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Workhound seeks to catch employee grievances before they stray

Workhound co-founders Andrew Kirpalani and Max Farrell.

If a company’s employees have desk jobs, it’s easier to solicit feedback from them. But if the workforce includes truck drivers, warehouse workers or nurses – jobs that aren’t very stationary – it can be even tougher for management to engage with workers. The Des Moines company Workhound is making employee feedback more mobile friendly.

How Workhound works

Max Farrell and Andrew Kirpalani started Workhound three years ago with the goal of improving employee retention for companies.

Once a week, Workhound clients sent a text message to employees with a personalized link. The link takes the employees to a survey asking them how they feel about their job on a scale of 1-10, and why.

The survey is done in a browser, rather than an app because Farrell and Kirpalani didn’t want any barrier to entry for users. These are employees who may not have a work computer, but all of them have a phone that employers use to contact them.

“We’re able to take that data and analyze it for sentiment and keywords and provide insight back to the company,” said Workhound CTO Kirpalani. “Surveys can be used to confirm or deny prior assumptions, so we wanted something open-ended to let the real workforce experiences bubble up.”

The companies receive the feedback anonymously. If they want to try to directly address a situation with an employee, Workhound operates as a go-between, asking the employee if they’re willing to break their anonymity to discuss the problem. If the employee says yes, discussions may begin. If they say no, their anonymity is retained.

In trucking, it can cost between $4,000 and $8,000 to hire and train a single driver. Kirpalani and Farrell hope that by helping to retain employees, they can reduce costs for companies.

“With our very first client, we had a driver respond to a survey saying he loved his job, but he thought he was getting the runaround on adding his wife to his insurance and he would have to leave if he couldn’t get it resolved,” Kirpalani said. “Pretty quickly, we got the two on the phone, and by mid-afternoon, it was all resolved. It was just a miscommunication about paperwork that was solved in a 30-minute phone call. That kept the driver at the company, in his truck and he didn’t have to go through orientation and training somewhere else.”

Making bigger changes

While Workhound can be used to resolve one-on-one employee issues, Farrell and Kirpalani have been happy to see their platform used to make larger changes for clients.

“We’ve seen companies take that feedback to make operational changes, like altering the load-planning process based on what drivers are saying,” Kirpalani said. “Some clients have even dropped problem customers because they were disrespectful to drivers. One client has reported their lowest turnover rate in five years.”

The Wisconsin company Marten Transport recently credited Workhound with helping to retain 50 drivers who were considering leaving the company.

Expanding with employees, occupations

In 2017, Workhound grew 500 percent, and Kirpalani expects to hit the cash flow break-even point soon. The company is in the process of hiring more staff, and in the next six months, he expects pilot programs to start in nursing and other fields.

“We want to help people love the work they do,” Kirpalani said. “Unemployment is low enough that it’s hard to find any worker. If we can help companies retain employees regardless of how expensive training is, they’re still coming out ahead.”

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Joe Lawler is a freelance reporter based in Des Moines.

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