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Q&A Week 14

Stopping Harassment Before It Starts? There's an App for That...

You want to build a great culture by stopping harassment before it happens. But people are reluctant to raise concerns, especially if they think they're going to get their colleagues in trouble. So what do you do? UK-based InChorus has some ideas...

In the wake of the #MeToo movement, companies have increasingly understood: company culture can either discourage or enable harassment. Reportable sexual harassment (or harassment across other dimensions of difference) rarely happens out of the blue. The trouble usually starts small: with behaviors or comments that don't meet the legal definition of harassment, but set a tone of disrespect. But how can a company identify and root out these behaviors early?

UK company InChorus is building an app for that. I sat down with Rosie Turner, InChorus CEO and co-founder, to talk about why InChorus is different from employee engagement surveys and how they use data to develop actionable insights for preventing harassment.

TT: Perhaps you could start off by telling us a little bit about how you came to do this work.

RT: InChorus was shaped through lots of conversations with D&I leaders. Raj Ramanandi (my co-founder) and I found that there was some innovation happening in the diversity space around recruitment: tools de-biasing hiring and such. But that there is a real gap around tools or metrics that are focused on inclusion.

In particular, we were interested in how companies were able to pick up on every day instances of bias, before they escalated, to create more inclusive cultures. These are incidents that are not necessarily being reported, but at the same time, they’re not effectively captured through a typical employee engagement survey. What we find instead is that they’re often shared informally, round the office coffee machine. The more we talked about it with leaders in the field, the more we realized that there wasn’t a good mechanism catching this. InChorus was designed to try and close that gap essentially.  

Any other part of a business seeks to identify where there are problems, get the necessary data and understanding, and then design targeted solutions. Through InChorus, we want to enable D&I and HR leaders to take the same approach. To find ‘cultural bugs’ earlier on and focus on smaller interventions that can really address issues

TT: Can you tell us what does InChorus actually does? I’m particularly interested in this question of how do you get at incidents that are not actionable, or that people do not want to raise to the level of actionability. 

RT: In a nutshell, InChorus is a tool to anonymously log, track, and resolve incidents of bias. We direct employees to resources to help them deal with these issues whilst at the same time generating actionable insights for companies to save money and better direct their inclusion initiatives.

Regarding your point about catching incidents that are currently falling through the cracks, we talk a lot about flagging or logging an incident of everyday bias or a micro-aggression, rather than ‘reporting’ a person. When carrying out research with employees, we found that in the case of bias and micro-aggressions, these can be hugely painful and frequent experiences, but that the individual often didn’t want to escalate it. They didn’t necessarily want to name someone or get someone in trouble. Often this links to a level of uncertainty around these ‘grayer’ issues, where it can sometimes (not always!) be unclear on whether there was even any harm intended. All of these factors often result in employees staying silent about really important ‘cultural bugs’. 

With this in mind, InChorus tackles this by de-escalating what has previously been seen as a ‘reporting’ process. It’s a hugely empowering tool to enable an individual to take constructive action to share “You know what, I experienced that, - it didn’t feel right – and want to share it with my company because I want to be part of building a culture that I feel is aligned with our values.”

At the same time, we’re capturing data in a way that is really impactful and allows a HR team to take targeted action. We’ve worked with a leading academic, Dr Gina Torino, as our Head of Research to work on the categorization of micro-aggressions within the InChorus app.  The result is that we’re delivering insight that enables companies to understand the lived experience of employees. At the moment, you’ve got traditional formal reporting mechanisms, or maybe an employee engagement form. But they’re often just not asking the right questions or they might be asking it two months later on a survey cycle when an employee might not want to raise it.

TT: Is the reporting all anonymous, or can you choose to attach a name if you want to?

RT: At the moment, InChorus is fully anonymous on both sides of the table. So, the person logging it is fully anonymous but, equally, you can’t name someone else either.  Instead, we capture rich demographic information on both the person logging the incident and the other party involved. For a company, this provides insight as to who is being affected by these issues and where are they happening. For example, are most logs coming from women under 35 in your organization? from junior or from senior individuals?

 There are major--and founded--fears about sticking your head above the parapet in many organizations. Guarding the anonymity of an employee is crucial to actually getting both the quantity and quality of data that will enable an employer to see any problems emerging. 

TT: It seems like with this new relationship you have with the music industry that you’re also looking at reporting structures that can be outside the context of a single company. Are you able to talk a little bit about that, and what you’re going to be doing with the music industry?

RT: Our CMO, Genevieve O’Neill, was previously D&I at Live Nation and brings a wealth of experience regarding these issues within the music industry. InChorus is a really powerful tool for companies to use to address bias within their organizations and we’re on-boarding some really progressive companies in the space now. However, we will also able to explore the data at an industry level.

We really believe that what you don’t measure you can’t improve.

TT: What has surprised you the most in talking to companies?

RT: How much lip service is still happening.  There is so much talk and best practice when it comes to diversity & inclusion, but there is still a surprising disconnect in translating this talk this into effective action, honest conversations, and change.  

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