Work Shield was born out of a realization that the traditional process for addressing workplace harassment and discrimination was broken. It wasn’t working for employees or employers.
The HR tech startup is the only one that partners with employers to efficiently manage reporting, investigation, and resolution of workplace harassment and discrimination issues in their entirety, says Founder and CEO Jared Pope.
The founder, who calls himself a “recovering attorney,” said the startup’s services “provide liability protection for employers better than any other service out there” in an HR tech series interview last summer.
But Work Shield is more than just a “check-the-box” compliance company, he said.
Pope wants to secure the company’s place in the market as the No. 1 solution for employers: Once a client is known as a “Work Shield Certified Company,” its employees can have the confidence that workplace harassment and discrimination is taken seriously, he said in the interview.
Beyond protection, the platform offers added benefits, Pope told Dallas Innovates: The solution-oriented technology fosters a positive and open workplace culture.
Now—with more people working from home than ever before—he wants to help companies ensure the human voice is still present in these virtual times. It’s a world that seems to remove the human element from nearly all transactions, Pope told Dallas Innovates.
In the pandemic, Pope wanted to stay true to the company’s “ethos of protecting employees’ voices by ensuring they remain truly heard and listened to.” While the company’s tech helps track and streamline the reporting process, keeping people engaged at critical points in the process is key, he says.
“Imagine having an important conversation with your significant other (i.e., buying a house) via only text messages or emails. I think we can all agree that it would not go well, to say the least,” he says. “Now, imagine being discriminated against and having to deal with this workplace misconduct issue via a chatbot or some automated recording. Not too welcoming, is it?”
Pope continues, “That’s where Work Shield ensures that employees have someone to hear their pain, frustrations, anxiety, and worry—as well as their relief and joy—to know that someone understands them, while also ensuring a clear path to resolution.”
While last year didn’t necessarily go as planned, he called it “a blessing in disguise” for the company. With COVID necessitating new solutions, Work Shield was able to create more effective reporting for its clients and increase its client/employer base by more than 250 percent. Soon, Work Shield will be moving its headquarters to a new Dallas location, doubling its staffing, and raising its Series B funding round.
In December, the company said it hadn’t yet finalized its location. The company was considering the Deep Ellum, East Dallas/75 & Mockingbird, and Knox-Henderson areas in Dallas.
As Pope puts it, “We will always be headquartered in Dallas. It’s our home!”
The pandemic presented a variety of challenges and opportunities for the company.
In the summer of 2020, Work Shield raised $4.11 million in Series A funding and began a partnership with Menlo Park, Calif.-based R-Squared AI to implement an AI tool for clients to track toxicity, diversity, inclusiveness, and several other factors within their companies.
Instead of mailing out ID cards to companies, Work Shield teams created an instant-access reporting resource for smartphones that also included enhanced data tracking metrics.
Work Shield also adapted its employee and employer education to “show what harassment and discrimination can look like when employees are primarily working remotely,” Pope says, and to help managers maintain a healthy company culture in the work-from-home environment.
Pope and his team are now looking ahead with one vision: “creating safer workplace cultures centered around diversity, inclusion, and equity for all.” He shares his perspective on pivoting in the pandemic and a brighter future for all in a Q&A with Dallas Innovates.
You describe your goal in 2020 as “focused growth.” How did you adapt your plans in the pandemic?
When we first embarked on 2020, Work Shield’s overarching goal for the year was “focused growth.” We can say we achieved that growth, but not in the manner in which we originally planned. In the end, that turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Among some of our notable developments, our focus on our clients is something we are all proud of.
Like many companies impacted by COVID-19, Work Shield has had to innovate and adapt our processes to continue to add meaningful value to our clients and their employees. One example of our adaptability is evaluating and modifying our existing onboarding process to better serve those clients whose employees transitioned to working remotely as a result of COVID-19.
Can you elaborate on your new developments necessitated by COVID-19?
Normally, like insurance carriers, we mail out ID Cards to clients for all of their employees. Given the remote workforce due to COVID-19, that process wasn’t feasible anymore. Our Sales, Marketing, and Client Success teams collaborated to create and implement an instant access reporting resource that employees are able to store on their mobile devices (customized digital ID cards in their Google and Apple Wallet on smartphone devices). This technological solution also provides our Client Success team with enhanced data tracking metrics.
Another client-focused development was implementing an AI tool that allows our clients to track toxicity, sentiment, diversity, inclusiveness, and centrality within their company. Coupled with our metadata and streamlined employee onboarding process, our clients have the ability to not only know what is happening in person but be able to provide employees with a voice that is heard even if they are working remotely!
Being adaptable and innovative resulted in implementing a more effective and efficient reporting resource for our clients and their employees. We’ll continue to operate with this mindset of analyzing existing procedures and implementing new ones, if necessary, to ensure that our clients have all the resources at their disposal to fully utilize our solution in a timely manner.
How can Work Shield help companies?
Historically, companies were falling short by managing harassment and discrimination incidents internally and were experiencing expensive EEOC claims, damaged reputations, and toxic cultures. Employees were also negatively impacted, resulting in lower morale, increased absenteeism, higher turnover, and fear of retaliation. Work Shield is the only full-service, independent and unbiased solution for reporting, investigating, and resolving workplace harassment and discrimination, resulting in empowered employees, lowered corporate risk, and preserved company culture.
