HR Tech Market Dynamics 2021 – Q1 in review

By Hans Mangelschots -10/04/2021

Intro: The first quarter of 2021 has already passed, and it seems the pandemic is really accellerating the adoption of new digital solutions. Big HR Tech Companies are launching or acquiring Employee Experience Platforms, HCM and Payroll innovation platforms are receiving serious amounts of funding and on the Benelux Market collaboration between solutions is key, yet with different approaches. Time to wrap it all up for you, so I poured it an article that you can check right here. Enjoy your reading.

Big HR Tech: it is all about the Employee Experience

HR Tech guru Josh Bersin is close to Big HR Tech companies and always provides useful insights. He started 2021 by pointing out the evolving role of IBM in the HR Tech marketplace.

In a very dynamic market, during this pandemic, operations and HR both need digital solutions to support employees, whilst the difference between HR Tech and Worktech is slinking, and coordination is threatened to get lost in the process.

Also read: Resilience – opinion: Isn’t separating HR from Tech what got us here in the first place?

Visual and copyrights by Josh Bersin - 2020

With the launch of Microsoft Viva in this first quarter of 2021 the market was again massively impacted, as the Tech Giant raised the stakes on Employee Experience and engagement.

Following this launch, Oracle introduced its employee experience platform to the HR tech Market. This stirred things up even more because Workday announced shortly after that it will be acquiring employee feedback platform Peakon for $700 million in cash.

Workday and Peakon will probably also come together with a continuous listening platform for customers to capture real-time employee sentiment, facilitate ongoing feedback, and access personalized, prescriptive recommendations for actions.

It is all about the Employee Experience and that reminds me of the SAP-Qualtrics saga, which is even continuing as we speak:

While noticing these dynamics of big HR Tech companies, it feels safe to say; The Digital Employee Experience is here to stay.

Looking at the Global HR Tech Market Dynamics the focus is slightly different and a possible indicator of what is coming next.

Global HR Tech Market: HCM 2.0 is tanking money and trust

When we take a further look at the global HR Tech Market we can not mis the fact that Recruitee and Sympa joining forces to shape the future of HR Technology in a collaborative approach. According to us this is one of many partnerships on the HR Tech Market in the upcoming period, where funding and acquisitions are still mainstream.

Mentionable global funding & acquisitions in this first quarter of 2021 are:

  • Papaya Global: The Israel-based HR tech platform picked up $100Mn in Series C funding, bringing Papaya’s total funding to $190Mn and a valuation over $1Bn in March. Papaya Global provides cloud-based payroll and hiring, onboarding and compliance services across 140 countries for organizations that employ full-time, part-time and contract workers outside of their home country.

  • Personio: The German startup that targets small- and medium-sized businesses (10-2,000 employees) with an all-in-one HR platform covering recruiting and onboarding, payroll, absence tracking, and other major HR functions — has picked up $125 million in funding at a $1.7 billion post-money valuation.

  • PayFit: Paris-headquartered HR tech startup PayFit announced that it has secured €90 million (US$107 million) in a Series D round. This brings its total funding raised to over €179 million in five years. The company subsequently expanded to Spain, Germany, Italy, and the UK.

  • Ease: a leading HR and benefits software solution for small businesses, insurance brokers, and insurance carriers announced $41 Mn in Series C funding. With this latest round, Ease will enable SMBs to leverage employee data to connect all their systems, as well as hire new talent.

  • Cloud Talent Solution Talentsoft got acquired by Cegid to enforce its position in Payroll and HR.

They all seem to have a focus on Innovative HCM and payroll. Knowing this is an indicator of what is coming next, it is food for thought for all those who are not innovating yet.

Whilst investors are saying Belgium startups are poised for international expansion, we were already determined a long time ago that the Benelux HR Tech scene has a lot of potential when it comes down to pioneering and innovating HR and Tech.

Benelux news: Same Market, different approach?

After growing exponentially for several years in a row, the Belgian HR Tech scene was mainly innovating and launching new products, that could help organizations with their resilience, during the first quarter of 2021.

It is striking how many Belgian providers are starting to collaborate, trying to offer the better deal.

One Belgian HR Tech provider received funding this quarter (by our knowledge) and that is Employee Engagement scale-up Ambassify, who got €2M for further growth and Scheduling tool Plann3r got acquired by GetBusy (Task Management Software).

Unlike the Belgium scene, the Dutch HR Tech scene has a different approach when it comes down to collaborating as tools. They just seem to acquire their partners and embed them or rebrand them, or so it seems the case with for instance Exact HR Software:

In the meanwhile

Except for 8Vance with their cost efficient “Netflix for recruitment” and Neurolytics as Sprout Startup of the Year popping up in our newsfeed, the difference in market dynamics between Belgium and The Netherlands is very noticeable.

Where Belgian suppliers are integrating and collaborating, Dutch suppliers tend to acquire or be acquired to offer a more exclusive collaboration. Two countries, two very different approaches for growth, yet it is the same HR Tech Market...or not?

However, the best news rolled in on April 1.

Belgian startup EEVEE, who maps electric vehicle expenses for corporates, had received €6.4M from Elon Musk himself. The joke only became clear to me when the payment appeared to be settled with 126 Bitcoin or... Fishcoin. (Well, there is a difference and it could have been true.)

HR Tech Valley

What about HR Tech Valley? After supporting HR Innov & Tech Day in February we took the time to look back at our pioneering record and found out that sourcing HR Tech is a core activity for HR Tech Valley.

Building up a reputation whilst spreading awareness on the evolution of HR Technology and the changing attitude of the Career Owner, we also have developed a trusted network of people active in the HR Tech Market.

So, if you contact us, either you source for inspiration or for solutions. By listing up your requirements we can match you with a list of suitable HR Tech partners or share insights and (strategic) independent advice on a relevant topic.

We already helped companies like AXA Insurance, Attentia, Heineken or organizations like Voka, Federgon, HRMinfo, The Next Web, HR Tech Alliances and Unleash by sourcing the HR Tech Solutions they were looking for – often as the outcome of a treated request where mutual value is key.

Right now we are supporting TBS Session #6: HR Tech – and launched a call to action towards the HR Tech Community. (The call already closed; the event is on May 5. Register here.)

We are thankful to our community we could present our partners Manpower and Scale-ups a list of suitable HR Tech Startups who could contribute to the Employee Experience, as the requirements asked.

Eventually 7 of the 14 members we presented were selected to be with the final 8, on a total of 21 candidate solutions. This confirmation makes us very proud.

  • If you virtually want to join the pitch and networking event, you can assure your ticket here.

  • For other events please check our calendar here.

  • Sourcing for HR Technology? Drop us your question and contact us through our website!

Disclaimer: HR Tech Valley Members always receive these kind of requests first, more info here.

For closure

In the middle of the HR Tech - WorkTech transition, combined with the tension and overlap between HR & IT, I would like to provoke some thoughts with the following question:

If you are digitizing your employee experience, do you do it to improve your experience, or your employee’s?



Hans Mangelschots

Business Manager HR Tech Valley vzw

Connecting the dots in HR as

HR Tech Expert – Independent Trusted Advisor - Maverick

In HR Tech since 2013 and always learning.