How our Series C will help organizations see the human difference

by Matt Pasternack, on 10/13/21 7:15 AM

 
It's cliche: People are your greatest asset.

However, I stumbled on this 2011 article in the Harvard Business Review just over four years ago when I first joined Aware. It still sticks in my head for many reasons, perhaps most significantly for the bold claim the author made, "People are not your greatest asset." The author offered the perspective that great people can also be your greatest liability (very true!), citing the Enron case. Ten years and a global pandemic later, the themes from this article still resonate, overwhelmingly so.
 
You might wonder, what is your greatest asset if not your people? It’s how you empower your people.
 
Empowerment. Without it, employees are treated as just another asset, not as humans. And humans are different. We long for acknowledgement, acceptance and mostly, we long for genuine connection.
 
A Foundation Built for Change
At Aware, we made it our mission to fix this disconnect. For the last 4+ years, we invested in the foundation of our human-centric SaaS platform. We worked towards our mission by helping some of the world's largest organizations remove common legal and compliance barriers to collaboration adoption (think Slack, Teams, Workplace, etc.), allowing companies to enable these technologies for ALL employees. This empowers employees to feel more connected and more human.
 
A lot changed over the past four years since we began this journey. We experienced a global pandemic in 2020 that permanently changed the way people work, propelling digital transformation in the enterprise across every industry. So much so, that Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella stated in the April 2020 Microsoft earnings readout: "We’ve seen two years' worth of digital transformation in two months."
 
At Aware, we also saw this immediate transformation in growth from our existing customer base to the tune of a 300%+ increase in data created after the start of mandated lockdowns. The reality is, digital conversations exist everywhere in today’s workplace. Along with these digital conversations comes human data exhaust, which is abundant and unique, full of human risk but also rich with insights to empower employees.
 
Protect to Empower
Part of empowering employees means protecting them and the hard work they contribute. This is a major part of our next chapter at Aware.
 
Organizations frequently think of insider threats jeopardizing the important work of employees (the intellectual property); in reality, they also introduce risk to the psychological safety and culture of the organization as a whole. This can come in the form of disgruntled, toxic employees where just a few bad apples can be quite costly. With this new conversation data set, human behavior introduces both intentional and unintentional liability; it’s often the missing piece within a security organization’s Zero Trust Architecture. At Aware, we focus on protecting the organization against insider threats and data loss, as well as protecting the overall psychological wellbeing of its people.
 
Knowing to Empower
Beyond protecting them, how else do you empower your employees? You know them. Know them as people, as human beings. You do this through empathy and listening to them. Listen to what matters, what they care about, what makes them tick, what makes them upset.
 
The foundation we built at Aware, combined with the current market conditions, puts us in a great position to enter the next phase of our journey—a phase that takes employee empowerment to the next level and helps organizations see their employees as human, understanding their unique enterprise DNA.
 
As we enter the next generation of work, a time that includes the 'Great Resignation', we continue to see patterns of vulnerable employees having little to no voice. Remote work, implicit biases, layers of management, external happenings and more leave organizations grappling with an increasing disconnect from the individual contributor to the top. Leadership's worst nightmare these days? Being labeled "out of touch" or even worse, "tone deaf". The number 2 trend from Microsoft's Work Trend Index? 'Leaders are out of touch with employees and need a wake-up call'. Gulp.
 
Embrace the Dialogue
Current events, both internal and external, shape company cultures whether we like it or not. Organizations face an intense pressure to respond to these day-to-day situations and, in some cases, even take a stance on certain hot topics. Right or wrong, that’s the reality we live in today. As one of our customers put it, "Everything right now is so in the moment." This statement is overwhelmingly relatable to every company we speak to, particularly for those with internal communication platforms like Slack and Teams where sensitive conversations or unrest can spread rapidly.
 
We've seen companies shut down or stifle conversation. Not the right answer. We've also seen companies turn a blind eye to challenges expressed by employees. Out of sight, out of mind is also not the right approach; it will come back to haunt your culture every time... trust us, we've witnessed it.
 
So, what is the right answer? The best cultures in the world embrace dialogue, even when discussing sensitive topics and even if the conversation shifts to a negative sentiment. The more important factor is to ensure conversations remain healthy and constructive in nature (yes, you can have healthy dialogue that is negative sentiment!).
 
By providing the space for authentic, healthy dialogue, you empower employees and encourage engagement. This leads to higher productivity and lower turnover. We’re proud to witness our customers leverage the Aware platform to protect and preserve their best-in-class cultures, while also empowering their employees.
 
What Lies Beneath
Not only are people changing the way they work, but organizations themselves are also changing more than ever. Change that often goes unseen. The advent of these new collaboration and communication tools broke down organizational hierarchy and allows employees to freely communicate across all areas of the business. With these communication walls removed, a hidden web of unstructured connections sits beneath the surface, waiting to be analyzed.
 
Organizations want to know ... How does information really flow from department to department? Which groups are most efficient? What are these groups doing differently?
 
How does behavior impact collaboration? How can I make effective org design decisions, backed by data? These are just some of the questions that we can’t wait to answer. We’re excited for the challenges ahead of us, ones we’ve been patiently waiting to tackle ... just ask Jason Morgan and his Data Science team here at Aware. ;)
 
3...2...1...
Aware is in a better position than any other company to ethically (really important to us) tackle these challenges for organizations. With our access to billions of AI-infused human interactions, ideas that were once just a vision of Aware are now our reality.
 
We’re ready to action and solve these challenges. We’re ready to empower those who don't have a voice and enable organizations to see the unseen. This is the human difference, and we know it better than anyone.
 
We’re thrilled to share our most recent investment and excited about what it means for employees across the globe. The $60 Million investment, led by Goldman Sachs with continued support from our existing investors, will allow us to make significant progress towards helping organizations see the human difference across all functions of the business. We’re thankful for our new investors’ belief and conviction in our platform and its vision, and grateful for our previous investors’ constant guidance to get us to this moment.
 
Finding product-market fit in an emerging market, while striving to create a new category is a challenge. The foundation set by our existing team of 60ish "A players" is ... empowering. In the coming months, we face our next big challenges: growing the team north of 200 employees while rapidly expanding our platform capabilities into new markets and technology streams.
 
The future current workplace is increasingly complex, with people moving and communicating faster than ever. Your organization is human and it’s sending you signals. We can understand and make sense of these signals—empowering your
workforce in a digital world. To make human decisions, organizations need to rely on a diverse but holistic data set coming from countless sources. Making sense of this noise at scale is impossible through human capacity alone—that's why we're here to help.
 
We are Aware and we were made for this moment. 🚀
 
 mattp-bw
Matt Pasternack
Aware, CPO
Topics:Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning