intelliHR Reveals Secret of Successful Business Expansion In A Pandemic

In 2020, intelliHR, an Australian HR technology business, brought its next-generation cloud-based people management and data analytics platform to Toronto. The company worked closely with Toronto Global to select Toronto as a strategic expansion location in North America to support its existing and future international customers around the clock. These were no ordinary times to make major investment decisions, but intelliHR adapted to the changing business climate and has seen faster and more sustained growth in the Toronto Region – growth that is surpassing all expectations.
We recently caught up with Glenn Donaldson, President (intelliHR, The Americas) to find out more.
Q: What challenges did intelliHR face in expanding during the COVID-19 pandemic, and more importantly, what opportunities did it provide?
A: All our tools and processes had already been created to be online, so unlike many other organizations, the shift to working online remotely was fairly seamless for us.
Instead, the main challenge for intelliHR was opening an office on the other side of the world without physically being there, during a global pandemic. We visited Toronto in February right before COVID-19 shut everything down and had planned to return in the following months to recruit, hire, train and set up the office. The pandemic meant we couldn’t be there physically, so we pushed on with everything remotely (which was a nice parallel to what our customers were going through transitioning to a remote-working environment).
Establishing a team remotely requires a lot more planning, consideration and dedication to making it work – culturally and logistically. The opportunities to bond, connect and get to know each other (on both professional and personal levels) that you get in the office – the impromptu, in-the-moment brainstorms, conversations, coffees and lunches simply aren’t there. Everything had to be scheduled and conducted via videoconference.
Herein lay a number of opportunities. Facing the same challenges our customers were encountering, we were able to learn from them and feed these learnings directly back into our product and positioning strategy. On top of this, we were also able to meet the market in terms of how organizations have shifted and adapted through COVID-19.
Initially organizations were asking ‘how do we work from home?’, and ‘how do we get our staff set up successfully?’, so we created a freemium intelliHR COVID-19 product to help the market overcome these hurdles. This was crucial in opening intelliHR up to the market and helping us to establish a stronger presence in Toronto. Once they got through this first phase, organizations transitioned to questions of visibility and managing performance from afar, and intelliHR’s capabilities in performance and analytics met this need.
Now, as we progress into 2021 and the next phase of the pandemic, intelliHR can support culture, teamwork, and reconstructing decentralized teams.
Q: Why do you feel that you have had so much initial success in Toronto?

A: Firstly, we spent a huge amount of time and resources learning and understanding the North American market before we even got there. We built our product to be globally agnostic from day one, so we were already in more than 12 countries with some customers operating in the North American region that we could learn from.
The intelliHR team physically went to Toronto in February to immerse ourselves in the culture, organizational, HR and tech world. Even though the world has now gone online, being there in person and building relationships face-to-face has opened a lot of doors for us that have been absolutely crucial in our ongoing success. Toronto Global played a vital role in helping us build those key relationships.
Secondly, our product has really stood out from competitors, particularly at a people data, performance and analytics level. HR tech is such an awesome environment now – it’s constantly evolving and intelliHR is right there in the mix. It’s exciting to see such a positive response to our product and reinforces that we’re doing the right thing.
Q: What advice would you give to companies that are hesitant to make expansion decisions in such uncertain times?
A: Take every opportunity and invest heavily into two things: market research and building relationships.
When we visited Toronto, we said ‘yes’ to every single introduction and meeting that Toronto Global put in front of us, even if it wasn’t directly related at a product level. We did eight meetings a day and a tech meetup every single night. This allowed us to fast-track our immersion into the market and culture, and helped us to understand what we knew and what we thought would work, as well as what we didn’t know and what we hadn’t yet accounted for or perhaps needed to take back to the drawing board.
Q: What are your goals for intelliHR in Toronto throughout 2021 and beyond?
A: Our goal for 2021 is to continue to expand and embed into the North American market and build key relationships, not only at a customer level but at a partner level. We’re investing heavily in our Toronto team from a sales and service perspective, which is on track to more than double by early 2021. The work that we do in 2021 will strengthen our foothold into Canada and the U.S. which will set us up for continued success and injection into the U.K. and Europe markets.
It’s been great to see how focused and dedicated organizations in North America have been to their people during 2020. There’s such a strong correlation between our software and organizations that genuinely care about their people and want them to perform, and we’re looking forward to taking this to the next level in 2021.
One way we’ve done that was launching our first intelliHR Performance Summit: The Science of high performing business. The summit was a free virtual event for HR professionals and business leaders who want to empower their teams to reach maximum potential. The Performance Summit focused on helping organizations think differently about their people and performance in 2021 and featured a keynote presentation from Toronto Raptors’ very own Teresa Resch.
Watch Keynote Speech from Teresa Resch at the recent intelliHR Performance Summit