Work Shield’s CEO on Why ‘Workplace Culture is a Microcosm of What is Going On in Society at Large’

Dallas-based Work Shield has a new partnership with an AI-enabled platform to better combat harassment and discrimination in the workplace. In an era of social injustice and a global pandemic, he thinks that's evermore important.

Since Dallas-based Work Shield was founded in 2018, its team has been on a fast growth track to change the culture of workplace harassment. Last year, Co-Founder and CEO Jared Pope had aggressive plans to build the startup’s third-party platform for employees to address any work-related issues, and earlier this summer, closed on a $4.11 million Series A funding round. Now, Pope and his team have formed a strategic partnership to take combating harassment and discrimination in the workplace a step further.

Work Shield has teamed up with RSquared, a pioneer in the next-gen workforce intelligence market, on a new end-to-end solution that combines the companies’ human and data-driven approaches.

The duo is calling it a first-of-its kind strategic partnership—one that could give employers valuable metrics and data surrounding employee satisfaction, while at the same time promoting employer proactivity and a culture of employee security and safety.

“We have reliable data proving that no matter how dedicated an employer is to prevention and training, or how tight they believe their culture is, no company is immune to harassment or discrimination,” Pope says. “The analytics and trends provided by RSquared will be monumental in both the prevention and investigation processes, giving employers who choose Work Shield a comprehensive plan to make their company an inclusive and safe space for employees.”

Work Shield is pairing its reporting, investigation, and resolution services with RSquared’s cloud-based artificial intelligence platform. In doing so, the companies believe employers will deploy quicker identification, analysis, and resolution of toxicity and inappropriate behavior in the workplace.

RSquared will identify the issues and Work Shield will help companies resolve them. On a macro level, that means better companies and cultures.

There has been an unprecedented number of recent lawsuits for racial and parental discrimination and ADA violations, according to Pope. He points to a recent Glassdoor study that shows three out of five employees have experienced a form of discrimination at work.

But most of the time, he says, the incident isn’t properly handled.

That’s why he and his team at Work Shield are on a mission to give employees a “real voice.” It doesn’t mean just reporting issues to an internal supervisor, manager, or HR. To Pope, the solution is imploring a reliable third-party that can both handle the intake of incidents and provide consistent, prompt investigations and resolutions. 

Work Shield can do so in less than five days.

“Employers should ensure their employees’ voices can truly be heard. No matter the positive policy changes we make, there will still be incidents at work—between employees, managers, or customers,” he says. “If employees aren’t able to safely report incidents, cultures will suffer and employers will be at greater risk of legal action.”

An era of change in 2020

Amidst a global pandemic and a revolution to bring diversity and inclusion-related problems to light, Work Shield and RSquared’s tech could be more important than ever.

“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,” Pope says. “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.”

According to Pope, employers are used to claiming that “remote working is not going to work for their company.” But in a post-COVID world, many have proven that the remote model can be successful. He thinks employers must now determine equitable, reasonable accommodations for employees when business goes back to usual.

New company policies should focus on inclusive hiring and employment methods inside the company, Pope says.

“What’s the decision-making process? How are you reducing the bias in job descriptions, introducing more diverse interview panels, and standardizing the selection criteria? Removing these kinds of unconscious biases allows for a more diverse and more inclusive workforce, and reduces employers’ risk of discrimination suits.”

A second priority for employers that he sees right now is examining current hiring practices and D&I initiatives. Many are undergoing significant changes in staffing, whether it be hiring or layoffs. The decisions made in the next year are critical.

“Companies have a unique opportunity to shift their diversity representation, strategy, decisions and how they address and manage what’s going on in the world,” he says. “How do we learn from Black Lives Matter or from the LGBTQ community, how do we make sure that their voices are heard and that they are represented?”

Work Shield CEO Jared Pope [Photo: Rebeca Posadas-Nava]

Behind the tech

Work Shield calls itself “the only benefits-focused solution that utilizes specialized legal professionals and an innovative technology platform to investigate and bring resolution to workplace harassment and discrimination issues.”

Its platform gives employees an immediate and impartial way to report harassment and discrimination, removing the employer and the fear from the process.

Pope, who has a background as a risk attorney, hopes the tech fosters a culture of respect, inclusiveness, and diversity in the workplace. He wants to help the employee, while also protecting the employer, to create something mutually beneficial.

With its newest partnership, Work Shield’s solution will be provided to all of RSquared’s existing cloud-based clients.

“By combining forces with Work Shield, we are giving our clients assurance that once our platform is implemented and data collection identifies trends and toxic behavior, they will now have a trusted partner to take the next step to not only investigate the issue, but ensure workplace cultures are protected,” Dan Udoutch, co-founder and CEO of RSquared, said in a statement. “This full-service solution will give both employers and employees peace of mind that they are being protected and that action is being taken to ensure their safety.”

According to RSquared, its platform uses AI and natural language processing to provide real-time secure monitoring and analysis of email, instant, messaging, and more digital communications.

The intent is to replace “time-consuming and costly manual surveying of employees.” Immediate, actionable insights are delivered via a secure online executive dashboard, which enables the tech to assess the state and health of an organization’s culture.

“RSquared is able to securely analyze and monitor any employee email and messaging that has been granted access via the client. This can be customized to exclude certain named users or groups during implementation,” Pope says. “Alternatively, RSquared can be used solely to support specific incidents of harassment, discrimination or other workplace issues.”

All existing and new Work Shield clients will also now have access to RSquared’s capabilities and an opportunity to demo its AI platform. This includes trends and data identified by RSquared technology that can analyze an individual’s activity and determine patterns of toxic behavior.

Pope says he is already working with a client in Chicago that has the AI tool in place, and Work Shield is being rolled out as a complement, making for a total, complete solution.

“Our clients have already shown great interest in complementing their core Work Shield product with RSquared’s ground-breaking AI technology,” Pope says. “Combining the two solutions helps identify and solve issues faster, as well as provide critical insights during incident investigations. Plus, it gives our clients a way to actually measure and analyze their ongoing diversity, equality and inclusion initiatives.”

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