A recent Gallup study found that having strong social connections at work makes employees more likely to be engaged with their jobs and deliver higher-quality work, and less likely to fall sick or be injured. To date, much of the focus to build connections has been on internal employee activities; however, a new wave of career apps are becoming prominent tools to forge candid conversations between leadership and employees. I sat down with Loren Appin, cofounder, and COO of Fishbowl, one of the hottest new career apps, to discuss the future of designing for trust in the workplace.
Erica Dhawan: What does Fishbowl do?
Loren Appin: Fishbowl is a social network that connects professionals within the same industry or company, enabling them to have candid and relevant conversations about workplace topics. The platform helps break down organizational barriers by allowing employees to interact directly with senior leadership at their company and peers in their industry. Every day, professionals come to Fishbowl to discuss industry news and get career advice from colleagues in an open, positive, and supportive environment. We realized that although there are many apps and social networks out there for your personal life, there’s nothing for the other half of your day.
Erica Dhawan: Why do you believe that professional connections are important? And how are the ways in which professional connections are fostered and developed differently than for personal connections?
Loren Appin: We spend 40+ hours a week at work. Add to that the time we’re on our phones and computers outside of the office and it’s very clear that our jobs are a cornerstone of our lives. It’s in our nature to build and cultivate connections within all areas of our lives. Professional connections aren’t that dissimilar to personal connections – in both cases, people are looking for people to provide advice and understanding. Particularly with Gen X and Y’ers, working in a certain field or having a certain job is a passion play as much as it is a way of making ends meet. These professionals are looking to connect and engage with others in their field in a meaningful and authentic way.
Erica Dhawan: Fishbowl provides Flexible Identity Settings. What does that mean?
Loren Appin: Great question as this is a core part of the Fishbowl experience. In order to create a trustworthy environment, Fishbowl is a platform of verified professionals, which means all users’ professional credentials are verified (using either work email or LinkedIn). Once a user’s professional credentials are verified, they then have flexibility with how they represent themselves when posting. For example, some users choose to represent themselves with their full profile, while others choose to represent themselves with only their professional title or place of employment, such as “Senior Healthcare Consultant” or “Employee at Boston Consulting Group”. This flexibility enables Fishbowl users to be comfortable yet accountable while engaging in honest discussions with coworkers and senior leadership.
Erica Dhawan: In what ways is this important? How does your platform’s “flexible identity” encourage more honesty at work?
Loren Appin: Until now, people’s professional presence online has always had to represent the safest version of yourself (e.g. tie and jacket headshot on LinkedIn). There has never been a space for professionals to be vulnerable, ask questions they may not know the answer to or provide meaningful feedback without worrying about the repercussions of workplace politics. By giving users the option to post using only their company or title identifiers, we’re providing professionals with a safe way to discuss anything and everything relevant to their industry – whether that be their thoughts on work from home policies or how they ask for a raise.