Can Blind Help Open HR’s Eyes?

In a time when transparency is slowly creeping up the wish list of many HR executives, websites such as Glassdoor and Facebook have helped move the needle. Judging by the number of emerging social-media spaces, the opportunity to anonymously comment on your current employer–on everything from pay, benefits and culture to career development–continues to gain in popularity.

One of the latest players in the transparency universe, a company simply called Blind, is starting to open eyes in the technology sector, with plans to expand into the finance industry, followed by e-commerce, according to Sunguk Moon, Teamblind Inc.’s co-founder and CEO.

According to Moon, Blind has more than 2 million users worldwide, including 43,000 at Microsoft, 28,000 at Amazon and 10,000 at Google. Moon adds that in South Korea, where the company launched, half of all employees at companies with more than 200 employees are active monthly, and the average monthly user logs in three to four times daily, usually for 35 to 40 minutes per session.

“Since users on Blind are truly anonymous,” Moon says, “our platform provides an environment for employees to be completely honest, without fear of retaliation.”

Blind is an anonymous community app for the workplace. Users can join by verifying their account with their work email address and they are then grouped by company and industry. Moon explains that private-company boards are created after more than 30 employees at a company have been verified. It’s important to note that specific company boards are not sanctioned by employers, but HR leaders and others can join to gauge what’s on their employees’ minds.

“This [sign-up] information is only used to ensure a credible community of verified professionals and is encrypted and locked away forever after the sign-up process,” Moon says, adding that Blind allows leadership and HR to get a more accurate pulse of how employees feel about specific workplace issues, which can then be used to improve the culture and workplace environment.

“We know of many HR professionals who are doing exactly this,” he says, though he declined to specify anyone by company.

Blind also has the potential to help employers root out potential illegality. For example, in early 2018, gig-economy employer Lyft investigated that employees might be using customer data improperly. It did so after being alerted to some posts on Blind, according to the company. Blind also does weekly surveys of members, including a recent one focused on the tech community’s view of HR. (Spoiler alert: it wasn’t very good.)

Blind’s stringent security controls appeal to workers in knowledge industries, especially those laboring in Silicon Valley.

“The tech industry was the first to adopt Blind,” Moon says, “but our app can be beneficial for employees in any industry,” adding that it can give HR and executives “a pulse on employee sentiment that is both real time and authentic.”

Taking a quick spin on the Blind public site–which displays limited posts–one can find several categories, some personal (managing money, food and travel) and many focused on work- and workplace-related issues (office life, women in tech, compensation, career).  Members are only identified by a screen name and his or her company.

For example, one question in the “Office Life” area asks about work/life balance in Google’s finance department, while another member who recently transitioned from Microsoft to Amazon asked for comparisons between the two companies’ 401(k) offerings and other benefits. In the compensation area, one member asked what a senior systems engineer should expect to be paid in Austin, Texas.

Users also are able to flag content that may be considered harassment/bullying, involve company secrets, invasion of privacy, impersonation and other topics, Moon said.

Patrick Kulesa, global research director at Willis Towers Watson, says that while he doesn’t have any direct experience with Blind, in order to manage their workforces effectively, organizations need an accurate picture of their employees’ views and that typically requires anonymity.

“As the ultimate insiders, feedback from employees is critical to the success of any organizational-improvement effort,” he says. “But the candor and value of that feedback relies on the belief that the opinions expressed will remain confidential. Otherwise, why answer honestly about all the problems around the workplace?”

For example, Kulesa says, the best companies go to great lengths to protect respondent confidentiality in surveys. The key to this process is using a third party to collect the feedback, he says, which then reports back to the employer summaries of views for groups of respondents, not for individuals. In addition, the third party tells employees directly on the survey how their responses will be grouped together for reporting. Through its design, Blind seems to be following that tenet.

In its own way, Blind offers survey-like snapshots by building on existing social-network models. But, Moon says, it is the only platform representing a “safe space” for free and open conversation, with anonymity. Plus, as noted, it offers a managed space to reduce negative elements.

“Our vision in creating this space is to empower employees by giving an equitable voice to everyone,” Moon says. “We value what is said over who has said it.”

Through anonymity and community, Moon adds, Blind aims to “flatten” corporate hierarchy and remove professional barriers in order to initiate open conversations and create transparency.

“Transparency results in voice, and voice results in change,” he says, “often for the better.”

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Tom Starner
Tom Starner is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia who has been covering the human resource space and all of its component processes for over two decades. He can be reached at [email protected]