COVID’s one silver lining: innovation in HR tech

As the world prepares to mark the third anniversary of the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is one upside of the unfortunate longevity of the crisis: Three years in, we now have enough perspective to see some of the most long-lasting impacts. For HR leaders, that almost certainly involves the shift to remote and hybrid work—and the rapid development of new HR tech solutions to support this new world of work.

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“COVID made remote work a necessity, and then people realized you can actually still have people who are productive and effective in that remote context,” says Dr. Thomas Otter, general partner at investment firm Acadian Ventures, who will deliver a keynote address at next week’s HR Technology Conference Virtual.

As companies moved to formalize remote and hybrid strategies in the last three years, it prompted an explosion of growth in the HR tech start-up market, with providers quickly developing solutions to meet the new pain points that employers and employees encountered.

Dr. Thomas Otter, Acadian Ventures
Dr. Thomas Otter, Acadian Ventures

Likewise, the pandemic shone a light on the challenges facing deskless workers—and created opportunities for new HR tech. For example, Otter says the start-up market has “boomed” with tools to help facilitate frontline worker communication and productivity, such as Flip in Germany, Beekeeper in Switzerland and Blink from the U.K.

“It sounds horrible to say the pandemic was good for something, but I think it really did help to signal and elevate the importance of some of these HR topics in the minds of business leaders,” he says. “There are a lot of systems [employers] realized they were under-investing in, and the pandemic shifted things so they are now making those investments for improvements.”

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Despite forecasts of an economic slowdown or recession, Otter says, he’s “optimistic” that spending on these new innovations won’t tighten too significantly in the coming months. While he does envision “short-term disruption,” particularly given high interest rates, the record-low unemployment rate in the U.S. and ongoing worker shortages are going to keep driving tech spend forward, he predicts.

“In the long-term and even the medium-term, I see a robust future for HR technology.”

Hear more insights from Otter in his March 2 HR Tech Virtual keynote, “The Importance of Disruptive Innovation in HR Tech.”

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Jen Colletta
Jen Colletta is managing editor at HRE. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees in writing from La Salle University in Philadelphia and spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter and editor before joining HRE. She can be reached at [email protected].