recruiters for targeted hiring in these still-growing early-stage companies. So while yes, we’re (very) comfortable with the industry space spread, success with a contract recruiter is more about the fit for your individual needs. Hit us up for a chat to explore more. 


Some startups see outsized results from generalist HR talent who thrive wearing a few different hats. At the same time. While juggling. For the right person, the variety of a generalist role is an energizing fit. For a different personality, it’s a short voyage with a Titanic outcome. We’re happy to share more about how to tell a strong fit from a shipwreck about to happen.  

Interim Experts

Interim experts can onboard quickly and provide expertise without the FTE overhead (hold the applause, you finance wizards). The good news from the WFH sector is many experienced corporate executives decided to chart their own course after the pandemic. We are filling requests for compensation consultants, strategic org design experts and HR generalists who can jump in and solve problems.  

Comin’ Through!  Your Startup Throughline

Are you starting to see some dots connect below the surface to what makes employees happy and teams hum? Are your employees and teams supported by a clear current of common purpose, or do they feel like they are paddling in circles in the deep end between check-ins, huddles, and touch bases? 

We’d love to hear more. 

From People Ops teams to CPOs, founders to VCs, our perspective brings intel from the broader HR ocean to stakeholders in the startup ecosystem.

Give us a ring. Just like the VCs, we’re taking calls poolside this summer.


Photo by Bruno Gomiero on Unsplash

“We wanted a modern Chief People and Culture Officer who could scale a tech company, establish instant credibility with our executive team as an HR expert and coach, and lead new work through a culture-focused lens for our employees. Forshay delivered all of this with a diverse slate of candidates.”

–Kendra Tucker, CEO, Truckstop