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Eight tips to build your dream team with no HR

Kids vs Zombies developer Donut Lab detail eight tips for startups to assemble their ideal team

Eight tips to build your dream team with no HR

At Donut Lab, our team is talented but quite small, and therefore it doesn’t have a sufficient volume of workflow for an HR specialist yet. But this doesn’t mean that we are not looking for new people and not monitoring the work environment and relationships within the team - it all remains an important part of the work process.

We value the work of HR specialists and consider it indispensable for the workflow of large companies. We've spoken with recruiters and HR managers, who have shared their knowledge and helped us come up with those principles.

Based on that experience, we have come up with some tips on how to assemble a team for a startup and maintain good morale within.

1. Allocate team members to roles

The HR responsibilities will have to be distributed among the employees. Although many people don’t like to go beyond their position’s responsibilities, many professions entail much more than a standard job description. Competence comes first. And if you have employees who will broaden their skills and abilities, that’s an additional thing to appreciate!

Let the first stage of communication (screening) be carried out not by a professional HR but by the most communicative member of the team. For the next stage, connect the candidate with the team lead.

Strange questions and psychological checks are something that fanatical HR directors might do

2. Set up two stage interviews

It’s most convenient to start with screening - a short conversation with the candidate, no longer than 30 minutes. Discussing a candidate's previous work experience is enough at this stage. At that point, the main goal is to find out how a person will fit into the team and check their soft skills.

However, there is no general set of particular qualities: everything depends on the position and its inherent tasks: The ability to speak publicly is not critical for a programmer, but is a deal-breaker for a community manager.

You will be able to assess whether the person is right for you at the screening stage. If so, move on to the second stage - a full-length interview. This is where the team lead’s input is needed to assess the candidate's hard skills.

3. Don’t just ask, also tell

Strange questions and psychological checks are something that fanatical HR directors might do. You have to understand that interviewing is very stressful for many job seekers, and you will significantly help the candidate if you treat them with respect and complicity.

At the screening stage, start with simple, everyday topics. Share your thoughts about the new TV series, talk about your recent travels, tell them about your pets - your interests in general. This will help you and the candidate break the ice.

During the interview, move on to describing the tasks: the project, at what stage it is, what you are working on, and what you want to achieve. Then explain what tasks the candidate will have to solve. A good job seeker is likely to engage in such a conversation themselves, of course, because people like to talk about their skills. Then move on to general yet simple questions. What is important to you in the team? How do you deal with conflicts at work?

4. Harness the power of networking

If recruiting services don’t help and the search for employees is taking too much time, social media and in-person communication might help. Networking aims to solve professional problems based on existing social connections.

It's really a good idea to invite people you already know to work with you. Contrary to stereotypes, networking can significantly speed up the search and recruit team members where everyone will be on the same wavelength. Then, conflicts will be easier to resolve, and the results will be much more productive.

A good job seeker is likely to engage in such a conversation themselves, of course, because people like to talk about their skills

5. Invest in education

Someone may have worked well with the team and does the job perfectly, but they will inevitably might lack experience in other areas. It’s a good idea to spend available resources on training, including online courses and literature.

The quality of such education can be viewed with skepticism. But keep in mind that along with that knowledge, your employee will gain valuable experience that will be put into practice, just simply by completing the tasks that you set for him.

If a person is highly motivated by what they are doing, they will happily continue to learn. And will be grateful for that opportunity.

6. Be on top of all documentation

Spend a couple of evenings doing the paperwork for onboarding. Write down who is responsible for what. List all-important contacts. Clearly define the work schedule, rules for working in the office and from home. And put it all in one place accessible to colleagues - you can use Notion, Confluence, or even Google Docs.

You will save yourself a lot of time because you won’t have to be distracted by small things. And the newcomers won’t feel lost once they start the job.

Clearly define the work schedule, rules for working in the office and from home

7. Don't ignore problems

Married couples go to psychologists to cope with particular issues. Why should the working force be the exception? If any of the processes are ‘lagging’, you can entrust the team leader with the role of the psychologist. In a confidential one-on-one conversation, discuss the causes of problems. And don’t forget to remind yourself of what you value your employee for!

Sometimes a conversation is enough for a person to change their attitude completely. But if that doesn't work, it might be better to part ways than continue torturing each other. By the way, psychologists also often give the same advice to married couples.

8. Don’t be afraid to part ways

Your team may have an excellent specialist with whom a working relationship will not work out. This is normal, natural, and happens in large companies that invest a lot of resources in HR. At the same time, larger teams might have more ‘stamina’ and go on without resolving particular work issues for longer, which can last months.

But if you have a startup or just a small team, there is no reason to put yourself through that. Don't be afraid to part with an employee who doesn't fit into the team. Remember that there is a shortage of specialists in game development, and it’s much easier to find a job in this field than in any other. Saying goodbye only opens up new opportunities for the former team member.

Based on these principles, Donut Lab has gathered its own dream team, where 35 specialists solve hundreds of problems every week and work on releasing our debut game, Kids vs Zombies. We have no doubt about the awesomeness of our employees and believe that these tips can help you put together a fantastic team too!


PocketGamer.biz regularly posts content from a variety of guest writers across the games industry. These encompass a wide range of topics and people from different backgrounds and diversities, sharing their opinion on the hottest trending topics, undiscovered gems and what the future of the business holds.

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