The problem of bullying in schools has always been fairly well documented. The issue of bullying in the workplace is beginning to get covered more and more. But the solution of what to do about it is still a tricky one. And technological options can be harmful as well as beneficial because any system of reporting can also create a different kind of toxic climate.
We’ve covered bullying a lot over the last couple of years, so in order not to present any bias either way, we’ve included a full Q&A with Jonathan Pearl COO & CIO at STOPit, a subscription app which allows those in schools, colleges and workplaces to report abuse.
When did you launch and how far have you come since then?
STOPit launched in the fall [autumn] of 2014 and we have made significant progress since then. At the end of the last school we were in over 100 schools in 13 states and Canada. As we get ready for the 2015/16 school year we are poised to launch in thousands of schools, protecting millions of students. We are also expanding our international operations this year and expect to be active in seven countries by the end of 2015. We also recently launched our workplace product – STOPit Pro so we are now expanding beyond the educational market.
Can you explain how your commercial model works?
We are a SaaS based subscription software company. Customers pay an annual fee per app user [such as students and employees] and get unlimited access to our back-end incident management platform at no charge. Companies and schools can have as many administrators and report managers as they would like on [the back-end system].
Where are you gaining the biggest traction: schools, colleges or workplaces?
We launched our workplace product, STOPit Pro in July of this year. We have a long list of companies that we will be working with over the coming months. However, up to this point we have mostly focused on the K-12 school [i.e., those aged four to 19] market.
Bullying in the workplace is still not recognized like it is in schools, why do you think this is? And what will it take for this to change?
Once people understand that “bullying” actually refers to so many different forms of behaviour they quickly understand the impact on business. There are also plenty of data points out there that support the idea that bullying is well recognised in the workplace market.
Workplace bullying costs US companies approximately $300B a year in lost productivity, employee turnover and insurance costs. [This figure is widely cited round the internet but no specific source found.]
It is also important to understand that our solution is about much more than bullying as it relates to the workplace; compliance, discrimination, theft and fraud, whistleblowing – these are just a few of the other issues in the workplace our solutions helps to mitigate and manage.
Are you finding increased interest from certain industries over others?
I would say that compliance driven industries (i.e., financial services), hospitality, healthcare and industries with large un-unionised labour forces (i.e., retail) are showing a great deal of promise.
Has anything surprised you from the journey so far?
I think the biggest surprise has been the sheer number of people, and the diversity of those people who are in some way impacted by this problem. I am also not necessarily surprised, but the depth of this problem around the world is staggering.
Are you finding this is proving particularly popular in certain states? Do you have plans to expand internationally?
This is not a state specific issue. We see interest all over the US and most states are working to implement some form of legislation for both schools and businesses to expand existing bullying laws and adapt them to the new challenges that 21st century technology presents.
The international market is huge. We will be expanding significantly internationally over the next several months and expect to have operations established in a variety of countries by the end of 2015. What we have seen is that in some countries or regions these issues appear even more severe than the US. An example would be Japan.
As this is an anonymous app, the flipside must be that people can make things up – a potential form of bullying itself. What do you do to counteract this?
First, through our STOPit Messenger tool, report administrators can conduct two-anonymous communication with the app user. If they feel a report is false or suspicious in nature they can immediately converse with the reporter to get more information or remind the user that false reporting will not be tolerated. Administrators also have the ability to deactivate a user if they feel that they are abusing the platform. At the click of a button, administrators can deactivate a user so that they can no longer submit incident reports. Deactivated users can be reactivated at any time but this gives administrators the ability to control people who submit false reports.