Irish tech company Intercom is facing employee unrest after a new policy the company claims has been in place since last year called a halt to its support for Pride celebrations.
Chief executive Eoghan McCabe, who returned to the top role following the departure of Karen Peacock in October last year, is said to be focusing solely on building the business.
That has led to a pullback in support for some employee-focused initiatives, including the employee resource groups (ERGs), and internal measures. In internal communications to Intercom workers recently seen by The Irish Times, staff were informed that the company would no longer promote ERGs in the office or in its internal general communications channels.
The policy also means no office decorations, holding events or lunches for individual communities, or promoting of ERGs on the company’s social media channels or blogs. Staff had questioned why Pride flags had been removed from the Dublin offices ahead of the end of Pride month.
During a companywide staff meeting in June, excerpts of which were shared with The Irish Times, Mr McCabe said the decision not to support Pride outwardly was “tough” as the company had previously been supportive of the event.
“What’s really tough now is that Pride has got wrapped up, unfortunately, within some circles in kind of more divisive and political issues,” he said.
Mr McCabe also noted a wider trend globally whereby mentions of ERGs and other social issues during public company quarterly calls were declining. He told staff the change in policy was not due to the groups themselves or the people involved in them, but that the company wanted to focus on its work, and it has been a “tough call” to make.
ERGs have traditionally been considered an asset to companies in terms of attracting and retaining key skilled workers, providing support to communities within the workplace.
A spokesperson for Intercom highlighted the change in policy applied to all groups and non-work related topics, not just Pride.
“This is a crazy time for tech. Businesses are under pressure, AI [artificial intelligence] is changing everything,” they said.
“Companies that do not apply very high degrees of focus to their work will struggle,” a spokesperson from Intercom said. “We’re deprioritising absolutely everything that does not directly contribute to our success and it’s yielding great results. We’re incredibly proud of the open, accepting, mature culture our CEO is building and the new high bar for talent he’s setting, too.”
Intercom has previously been a supporter of Pride, putting in place a number of projects both internally and externally to celebrate the event. That included multimedia content highlighting the issues affecting LGBTQIA+ people, and special editions of the company’s Inside Intercom podcast highlighting employee experiences. Previous years have also seen the groups hold learning sessions on topics such as trans awareness and supporting LGBT children.
In a blog post for Pride in 2022, still available to view on the company’s website, Intercom said it was celebrating with the theme “out in the world and bringing people in”.
“Pride is, first and foremost, a protest, but it’s also a celebration and a display of solidarity,” it said.
Intercom was founded in 2011 by Mr McCabe, Des Traynor, Ciarán Lee and David Barrett. The Dublin and San Francisco-headquartered company has developed a software platform which brings messaging products for sales, marketing and customer support together.
Its products allow companies to communicate with customers easily through their own websites, inside their respective web and mobile apps, and by email. It has already begun integrating AI into its products, launching ChatGPT4-powered chatbot Fin in March.
The company has had a turbulent few months, cutting a total of 13 per cent of its global workforce last year as it was hit by the flux in the technology sector. Earlier this year, it was reported to be subletting some of its planned new headquarters in Dublin.