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GoodWell Certification Using Machine Learning to Boost Employee Satisfaction

Image Credit: Matthew Henry

The world of social enterprise is full of surprising stories. How each of us landed here, pursuing purposeful work that helps solves the world’s most pressing problems, never ceases to amaze me.

One unlikely member of our socially responsible tribe is my friend Pete Gombert, founder of GoodWell, a workplace certification company (and legal Benefit Corporation). GoodWell certification helps employers prove they treat workers ethically, fairly and with humanity, using 11 metrics, including pay equity based on gender and race. Employers are required to pass all categories to be certified. 

Pete wasn’t always a believer in this stuff, but by the time we met back in 2013, he had drunk the Kool-Aid. Back then, Pete was leading one of several startups he’s founded over his career, Balihoo. Pete had uncovered a real problem at Balihoo: He was paying women less than men for doing the same work, despite his best intentions as founder and CEO. Turns out, subconscious bias is a powerful thing. When Pete tried to correct the pay gap, he found there was no accepted methodology that really allowed for accurate measurement of the problem. Being an entrepreneur by nature and a CPA by training, he opted to simply develop one, and GoodWell was born.

Today, Pete is measuring and helping large employers correct the pay gap, but also leveraging machine learning to improve employee engagement. In just one year, GoodWell has certified an elite group of businesses and organizations in the face of skyrocketing demand, including 1% for the Planet, The Simple Company, Drake Cooper and the City of Boise. It’s added three international companies in the past year, most recently Deloitte Fast 50 Canadian tech company Sortable.

“Especially in light of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, employers realize they need more than lip service to demonstrate they are positive, empowering places to work,” Gombert told me recently. “GoodWell certification provides this in a quantifiable, transparent way and helps turn workplaces into a powerful advantage for attracting and retaining talented employees, including women and minorities.”

I predict that GoodWell’s ability to harness the power of machine learning for good has the potential to transform the workplace. Thanks to recent events, more women are coming forward and in response, more organizations are (finally) paying more attention to how they are treated in the workplace.

Pete tells me that a workplace that condones harassment is often one that also has a pay equity problem. GoodWell’s metric around equal pay for equal work helps leaders identify where intentional or unintentional bias exists in the workplace. Addressing these biases can be a good first step for companies that want to take on harassment and broader issues of workplace culture. Measuring employee engagement and satisfaction is also critical, and that’s where machine learning comes in.

GoodWell’s proprietary eNPS survey consists of a qualitative question that helps to objectively identify employee engagement. The survey also has an open-ended question where employees can provide candid feedback. Then GoodWell’s team assesses both data sets to determine potential issues and best practices. With the quantitative data, GoodWell segments it by whichever factor is most helpful for the certifying organization (i.e. gender, race, department, age, etc.) to reveal which segments have the lowest rates of employee engagement relative to the company’s average. From there, GoodWell’s machine learning, natural language processing and sentiment analysis evaluate the subjective feedback. Next, the employees’ feedback is grouped into 13 general themes, including compensation, benefits, workplace communication and shared values. The survey also tracks “red flag” themes surrounding unethical behavior and harassment, providing leadership with the insight they need to identify an issue early — and hopefully, correct it.

If you’d like to learn more about workplace certifications, I’m always happy to chat. My company has gone through the B Corporation and GoodWell process and found both very beneficial. Tweet me at @rstoddard or email me at rstoddard@oliverrussell.com


Russ Stoddard is the founder of Idaho-based creative agency Oliver Russell. He’s committed his career (nearly 30 years) to social responsibility, first inside the corporate world and then as an entrepreneur who’s started four companies and five nonprofit causes.… [Read more about Russ Stoddard]


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