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When, How, and Why: Everything You Need to Know About Using HR Data in Startups

The Importance of Employee Data in Startups

No matter whether you have a team of 15 or 20,000, quickly accessing accurate data about employees is essential. Not having an accurate, single source of truth such as a master spreadsheet or HR system can slow down business activities and cause endless headaches.

However, there often isn't time to pull the data together in a startup environment where life can be even more reactive and complicated than in other organisations. It has to be ready and it has to be accurate so that quick decisions can be made. Proactively monitoring data and trends can also help a startup promptly identify what’s working and what’s not, which enables it to course-correct and be more agile.

In this article, we partnered with Lara Holding-Jones to walk you through the fundamentals of HR data. With Lara’s help, we’ll answer questions such as when to start collecting data, how to choose what to track, and why trends are important.

About the Expert

Lara has been working in HR for almost 10 years. During that time, she’s worked across all pillars of HR including reward, recruitment, L&D, and systems, with UK and international companies in the private and public sectors, working in-house and consulting. Every time, her work has come back to HR strategy and data. Now, she uses her experience to train in-house HR teams on how to be more effective with data. She offers a ‘Sub 250’ data programme enabling HR generalists in startups to understand the basics of HR data, and she runs a ‘Foundations of HR Data’ programme teaching all types of HR people in organisations from 250-2,500 employees how to professionally manage their HR data activities, covering HR best practice, Excel, statistics and reporting.

The Value of HR Data in Startups

Initially, Lara tells us, many organisations don’t see much need for ‘data’. After all, HR knows everyone’s name and salary details, so they can easily manage regular activities like payroll, hiring, and annual leave requests. However, as companies grow and start building their HR offering, there will be a whole host of people needing data. The leadership team, external providers like pension and payroll companies and benefits companies, new HR colleagues and HR specialists, interims and consultants, investors, and other stakeholders.

There are many reasons why you need to start early with tracking people-related data in startups. Not least because most data has a long lead time, meaning you need to invest time to collect data before you can analyse and interpret them meaningfully. Data can quickly fall behind, completely unravel, and cause additional headaches, and there isn’t the time or space for that to happen in a startup. So little and often really is the key. Ultimately, investing a little bit of time every week or so, and having the discipline to update your ‘master database’ is the best way you can ensure your success with HR data.

Lara's 7 Golden Rules for HR Data Management

  1. Keep It Simple: Start small with your data tracking to avoid being overwhelmed as your team grows.

  2. Ease of Access: Choose tools that simplify collecting and updating data to save time and reduce headaches.

  3. Integrate Data Admin: Seamlessly incorporate data updates into existing HR processes to ensure no data is missed.

  4. Focus on Raw Data: Ensure your records are accurate before venturing into reporting and analytics.

  5. Align with Strategic Goals: Capture data that supports your startup's objectives and HR's role in reaching them.

  6. Choose the Right Tools: Don’t settle for an HRIS that doesn’t meet your startup's unique needs.

  7. Regular Reconciliation: Borrow from finance's playbook and regularly 'close your accounts' to maintain accurate records.

Essential HR Data to Capture in Startups

As per tip #5 above, the data you capture should a) enable the HR team to provide their core service to the business/employees and b) allow you to report on how effectively you are supporting the business in achieving its strategic goals (through its people).

To help you come up with your set of core metrics, Lara compiled a list of the most used data points and KPIs in the businesses she supports. The list below is not a tick list of all the data points you should monitor, she says. However, depending on your organisation’s goals, there will be a couple that suits your business, and help you keep track of employees, as well as demonstrate or explain how you as the HR team are contributing to the overall business goals.

Everything below can be captured in 2-3 spreadsheets, so it is suitable even if you don’t have access to or budget for an HR system. If you do have access to an ATS, HRIS, or LMS, it will be much easier for you to track the below, or track a slightly different angle of it, and therefore, you may choose to add some additional data points.

‘The Recruitment Tracker’

  • Role title

  • Recruiter

  • Hiring manager

  • Recruitment type (backfill, additional role, new role)

  • Advert date

  • Potentially job details depending on your organisation e.g. location, department, seniority

  • Status (awaiting brief to candidate started)

  • Number of applications

  • Number of male candidates shortlisted + female candidates shortlisted; then number of male candidates at final interview + number of female candidates at final interview

  • Successful candidate name

  • Gender

  • Source

  • Contract type

  • Offer accepted date (potentially also offer date and start date)

  • Bonus: auto-calculating column for time to fill days (live to offer accepted date)

‘The Core HR Database’

  • Name

  • Employee ID (this is absolutely essential!)

  • Company email address

  • Personal email address

  • Start date

  • Department

  • Line manager’s name (and employee ID)

  • Gender

  • Date of birth (where relevant or advised given local law)

  • Contract type (permanent employee, FTC, contractor)

  • Contract end date

  • Full-time/part-time

  • Job title

  • Potentially job details depending on your organisation e.g. location, department, job family, pay grade

Employee Changes (sheets within the core HR database)


  • Reason for leaving (automatically attached to a voluntary/involuntary category)

  • Last working date

Promotions/job moves

  • Effective date

  • Type (promotion or move)

  • Annual cycle or off-cycle progression

  • Old job information e.g. title, grade, job family

Sickness absence

  • Start date + end date

  • Reason given

  • Paid/unpaid

  • Long-term absence e.g. sick or family-friendly

Your HR Data Success Blueprint

Starting with HR data in your startup opens up exciting possibilities. By following Lara's advice, you're not just solving today's issues—you're preparing for tomorrow's opportunities. Imagine predicting your team's growth, understanding your workforce better, and making smart decisions faster. Beginning this journey now sets your startup on a path to success. It means growing smarter, keeping your team happy, and building a strong, future-ready business.

Join one of Lara’s courses at or get in touch to receive support on this journey.


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