No HR department? There's an app for that

When you're in HR, people have a million questions for you

No HR department? There's an app for that

If there’s one good thing we can glean from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s society’s recognition of HR as vital to business. Where once employers considered the function as a ‘nice to have’, the pandemic upended these misconceptions – with employers relying on HR leaders to shepherd them through the chaos.

However, not all companies enjoy the support of an internal HR department. And, for employees in companies that do boast a team, they may not be so readily accessible all the time. But, worry not, even if you’re without an HR director, there’s a new app on the market that’s dedicated to being your virtual guide.

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HRD spoke to Whitney Herrington, founder and CEO of Kith Republic – an HR tech start-up that connects employees with a council of HR experts.

“Whenever anyone finds out you’re in HR, the questions inevitably start rolling,” explained Herrington. “You're suddenly lauded as this expert. People want to you to answer all their employment-related queries. At one point, I realized that it wasn't necessarily just because I’m an HR expert - but because these people knew they could trust me. They knew I was independent – that I wasn't working for their company. And so, I was able to give them real nitty gritty advice on how they could navigate workplace problems. It dawned on me one day that, wouldn’t it be great for everyone had a Whitney right next door? A safe resource they could call upon without fear of reproach of judgement. That’s when Kith Republic was born.”

Kith Republic matches employees with HR leaders to help answer common workplace questions. They employ a strong team, backed by mostly women, although they do have a couple of male HR experts who support the app.

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“You pay a $9 fee, you write in the text box about what your issue is, and are instantly connected to an HR expert,” continued Herrington. “While we don’t give out legal advice, we can give employees pointers and viewpoints that they may not have previously considered. The main issues we’re seeing people come to us about over and over again revolve around workplace fairness, equality, and management. The app is geared towards professional women in particular – so we get questions on flexible working, on childcare obligations, employee rights under COVID-19 etc. People are also asking about compensation – as in, why am I earning less than someone in the same position as me?

“We're seeing problems around racial equality – specifically experiences that women of colour are facing in the workplace. There’s these microaggressions that arise daily – so a lot of people are questioning the best ways to deal with this. How can they be documenting that better? How can they resolve those issues with the little power that they have? I'm really happy to see those people coming to us and having a place to go, but at the same time it's a little bit unsettling that there seems to be such an uptick in these areas for women in the workplace.”

There’s no denying that the pandemic has shifted employer expectations of HR – with many teams now swamped under unrealistic workloads. Herrington believes this has led to a new appreciation of HR practitioners – although it’s also left employees feeling somewhat neglected.

“We’re seeing HR become an essential part of the organization - where in the past for so many years, it's just been kind of administrative support,” she told HRD. “The rise in remote work means HR leaders have been under immense pressure to ensure compliance across the country – and understand new employment law changes across different jurisdictions. In a lot of cases, HR is a one-person department – meaning it’s neigh on impossible to manage all this essential work. It just makes it really challenging for HR professionals to be productive and effective in their organizations. That’s why I believe tools like Kith Republic can help offer that much needed respite for HR teams and an arm of support for forlorn employees.”

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