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Interview

Amity’s president Robert Darling on how to tackle bullying at work

Tragically, workplace bullying and harassment is still commonplace.

Allie Nawrat

workplace communication Amity
Credit: VK ST via Twenty20.

Unleash Your PeopleHow can HR tech tools help companies crack down without overstepping and spying on their staff?

The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed the world of work forever.

It made it extremely clear how important good communication between organizations and their employees is to both business success and employee experience. And, of course, during the pandemic, doing this required extensive use of HR tech tools.

One of these tools is Amity’s Eko.

Headquartered in Thailand, Amity’s workplace communications platform aims to help “HR leaders to better connect and digitally transform their organizations through the power of communication, collaboration and communication,” according to Amity’s president Robert Darling.

Robert Darling, president at Amity

Workplace communication apps is an incredibly crowded market dominated by both big players like Slack and Microsoft Teams, as well as smaller platforms with specific niches and focuses.

Amity’s Eko fits within the smaller, niche portion of the market. The product is designed for employers with mobile-first, distributed workers, like airlines, hospitality and retail, where other, bigger technologies have not traditionally been deployed, explains Darling.

“There was a lot of disconnect in terms of engagement and community building for these types of workers, so this was where we saw the opportunity,” Darling tells UNLEASH. Remember, valued, happy employees are the most productive at work, and therefore good for a business’s bottom line.

Amity’s product is mobile-first to suit the needs of these employees, and ensure that they have a single touchpoint into the world of their work communication.

“It would be hard in these environments to remember [and use] 50 different links to HR tech providers” and then use them on a mobile device, states Darling.

Creating safe spaces for communication at work

Another thing that differentiates Amity’s Eko from its competitors, according to Darling, is its focus on helping its customers to have oversight to be able to tackle bullying, harassment and discrimination at work.

Unfortunately, workplace discrimination, bullying and harassment is still commonplace in the world of work. For example, here at UNLEASH we have been reporting on incidents occurring at a range of big employers, like Walmart, Amazon, Activision Blizzard, Alibaba and Brewdog.

Darling believes it the morally right for employers to step up and tackle discrimination, bullying and harassment at work. But he argues it is also a must from “a legal and compliance angle”.

To illustrate the importance of having employer oversight over employee communication, he shares an example of an incident at one of Amity’s clients before it implemented Eko.

Darling notes that in the absence of a workplace messaging tool – whether it is Eko, Slack or Microsoft Teams – “naturally employers do their own thing and set up WhatsApp groups”, for example.

But the issue with using these consumer messaging tools is that “you are giving out your personal number and allowing the chat on your own personal WhatsApp accounts”.

For one client, they had a young female employee who joined a team’s WhatsApp chat – giving out her personal information in the process – but she then left the company.

Then she started receiving “unsolicited messages from another member of the company, who was still there” – he was trying to “form a connection that she was not wanting” and eventually it became harassment.

“They had a current employee harassing a previous employee, but the company had no control over managing the situation [because it was on personal WhatsApp accounts]; from a liability perspective that puts you at a big risk.”

Robert Darling, president at Amity

Ensuring companies don’t overstep and spy on employees

Instead, Amity Eko gives companies oversight and helps create safe spaces for employees to communicate and build communities through flagging misbehavior and misconduct occurring on the platform.

Clients “have enterprise controls in place to ensure they’re doing the morally right thing by individuals, as well as legally protecting themselves,” notes Darling.

But Darling is very clear that there is a balance, and employers shouldn’t have unmitigated access to spy on their employees.

“The company legally has to do the right the thing, but at the same time, you don’t want it to appear very big brother,” notes Darling. “That doesn’t instill communication; [instead] people will default back to where they don’t think they are being watched.”

Therefore, creating similar situations to the situation described above.

He explains that although companies own the data because it is enterprise communication software and they have control when they need, but “by default, they can’t just log into the admin panel and watch chats.”

Amity doesn’t make it easy for someone to just snoop in the backend of Eko.

Instead, Amity itself flags certain things that it thinks are a problem to its clients – and particularly HR teams – and they can decide what action to take whether it is suspending people from using the platform or investigating their future at the company.

The future of communication

Darling believes it would be presumptuous of him to try and predict the future of work, particularly since the industries Amity serves have been hit especially hard by the pandemic.

However, he is very clear that providing proper, easy-to-use, and safe communication tools – as he sees Eko to be – will help organizations to differentiate themselves from their competition in the new employee (rather than employer) friendly marketplace.

As a result, they have a better chance of standing out an employer of choice in their sector, and therefore better attracting and retaining top quality talent.

“To win the war [for talent], employers are realizing that you need a proper platform to engage, communicate and provide an employee infrastructure that meets the needs and expectations of the modern workforce,” concludes Darling.

Only time will tell how much of an advantage workplace communication apps like Eko that tackle bullying and harassment at work head on will be.

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