How Game Changing Technology Is Transforming Australian Work Places

By Giulia Sirignani
on 14 March 2024

While working at the Federal Circuit Court, Shirli Kirschner saw how businesses could resolve issues prior to court if only they had a way of knowing about them earlier. Shirli imagined a reporting platform to encourage people to come forward about workplace issues such as harassment, discrimination, and misconduct.

In the latest series of GameChangers, the co-founder of innovative tech platform Elker talks to Tracy Spicer about her solution to resolve workplace disputes quickly, anonymously and safely.

The official blurb about Elker is that it isa ‘neutral reporting platform which allows people to speak up about workplace issues’. But founder Shirl Kirschner prefers to describe it as a digital version of the old-fashioned ‘suggestion box’ on the office reception desk – but with a difference.

“Previously, you had a suggestion box, but the problem with the suggestion box was, if you went in anonymously, which you had to do to be safe, you never knew what happened with your suggestion or complaint. And if you were the company, and you took that suggestion, how did you get back to the suggestion-maker (or as we call them ‘a reporter’) to get enough information to do what you wanted? And how do you resolve it? There’s so much uncertainty,” says Elker’s co-founder and COA Shirli Kirschner.

Shirli Kirschner, CEO and Founder of Elker
Shirli Kirschner, CEO and Founder of Elker

“Elker is a platform that addresses that. It enables people to report the good the bad and the ugly.  It allows reporters transparency on who will see their information and agency on who to choose to report to. It facilitates being anonymous but with a 2-way chat.”

Shirli says Elker was inspired by her work as an industrial sessional registrar at the Federal Circuit Court.

“It struck me clearly that if issues and disputes had been brought early to the attention of people who care in management, they could have been resolved,” says Shirli. “So I went home to who is now my co-founder, and said, “would it be possible to build something where people could report stuff in anonymously with a two way chat, so that things could be unearthed early and resolved?”

Game Changers Set with Tracey and Shirl

From Shirli’s musing, Elker was born.

The name Elker derives from the Dutch for ‘us together’. Also, the word elk means a magical mystery creature. E R stands for ‘encrypted reporting’ – and with Shirli’s daughter ‘s name being Ella – (who she describes as the next gen of women resolvers) – the platform found its name.

So what is Elker exactly and how does it work?

Founded in 2022, Elker is a solution platform designed to encourage people to come forward and speak up about workplace issues such as harassment, discrimination, and misconduct. Designed for businesses, universities and organisations, it provides a secure channel for companies and institutions to communicate with their employees, students and members. It offers a suite of tools that adapt to the needs of the organisation: anonymous reporting, surveys, analytics, case management and more.

“We started in the in the middle of COVID. Because why would you start a company in the middle of COVID, right, like the world’s falling apart?” Shirli recounts. “At that time, I had a dispute resolution consultancy business called Resolve Advisors. And I did a lot of dispute system design in that business. So, if you think about it, Elker is kind of like an electronic version of that. We funded it by bootstrapping it to that business.”

Since that time, Elker has grown into a digital tool for empowering diversity and trust, access to support, advice and problem solving. Reporters are presented with clear pathways which are accessible 24/7 via web, mobile app and QR code. The platform also allows organisations to respond quickly and empathetically.

As a neutral third-party, Elker stores and protects all client data following strict protocols that meet the highest industry standards to encrypt identities and conversations, creating safer spaces for honest dialogue.

Shirli says that recent changes in workplace legislation mean that the onus is on employers to take a proactive approach to make employees safe and that includes making sure that they provide psychological safety. 

Game Changer Interviewer Tracey Spicer and Shirli  Kirschner, CEO and Founder of Elker
Game Changer Interviewer Tracey Spicer and Shirli Kirschner, CEO and Founder of Elker

“We are in the largest workplace reform that we’ve had in 60 years or in a lifetime. And that change means that the onus is now on employers to provide a positive duty psychosocial workplace free of harassment. That’s hard,” Shirli says. “So, part of that is employers giving people a safe space to speak up. People need a central easy place to seek support, advice and to get a problem solved. Employers need to hear about what is happening early so that they know where to put their resources.  Reporting can bury you if it isn’t streamlined and automated.”

Artificial Intelligence plays a big part in Elker’s effectiveness, particularly in enabling trust and confidentiality.

“Individuals speaking up about problems within an organisation has its own inherent issues – such as trust and confidentiality. Elker uses A-I cleverly to negate these issues. Private note matching AI is used to match private notes and alert individuals if somebody has recorded a similar incident. Surveys build an understanding of group sentiment with untraceable anonymous feedback. Analytics spot risk, highlight trends and monitor ongoing issues. It’s not just about workplace disputes. It’s about the innovations, and who it benefits,” says Shirli.

The two-year-old start-up already has put Shirli on the awards radar. Last year she was a finalist for the Women Leading Tech awards presented by Atlassian in the entrepreneur/founder category.

And much to Shirli’s satisfaction, the platform has had unexpected outcomes with surprising applications.

“One of our clients is a disability housing project. A family member of one of the residents said to me how safe the family feel about the disability housing facility because any provider that makes it so easy to give feedback and raise issues anonymously, obviously values transparency,” syas Shirli.

Additionally, Elker has been valuable for culture, inclusion, and easy access to a safe space. A university is using it for student feedback on sexual harassment and several peak industry bodies are trialling as a way for stakeholders to report.

Shirli is especially pleased about the difference it has made in a women’s community shelter.

“We didn’t quite know what a woman’s community shelter would do with it. That was an unexpected outcome. We found that 2am seems to be a witching hour. A lot of women at that time in the early morning, having had discussions during the day with social workers, are ready to use Elker to write these extraordinary long reflections. Because all this data was collected, the centre managed to get extra funding for additional support in the middle of the night for women at risk.”

Elker is being piloted in ever new and interesting ways. And Shirli’s plan is that it will increasingly ensure whistle-blowers and those who need a voice to safely, anonymously and without fear of discovery, speak up and be heard.

Find more about Elker here:


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