“Young people without blinkers”

HR tech specialist Gero Hesse speaks in an interview about the opportunities for digital start-ups in HR work, the boost that Corona brought for them and the risks that will remain.

More and more often hand in hand in HR work: people and AI

Mr. Hesse, fintech and legaltech have become well-known terms – HR tech not yet so much. What is it exactly?

HR stands for human resources, i.e. for personnel management and tech for technology. HR techs are companies that use technology to deal with HR issues.

Why are HR techs becoming more important?

The fact that more and more data is being queried everywhere opens up completely new ways of using it. Not only within the company, but also outside of it, for example in recruiting. Today there are completely different ways of approaching applicants.

How active is the start-up scene there?

So I’m really excited about that! There are many young people out and about who have not yet been shaped by blinkered thinking in companies for 20 years. A lot has happened in the scene in recent years. I’ve been following this for almost six years. The range is now huge. It ranges from technology-driven companies in the narrower sense that deal with recruiting and matching, to topics such as family-friendliness and sustainability, to digital assessment centers. I’ve discussed more than 120 startups on my blog, and 95 percent of them are digital in some way.

Gero Hesse is the managing director of the personnel marketing consultancy
Gero Hesse is the managing director of the personnel marketing consultancy “Territory Embrace”; In his blog “Saatkorn” he writes regularly about the HR tech scene.: Photo: Private

Why is the scene growing so fast?

That’s not surprising. Digitization and demographic change are megatrends, regardless of the topic. The demographic development is reflected in the HR sector in the shortage of skilled workers, which is forcing companies to go other ways. And digitization means that you have other technological options – and a young generation of applicants and employees who grew up with such applications.

What role does Corona play in this?

So, if you put aside all the painful experiences of illness and death and just look at the “other side effects” of the pandemic, I would say: It is a catalyst for many things that would otherwise have happened, only much more slowly. Working remotely, for example, was already an issue before Corona, but now it has become socially acceptable in the field of knowledge workers. Similarly, many doors are opening for HR tech start-ups right now.

What are the risks in HR tech?

One is privacy issues. Anyone who marches out as a digital start-up in Germany today without having this topic on their radar is not well advised. A lot can be done with anonymized data in the HR tech area, including in recruiting and assessment. The second common point of criticism is ethical issues. There is now even an HR Tech Ethics Council. People from science, start-ups and established companies got together and decided what is ethical and what is not. Because, from a purely technological point of view, a lot of the limit value is possible.

For example?

For example, you could enter employee groups according to preferences or gender in certain tools and say: We sort out women for certain further training offers. That would be technically feasible. In recruiting, this has even happened once during a breakdown – the famous example when the algorithm at Amazon accidentally discriminated against women. Fortunately, that was revealed.