Pivoting during COVID-19 allowed us to grow and create even more innovative solutions that provided employees immediate access to reporting harassment or discrimination incidents while creating a safer workplace culture. One thing is certain, changing the future also entails ensuring that the “human voice” is still present.
In today’s world that seemingly removes the “human element” in almost all transactions or encourages that solutions or products remove the human interaction altogether. Work Shield has stayed true to its ethos of protecting employees’ voices by ensuring they remain truly heard and listened to. With Work Shield, all parties involved in workplace culture are understood and actionable change is implemented for a more diverse and inclusive future.
Work Shield ensures that employees have someone to hear their pain, frustrations, anxiety, and worry, as well as their relief and joy to know that someone understands them, while also ensuring a clear path to resolution. Autobots cannot do this. Computers cannot do this. Only humans can.
I like to think that Work Shield is preserving the future of workplaces and empowering humankind to have more human kindness.
How has Work Shield responded to the challenges of COVID-19 and social injustice?
Companies and their people must remain adaptable to changing employee populations, new environments, technological advancements, and innovation. The glaring factor that has universally impacted companies this year is the pandemic. Work Shield’s commitment to help companies successfully adapt and survive this pandemic has fueled our desire to share our knowledge and perspective with others. Knowing the hardships that many Work Shield clients faced during the pandemic prompted our team to implement measures to provide guidance and protection to them.
One measure we took was creating The Works, a monthly e-newsletter that is distributed to current clients. The newsletter synthesizes and condenses relevant articles and media spotlights highlighting managing the challenges of COVID-19 and the workplace. For instance, one challenge addressed is educating companies on what harassment and discrimination can look like when employees are primarily working remotely. Another challenge we addressed was how management can maintain a healthy company culture with a remote employee population. These are new challenges companies are facing in the wake of the pandemic, and we strive to ensure they can successfully adapt and address issues that have a direct impact on not only their culture but their bottom line.
During this time, I’ve also been interviewed by numerous publications and authored blog articles advising companies on how to navigate these tumultuous waters. Relevant topics include best practices for returning to a shared workspace, the importance of making sure employees are heard, handling parental discrimination during and after COVID-19, and best practices for managing communications in times of change.
My goal is to be a resource to not only Work Shield clients, but employees and business leaders around the country.
How is Work Shield disrupting the human resources industry?
As a company whose vision is to create safer workplace cultures centered around diversity, inclusion, and equity for all, it’s incumbent upon Work Shield to be a part of the solution to the social injustices that we have witnessed this year. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) conversations are critical if we are to begin to repair the harm resulting from such injustices. What’s even more troublesome is that COVID-19 has had a disproportionate impact on racial and ethnic minorities as well. We have learned through the BLM movement that not all voices are heard equally, and this applies to employees’ voices within companies, not just in their communities. And that’s a huge problem.
When employees can report incidents in the face of harassment or discrimination without fear of retaliation to an impartial resource who will treat their concerns as a top priority and work to resolve incidents quickly, everyone wins. We’ve always been vocal about the importance of companies focusing on DEI initiatives so that impacted employees can heal, move forward, and bring their best selves to work, knowing that their voices matter.
Work Shield’s socially driven mindset and commitment for effecting lasting, positive change in workplaces is disrupting the human resources and DEI industry by providing a solution that allows for all employees’ voices to be heard.
How have you fostered resilience in your own team?
This past year, we’ve collectively faced a COVID-19 crisis, an economic crisis, and a racial injustice crisis. Companies, cultures, and communities feel the heavy weight of these times. In order to come out on the other side stronger and more resilient, it’s been more important than ever for our team to continue its vision. Our end goal is being the number one solution to creating safer workplace cultures centered around diversity, inclusion, and equity for all.
How does your team view innovation?
Innovation is a core value at Work Shield, and I constantly encourage our team to collaborate and use their ingenuity to adapt our solution to the continuously changing workplace and culture landscape. If COVID-19 taught us anything, it’s that being adaptable while still focusing on our vision is the key to progressing forward with innovative solutions for our clients. Knowing we can still make a positive impact in the marketplace fuels our resiliency and solidifies our belief that we can overcome obstacles and continue to create new solutions for our clients.
Elaborate on what’s next for Work Shield?
In 2021, Work Shield will continue to focus on strategic growth in different areas, but one of the most exciting areas of growth for our team is that we plan to double our team members over the next 9-12 months. Despite the economic downturn as a result of COVID-19, we have increased our client/employer base by more than 250 percent in the past year, indicating that companies are being more proactive to take steps to protect their cultures and ensure their employees’ voices are heard. With an increased team and continued client growth, we will be moving headquarters in the first quarter of 2021. Lastly, given our growth over the past year and what’s scheduled ahead, we’ll soon be raising our Series B capital round.
Q&A edited for brevity and clarity.
The story was updated Feb. 3, 2020, with additional information.
Quincy Preston contributed to this story. A version of the story was originally published in Dallas Innovates 2021: The Resilience Issue.
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