This article was originally published on infobref.com
Even when they have good intentions, many employers struggle to provide their employees with a work environment that is fully respectful of the principles of equity, diversity and inclusion. To help them, Montreal-based startup Élance is developing a digital platform that collects data and provides tools to improve the inclusiveness of companies.
The problem the company is tackling is employers’ shortcomings in diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI, also known as EDI).
“When someone feels discriminated against in the workplace, it can lead to dissatisfaction, loss of productivity and sometimes even psychological distress,” explains Tina Pranjic, co-founder and co-president of Elance.
This type of situation is detrimental to the work atmosphere and motivation. The impacts are negative on talent attraction and retention. “People from minority groups place a premium on inclusiveness in the workplace. They will avoid any job where they don’t feel fully welcome.”
Improving the situation begins with understanding it well. This is not always easy for the employer, because he does not have a complete picture of the situation: his employees do not tell him everything they think and feel.
The solution proposed by Elance is to help employers collect all the information on the current state of their workplace, in order to establish a diagnosis and an action plan to improve it.
To gather the information, one might think that the preferred approach is a dialogue, in a face-to-face meeting. But Tina Pranjic thinks that’s not always the right approach. “It can be difficult to admit to perceptions, prejudices or negative feelings, especially in front of people with whom you have a professional and perhaps personal relationship,” says Tina Pranjic. Sometimes it’s the same bosses or colleagues who are the source of discomfort.”
That’s why Élance is banking on a digital platform. This online service first collects data from employees and managers, offering them questionnaires that they fill out on their own, anonymously, without feeling any pressure. The fact that the service is managed by a specialized external firm, rather than by the employer, should also reassure respondents. “This allows us to collect, in a secure and anonymous manner, sensitive data that is difficult to obtain otherwise, while respecting individuals,” says Tina Pranjic.
Second, the online service serves as a tool to improve a company’s CED performance. It offers training, checklists, and quizzes to verify that skills have been learned.
Some of the training paths are designed for managers, others for employees.
- “An inclusive environment belongs to everyone,” says Tina Pranjic. It’s important to offer training to both employees and managers.”
- The trainings are tailored to each person’s level of authority and responsibility for CED.
The business model is that of a software service, sold as a subscription to organizations. The subscription price depends on the number of employees. Elance primarily targets companies with 200 or more employees.
“A lot of companies hire CED consultants and then pay for training,” says Tina Pranjic. Access to a specialized online platform offers them a complete, turnkey service, while reducing their expenses.”
Currently, Élance employs six people. Already, some 15 organizations have used a first version of its platform.
Élance is one of 20 young SMEs selected this year in the Bourse+ program of Startup Montréal.
Next year, the company plans to complete the development of a second version of the online platform.
We will include artificial intelligence functionalities,” says Tina Pranjic. The more organizations that use our platform, the more statistical data we will have about the real state of corporate CED. The AI will be able to analyze this data and, eventually, establish correlations that will help guide companies on how to improve their performance. It will also allow them to benchmark themselves against their competition to position themselves as a ‘dream’ employer.”
To finance this development, Élance is preparing to conduct a first round of financing. Afterwards, the company hopes to commercialize its software service throughout North America and to grow rapidly.