Rachel Mendelovich thinks work should be more like Facebook. Her new company, Hoop, aims to bring the kind of shared interest groups that make social-media sites so irresistible to the business world, in order to improve corporate culture and improve employee recruitment and retention.
“As an employee, I want to be recognized for my personality and interests,” Mendelovich tells ISRAEL21c. “I want the conversation and messaging to be about me.”
Hoop addresses that need by providing companies with a Facebook-like internal web portal, replacing the typical corporate top-down messaging with something more appealing to millennials.
“Ten years ago, there was a strict separation between one’s work and personal life,” Mendelovich says. “It was all about ‘work-life balance.’ Today, those boundaries are blurring. You bring your whole self into work. You don’t want to be known just for being a great project manager. You want to be recognized as a mother, as a photographer or as someone who’s trying to improve his or her health. You want to succeed at work, but you also want a sense of fulfilment and belonging.”
The Hoop platform allows employees to sign up for “life interest” groups. Like-minded employees can then bond around those interests as well as geeky office stuff such as coding hackathons.
Hoop isn’t just about creating online connections. If you join a running group, Hoop will send out prompts when your group is getting together to go for a jog in the real world.
Creating a positive work environment has become increasingly important for millennials entering the workforce. Websites like Glassdoor allow employees to rank employers; a bad review can sink a company.
“Employee branding is replacing employer branding,” Mendelovich explains. “Organizations are investing a lot of money to position themselves as great places to work. The best way to do that is when your employees share about their workplace through their social-media channels. It comes across as more authentic.”
It’s also more in keeping with the times.
“Most of the management doctrines we use today were formed in the late 1960s,” Mendelovich points out. “The world has changed considerably since then.”
What’s in it for management?
But Hoop is about more than public positioning for forward-thinking organizations.
When an employee signs up for a group, the company captures that data. By analyzing who’s in what groups, a network of relationships between employees is formed. That allows company management to determine “who’s central, who are the opinion-makers, who is peripheral,” Mendelovich says. “It can show an organization where the bottlenecks are as well as who are the people in risk of leaving the organization. The company can then take preventative action.”
That may mean a direct response to a specific employee or tailored messages to groups of individuals.
Preventing employee churn is key. “The more people are engaged in these groups, the stronger their affiliation will be with the organization,” Mendelovich tells ISRAEL21c. “The most engaged employees are those with a sense of purpose. But different people have different goals.” Data can help organizations address that.
Mendelovich also believes Hoop can reduce costs. “Organizations today spend a lot of money per employee on wellness — supporting running groups, purchasing t-shirts,” she says. “But the organizations can’t really analyze the direct benefit. So they’re buying stuff and sending you on team-building trips but they won’t know if they’ve moved the needle in any way. Hoop enables a clearer view of the resources a company is putting in and what is the output.”
Hoop is targeting mid-market companies with 500 to 1,000 employees. “We’re not going to Fortune 500 enterprises because the process of making our system a great fit is very long. Those companies already have systems in place – collaboration tools, internal communication tools. Adding another system is very hard for them, even if it’s creating added value and addressing the same challenges every company has of employee retention and talent acquisition,” Mendelovich explains.
Hoop is also starting with tech-centric companies. “We need people who are not afraid of new technology,” the Hoop CEO says.
Hoop is currently beta testing its software with Intel, Ernst and Young and ECI Telecom in Israel, plus a few more Mendelovich can’t name yet.
The bootstrapped company of seven has offices in Tel Aviv and in Los Altos, California.
The business model is classic software-as-a-service (SaaS), with the system residing in the cloud and Hoop charging a per-employee fee. The whole thing will be “white-labeled” – meaning employees will never see the Hoop name.
For those wary about giving employees access to personal information, Mendelovich points out that “employers already know all about you. No one says they’re afraid of opening up a Facebook or LinkedIn account because they’re concerned an employer won’t hire them because they might be seen in a bathing suit or smoking.”
Moreover, she adds, “no one’s forcing you to participate. You decide how much you want to disclose.”
That said, Mendelovich admits that the first companies Hoop is talking to are “those that have an employee-centric workspace and an understanding culture that encourages innovation.”