Many employees have become disillusioned with HR's ability to advocate for them as a deluge of harassment cases and bad actors in corporate America have come to light. But numerous apps are giving workers an alternative to HR.
"Employees, who might have been leery at interacting with HR before, are now no longer going to HR at all, and are seeking alternative options for advice," according to Tech Crunch. "Today, there is a growing crop of new apps and services to get peer information, allowing employees to protect themselves like never before."
One of the most successful apps, Blind, serves as an anonymous social platform for current and former employees to vent and share stories. Founded in South Korea about five years ago and launched in late 2015 in the U.S., the app includes employees from more than 3,000 companies. But the tech industry is its main focus, with more than 37,000 users from Microsoft, 20,000 from Amazon and 8,600 from Google.
New York-based Bravely connects "workers who might be struggling bringing up a matter at work with expert 'Pros' who are trained executive and life coaches who can help a worker think through their options and how best to raise their voice at a company," Tech Crunch notes.
Bravely's strength comes from its ability to act as a neutral third-party, and this is especially useful for HR managers who face a "structural challenge with representing employees" since they also represent the best interests of the firm, says co-founder Toby Hervey.
But Bravely also challenges employees to do a self-assessment of their own issues and how that fits in for the well-being of the overall firm. "We are creating a resource for employees, but it is not a union rep, it is not blindly neutral," Hervey notes.
Bravely's vetting protocol for its 'Pros' involves background checks and an onboarding process that includes a proprietary training program. So reports New York Business Journal. It also touts strict requirements for experience and qualifications.
"Everyone has experienced a stressful moment at work, or dealt with a broken relationship with their manager or colleague, and decided not to be proactive because it's intimidating to come forward," says Sarah Sheehan, Bravely's chief customer officer and co-founder. She is quoted in the New York Business Journal article. "Bravely is that first step--that safe place for venting, getting advice and putting a game plan together when you are not yet ready or lack the confidence to approach your boss or HR business partner."
Another startup came from Lisa Gelobter, the former chief digital service officer in President Barack Obama's administration's Department of Education, reports The Washington Post.
Gelobter co-founded tEQuitable to serve as "a confidential digital ombudsman." The goal is to help companies and employees better deal with bias, discrimination, harassment and other sticky workplace issues. "We want to digitize that human advice," she adds.
Gelobter also worked as a technology executive at Black Entertainment Television and Hulu and saw discrimination first-hand. "When you're a black woman in tech or in entertainment, it's day in and day out," she notes.
Startup AllVoices provides employees a platform to anonymously report harassment that is channeled directly to the CEO and board.
Another startup, Botler AI, taps artificial intelligence to evaluate thousands of sexual harassment-related legal documents and complaints to see whether an employee's experience may constitute a violation of U.S. or Canadian law. And another, BetterBrave, was started by two women engineers in Silicon Valley to give users a how-to-guide on workplace harassment.