Jared Pope, CEO & Founder at Work Shield joins us in this TecHRseries interview to talk about Work Shield’s recent partnership with empathiHR and the inspiration and story behind launching Work Shield. Catch the complete story:
Tell us a little about yourself. What are some of the biggest highlights of running Work Shield? We’d love to hear about some of the near-future plans you have for the platform / company?
I’m an attorney by trade, or as I often say, a “recovering attorney”! I love life, am lucky to have my best friend as both my business partner and wife, and two amazing children who challenge me to be the best dad I can be. One of the biggest highlights of running Work Shield has been seeing the impact we have on the lives of employees we serve by providing them a safe work environment to come to every day. Outside of that, other highlights have been ensuring we have the right foundation for Work Shield to scale and grow – from the right team members to the right investors. A truly memorable moment was the first time we realized we were on to something big! It was during one of our first pitches to an employer – halfway through, the CFO stopped us and said, “This is a no-brainer. Please send us the paperwork or contract to sign up.” At that moment, I knew we had the right product for employers and employees!
Our plans for the near future include continuing to build our dynamic team for scale and growth, as well as evolving our technology platform to provide greater value to our clients. Furthermore, we want to secure our place in the market as the #1 solution for employers so that once our clients are known as “Work Shield Certified Companies,” their employees will have confidence that workplace harassment and discrimination are taken seriously. Work Shield is more than just a “check-the-box” compliant(compliance?) company. Our reporting and investigation services do provide liability protection for employers better than any other service out there. And for the first time, we also ensure employees’ voices are heard equitably and consistently, all while maintaining positive and safe workplace cultures! This is definitely an exciting time for Work Shield and our clients.
How did the idea and inspiration for this platform come about and can you take us through some of the biggest moments in the company’s journey so far?
I started Work Shield in 2018 because I was tired of the inadequate solutions available to employers who wanted to implement real, impactful change in order to protect their employees. After researching how employers were currently handling the situation, we realized there was a simple solution that could benefit both employers and employees. Using an impartial third-party to manage discrimination and harassment incidents from start to finish would provide employees a real voice to be heard, and allow employers to effectively manage these incidents that plague workplaces – mitigating their risk and providing a safe workplace culture for everyone. From there, Work Shield was created. Some of the biggest moments in our journey to date have included securing our first “big client” that had over 1,000 employees, exceeding over 10,000 lives managed, and raising an oversubscribed Series A round of $4M!
The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic induced remote work and hiring as well as general businesses challenges have also led to a shift in employee management norms, what are some of your thoughts now on what work culture is going to look like in the next few years – we’ve heard a lot about various aspects of the new normal, but more specifically when it comes to HR and employee experience: what are your top thoughts?
COVID-19 and remote working has definitely forced many of our culture-building and employee experience efforts in a new direction. For instance, some of HR’s employee experience efforts are no longer really valuable (free Friday communal lunches for instance). Employee experience in this new normal should probably be focused on more meaningful, long-term initiatives. Building trust with employees is crucial – many are uncertain of their job future, concerned about working and parenting (and potentially continued remote schooling in the fall) and concerned about safety. Building trust starts with transparent communication, authenticity, empathy and responsiveness. More than anything, now is the time for employees to know their employers care about them. There is no place for fear, harassment, silence or cultures of intimidation not necessarily seen by the C-Suite in the new normal. Employees need to know their voices are heard, and that their concerns are taken seriously and will be resolved fairly. This all starts with companies having the right tools and services in place (like Work Shield).
We’d love to hear about Work Shield’s recent partnership with empathiHR. How will this partnership help end-users and businesses more?
Employee training is considered an important part of preventing workplace discrimination and harassment (in many states it’s a requirement). Work Shield’s partnership with empathiHR, a leading e-training platform, means clients have a more streamlined and full-service approach to preventing and managing workplace harassment and discrimination. Plus, they have at-the-ready access to both ongoing and immediate-need training materials.
What are some of the ways in which tech employers and mid-to-larger SaaS companies should inculcate a better employee protection practice against general misuse / harassment? What are some takeaways you’d share for global business heads to keep in mind when it comes to setting in place practices that help protect employees across the hierarchy from any kind of harassment?
Well, the easy way is to implement Work Shield. Outside of that, it’s ensuring that employees’ voices are truly heard. It’s not about reporting issues the typical way to an internal supervisor, manager or HR—it’s about imploring a reliable third-party to not only handle the intake of incidents, but also provide consistent incident investigations and resolutions within a reasonable and prompt time-period, which to Work Shield, means less than five days. The biggest takeaway business leaders should consider is that not all harassment (including discrimination) services are the same. Most are just reporting platforms where incidents are reported to a third-party, but then sent to an internal manager or HR to investigate. The majority of employees are still scared to report incidents when an internal investigation ensues, which means incidents don’t get reported, harassment continues, turnover increases, productivity decreases, etc… Plus, companies open themselves up to further legal action when incidents are investigated internally. A second important takeaway for business leaders is recognizing that most HR professionals have a multitude of responsibilities. Most are not professionally trained in harassment investigation and resolution (nor should they be). Work Shield takes harassment heavy lifting off HR departments, so they can focus on other important matters.
How would you advise businesses and teams, especially HR and other business leaders to stay a step ahead of the game as the global economy tides through these uncertain times caused by the Covid-19 pandemic?
Workplace culture is a microcosm of what is going on in society at large. Right now, we are facing a lot of societal and financial uncertainty and instability that are being reflected in our workplaces. According to a recent Glassdoor study, three out of five employees have experienced some form of discrimination at work. And, 82% of the time incidents are reported, the worker receives no relief. Harassment and discrimination affect every industry and every size organization. Companies are starting to realize that the status quo of “check-the-box” compliance has been shattered and that it’s no longer a matter of “if” something happens, but a matter of “when” something happens. Employers can’t afford to be complacent.
A few general thoughts / tips for businesses worldwide dealing with the current world pandemic?
As Martin Luther King, Jr, said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Be proactive. Communicate responsibly. Show empathy. Have the right tools in place to properly address any concerns, anxiety or incidents as they arise. Show employees their value and your commitment to them.
Founded in 2018, Work Shield is the only solution that partners with employers to efficiently manage reporting, investigation and resolution of workplace harassment and discrimination issues in their entirety. For the first time, employees have access to an immediate and impartial secure platform to safely voice harassment and discrimination incidents, while employers are ensured peace of mind that every issue is investigated and resolved with care by Work Shield-certified legal professionals. Implementing the Work Shield solution fosters a more positive and open workplace culture comprised of integrity and trust.
Jared Pope is the CEO & Founder at Work Shield