2018 is just over a month in, but unlike previous years this year seems to be marked by one habit that millions across the U.S. can say they share - firing up your browser only to find that yet another celebrity, politician, company, startup, fill-in-the-blank has fallen due to sexual harassment claims, terrible hiring practices, or discrimination.

You know it’s bad when at least one skit is dedicated to the issue on every week’s episode of SNL. See last week’s for a great sketch with Will Ferrell on Aziz Ansari. Here’s one of my personal favorites with Claire from HR.

Keeping with this trend, I started off today by firing up Chrome only to read an appalling Medium post by Perry Coneybeer about Ripcord’s own failures. As I was reading the post, I started reflecting on startups and the role of HR. I think one thing that’s special about startups is that by their nature they’re lean machines designed to do one thing and one thing only: find product-market-fit and turn on the gas before they run out of money. This often means being scrappy and trimming business functions and expenses. Put another way, areas like HR are frequently a dead last on the priority last, both because of time- and monetary-constraints.

On the other side of things, with few early-stage startups having HR departments and an almost surefire guarantee that there will be no past employee reviews on Glass Door, employees are trying to navigate in the dark should they want to know about workplace norms and harassment controls. Many times they simply have to trust the team that they’ll take care of issues as they arise. Well… we’ve seen how that’s worked out at Uber, Ripcord, Benchmark, UploadVR, SoFi and whatever comes out tomorrow.

A workplace auditor

All of this is pretext to a pretty simple idea: a workplace auditor for the reasons mentioned above. The workplace auditor would serve two functions:

1) As a standards board for small and big companies alike. Given a company’s size, it will be rated for its workplace controls, history of taking action, hiring practices, etc.

2) As an independent reviewer for harassment claims and HR violations. Employees can anonymously submit complaints, which will be triaged, independently reviewed and forwarded to management. The employee will be notified of the outcome and the outcome will factor into the next quarter’s audit and rating.

By having a standard, independent reviewer, employees will have full access to metrics on workplace culture and controls and not feel threatened when submitting reports, as the auditor has full access to the following decisions by management. Additionally, by having an auditor the responses to common issues will start to become standardized rather than adhoc.

By having a 3rd-party to review complaints, startups can keep costs trimmed without sacrificing the support and measures its employees need. As this becomes commonplace, employees will start to demand that a company have a workplace auditor, similar to how employees have begun to expect paid vacation, maternity (and now paternity) leave, etc.

How will the business model work?

Companies will pay an annual fee based on company-size. This will include a quarterly audit with publicly accessible ratings as well as the employee hotline. Companies will then pay a premium on a per complaint basis. This may need to be packaged into a quarterly allowance that rolls over if no complaints occur. The pricing can’t be substantial enough that employees factor in the associated cost with whether they should speak up.

Conclusion

This all comes with the caveat that I’m lucky to not have worked at a place where this has been an issue. That being said, I feel like this should exist and seems like it could. Interested in feedback.