Interview with Dave Millner about the HR Tech Scene Response to COVID19

COVID19 has struck the world and also the global economy. But what does that mean for HR and HR Technology as their journey towards The Future of Work was just getting started?

Looking for answers, it was an honor to interview Dave Millner, aka HRCurator.

How does COVID 19 crisis impact the business reality of the HR Tech Startups you know?

The current crisis will undoubtedly have some impact upon all start-ups. In the short-term there will be the inconvenience of the whole workforce having to work remotely, which may impact on responsiveness and the ability to innovate as quickly as they would like.

In the medium term all the financial planning that will have been undertaken for 2020 and beyond will have to be revisited in terms of costs and prospectve income streams as future clients may well have to tighten their budgets once the crisis has lessened.

Beyond that the likelihood of future investment may well be harder to obtain once the global financial turmoil becomes clearer post the crisis; that’s means stronger and better business cases will be become vital for start-ups to succeed when obtaining financial backing.

Most fast-growing start-ups usually have aggressive hiring plans and these will be disrupted now due to the uncertainty that exists whether it revolves around the decision to actually recruit now or not, through to how to onboard people who they committed to before the crisis.

Do you consider the Corona-crisis to be a threat for all HR Tech Startups?

The threat revolves around future client’s willingness to invest, if organizational budgets are going to be under pressure as is anticipated by many.

For me I see this as an opportunity with remote working now becoming the norm for the next month or so at least, and technology being the great enabler in that “new world”.

The big question then becomes not what the threats are but how can start-ups promote what they do to their marketplace without the usual face to face relationship building?

A lot of technology based organisations are using this as the time to offer free access to specific aspects of their technology toolkit – never before has there been a time to “try before you buy”!

Do you expect HR and Business in general to use this situation to redesign work and accelerate their digitization process? If yes, what will be on top of their agenda?

I’ve just written a book called “Introduction to People Analytics” and in that I have referred to the need for organizations and HR especially, to focus on the 3 D’s moving forward;

  • Data

  • Design

  • Digital

Organisations will have to use the data available or collect new data to consider how productivity, work and jobs in the future should be designed to maximize performance – can the learnings from the crisis help indicate that there is a different and better way?

Digital solutions will be a vital suite of ideas that can trigger new ways of working and operating and start-ups will need to promote not just their solutions but also their flexibility and responsiveness to their clients.

The 3 D’s will drive the priorities, but I’m hoping that the key learning from the crisis will be that organizations are nothing without the dedication, commitment and talent of their workforce and that their experience at work is a driver of their attitude and performance in their organization.

That means that the automation and simplification of HR practices will continue to be a key driver of new opportunities for start-ups in the tech space.

What should HR Tech Startups do in this situation to safeguard and/or boost their business?

I believe that the focus needs to be on:

  • Promotion of their solutions via marketing, social media channels, webinar demonstrations

  • Promotion of their solutions via free trials and offers whilst people are predominantly operating from home

  • Promotion of “life after the crisis’ – paint a picture of the changes they envisage and the role of technology (their solution) in addressing the shifts in work

In other words, make sure clients/prospective clients don’t forget that you exist at this time!


  • Don’t lose sight of their own people and teams and make sure that at this time prior learnings are revisited, there is a focus on opportunities that the crisis has crystalised and ensure that the experience of working at their start-up remains as positive as it can be during this period

  • Evolve their product solutions via trials and online focus groups to obtain user demands and feedback and continue to push the brand name out there

When all this is over, will the World of Work;

a) turn back to "normal"

b) switch focus towards a Big Reset (keep the good, loose the bad)

c) Reboot and shift gear towards the future of work?

Some organizations will say that they are focusing on (b) and/or (c) but will resort back to (a) pre the crisis; after all, if the culture, and or, marketplace is less disruptive than most then the organization may revert back to its’ “comfort zone” especially if that is supported by leaders and management behavior.

For me, this crisis has been an experiment that has been forced on organizations to try and operate differently – its basically disruption in real time!

Those smart organizations that use this time to reflect on what works well, what has improved during the crisis, what are their organizational learnings and finally how will the organization respond to the new marketplace after the crisis (as it will be a new marketplace for everyone whatever they say).

Therefore (b) and (c) would seem to be the most natural response but budgets and business priorities will be the key drivers behind how any organization reacts.

What is your crucial tip of survival for any HR Tech Startup, with or without this crisis?

Every start-up always feels that time is their worst enemy with a clear need to continually test the marketplace demand, always improve the products features and capabilities whilst dealing with competitors either from more established providers or fellow start-ups.

Those factors won’t ever change and can contribute to the reasons why start-ups fail. However, for me, effectively dealing with the people you work with will always be a key attribute that every start-up must never ignore.

Talented teams of people will always be the key for start-ups as they turn the vision for certain solutions into reality through their expertise.

A diverse team with different skill sets is often cited as being critical to the success of a start-up and therefore whatever crisis occurs it is critical to not only recruit the best but focus on retention as a key driver of success. T

hat needs to be driven by feedback, growth and development and high involvement, elements that may not come naturally to a founder with an exciting vision for a new solution, but it’s an area that if ignored could well bring the overall opportunity to a grinding halt.


Dave Millner

Dave has a business (risk/lending) and HR background based in financial services.

With 35 years of internal and external consulting experience in the NatWest/RBS Group, PSL, Kenexa and IBM, Dave worked directly with a variety of different global and multi-national based organizations offering a range of organizational development-based solutions focusing on future proofing their businesses. He is a regular presenter at conferences promoting the role of technology and the need for people analytics to demonstrate tangible business value in the ever-changing digital world of work.

His first book on the role of HR and the increasing demand for data and analytics in the way that HR operates was launched in April 2020. He is regarded as a social media guru through @HRCurator, being referenced as being one of the Most Influential People on Twitter in a number of people related subject areas.

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