At the end of last year, I got a call from a really talented close friend who was stressing out about her job and her seemingly horrible manager. She was fed up and ready to start hunting for her next thing.
As we talked about what was going on and what she should do, my friend remarked that she wished she had someone other than her own HR team to approach, someone who knew the ins-and-outs of these types of HR issues. I joked that she should text Sarah, a great friend of mine from my Gilt Groupe days, and my go-to for this kind of thing. I was working at the on-demand urgent care and telemedicine app Pager at the time, and often described Sarah as my “Pager for HR.”
Fast-forward six months and Sarah and I are hand-in-hand everyday (along with our co-founder and friend Ras), building a platform that helps employees get guidance when they’re facing issues like my friend was. We know everyone has those moments, and they need someone who they can trust to talk through their options and suggest ways to broach the subject at work. We wanted to build a safe space for people to say whatever they felt or thought, without having to worry about feeling awkward around their HR person at their next Nespresso machine run-in.
We initially struggled with the idea — we loved it, but questioned if people would ever pay for a resource like this. The experience we envisioned seemed kind of like ‘job therapy’, but clearly wasn’t a mental health service. It had hints of coaching, but more for a specific moment in time rather than long-term development and learning. Could we really get people to pay per session, or for a subscription, to something like this?
But then, after weeks of thinking, dreaming, exploring, brainstorming and building — and talking to as many smart HR experts and professionals as we could — we realized something pretty powerful. This kind of resource could be equally as valuable for employers. By providing this anonymous, off-the-record resource to their employees, companies could catch and address issues sooner (people would actually speak up!), and extend the reach of their over-strapped HR teams who spend too much of their time seeing the trees and not enough scanning the forest.
We even discovered that people, called ombudsmen, have been appointed in governments and companies (like Coca-Cola and American Express) to give this very kind of guidance for more than a century. They’re professionals within an organization charged with keeping conversations private, and escalating issues to leadership — confidentially — when necessary.
That’s when it hit us: we could take this proven concept, put our own modern, next-gen spin on it, and bring it to employees everywhere through a shared platform approach. When employees are happier and more successful, they’re more likely to stay at their companies for longer, be more productive, and carry on with a more positive attitude. Tackling issues before they escalate makes work a better place to work for everyone.
We’re excited to embark on this journey and energized to be tackling problems so near-and-dear to us personally.
My friend, by the way, ended up getting the guidance she needed and moved to another team within her company. We can’t wait to watch her, and people everywhere, work more bravely.