Personio wants to provide the ‘bread and butter’ of HR for Europe’s SMEs

2 Nov 2022

Personio CEO and co-founder Hanno Renner. Image: Personio

Vish Gain spoke to Personio CEO and co-founder Hanno Renner about the HR tech start-up’s latest offerings and plans in Europe.

Businesses around the world are treading lightly amid a volatile tech market and broader economic uncertainty, but one sector that has proved remarkably resilient is HR tech – which has remained bullish as the ‘great resignation’ shows signs of slowing down.

And for Hanno Renner, CEO and co-founder of German HR software start-up Personio, economic uncertainty is not a stumbling block. Rather, it is a driving force that reinstates the relevance of upgrading a company’s human resources and employee experience management.

“An economic slowdown reduces growth in the economy and most companies, which is true for our customers. But in that environment, what doesn’t change is the need for people – who remain the most important factor in navigating crisis,” Renner told me in an interview.

Young, optimistic and full of passion for how tech can revolutionise human resource management, Renner is one of Europe’s most recognisable founders in the HR tech space. We met at a Personio conference titled HUG on Tour in London in October.

“Especially in times of high volatility, you need to really have the time to focus on these things and adapting to changing environments, which is where the need for efficiencies and good workflows becomes even more important,” he went on.

“And while there’s a slowdown in the pace at which our customers are growing and recruiting new employees, we’re actually not seeing any slowdown in terms of their demand for efficiency and for implementing software that helps with that.”

A one-stop shop for HR

Founded in 2015 and headquartered in Munich, Personio provides HR software to small and medium-sized businesses. One of Europe’s most valuable start-ups, it is on a mission to develop an all-in-one platform for human resources, recruiting and payroll.

The company announced its launch in Ireland and the UK in early 2020 following its $75m Series C funding round. It has been growing a team in Dublin since then, where it has set up a business and engineering hub that currently employs 250 people across a range of roles.

“It was really important for us to find one hub where we can also centrally help serve a lot of companies in the European region,” Renner said.

“And the benefit of Ireland is that it attracts a lot of international talent from all over Europe. So different language speaking capabilities, but also the knowledge about these local markets in one office where the knowledge sharing can happen between those teams.”

With no explicit plans in the near future to look beyond Europe, Renner said he wants Personio to streamline its focus primarily on European SMEs with up to 2,000 employees that are “highly underserved” and have very different needs to big multinationals.

“We want to democratise the benefits of software and technology that larger companies have received by bringing them to SMEs as well,” he told me.

With that mission in mind, Personio raised $200m earlier this year to invest in product expansion. It has been working on some new tools that Renner believes can greatly benefit HR teams and free up time for more important tasks.

Personio product expansion

The first offering, Personio Conversations, is a workplace requests tool that provides human resources teams with a one-stop shop platform to streamline and manage employee requests, such as questions about payroll, IT equipment, onboarding or even travel.

The key distinguishing factor between Conversations and other tools is that employees can make these requests through communication channels they are most familiar with – by integrating with workplace communication platforms such as Slack and Microsoft Teams.

Personio also revealed another new offering at HUG on Tour, Custom Workflows, which enables the creation of automated workflows to reduce manual processes. Renner described Custom Workflows as a tool that aims to give Personio customers “a chance of building even more unique and special workflows that are tailored to their needs”.

These needs, he said, can revolve around figuring out how promotions work, who needs to be involved in the process, who needs to be notified for approval, as well as other specific processes and workflows that can be improved through automation.

Overall, Renner believes Personio is interested in the “bread and butter” matters of human resource management in companies, and its holistic coverage of all the basic needs of employees is what sets it apart from other businesses in the space.

“We’re one of the very few players that covers entire employee lifecycles, starting with recruiting and onboarding to helping companies do things like absences, leave, time tracking and payroll really well, but also focusing on development of the employee,” he went on.

“And by focusing on that entire employee lifecycle, but really on the bread and butter process every company needs to do and helping companies do them well, is something that I think differentiates us from a lot from people that may be doing very fancy things in very specific areas.”

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic