Experts’ Talk – Future of Work (#1)

HR is rapidly becoming one of the most influential departments of an organization, from constructing the corporate brand identity and aligning strategic and organizational goals, to ensure the implementation of legislation through the systems and processes of the company.

In the series “Experts’ Talk”, we’ve interviewed Human Resource leaders from the tech industry, to shed some light on how they experience the changes in the employment world, and what to expect in the near future.

In the first chapter, we had the honor to host the one and only, Neomi Farkash.

Neomi Farkash

Neomi is VP HR at Taboola, and one of the strongest HR leaders in the tech industry. Neomi applies advanced practices of people analytics to manage Taboola’s 1,300 employees. Her motto is: Listen, Understand, Do.

Q: What are the 2-3 most rapid changes you’ve seen in today’s workplace?

A: So much is changing! I think in the past year, we’ve seen a change in the way employees perceive their career within a company. The conversation surrounding value is becoming significantly more important. It’s not just about salary — though of course, that’s always an essential element (and more so when there’s competition for talent) — but about a wider range of values. Employees are asking to know what’s in it for them, i.e. what do they have to gain from this position. They focus on what they’ll learn, who they’ll interact with, how they’ll feel.

Another change is around communication — with work becoming more global and more flexible, building a foundation of communication is key. If you want the person on the other side to do their best for you, you have to acknowledge them, to get to know them. We encourage employees to get on a video call whenever possible, even if a phone call will do. We encourage small talk. Though you might not see the immediate need for it or even think that it’s a waste of time, when it’s crunch time — when there’s a looming deadline or a tricky implementation or a wall you keeping bumping up against — you’ll be grateful to rely on a person who knows the stakes and cares about the outcome.

Q: What is HR’s role in applying these workplace changes in organizations?

A: HR needs to be at the forefront of identifying changes, investigating them, and generating ideas on how to tackle them. To do that, we have to partner closely with managers and hear about their day-to-day. This way, we can easily pick up on shifts and challenges that need attention before they become dire. Typically, if we wait until a manager defines a problem and reaches out to HR for help, a lot of time has passed. By then, in most cases, we’ll first be dealing with symptomatic issues — results of the problem instead of the actual problem. So the sooner we can engage these troubles, the less we’ll have to strip away to get to the core issues. Of course, not all core issues can be fixed, but they can all be addressed.

HR should also be flexible, and not assume the answer is somewhere in our existing playbook. New problems call for new solutions and fresh points of view. We should be willing to solve issues from a perspective other than classic HR – the way a salesperson or an engineer would tackle it. We need to be professional in out fields, and fuse together different paradigms for the bigger issues, matching a solution for the company or team we support.

Q: What are the tools or skills contemporary HRs need to use in order to mitigate these changes within their organization? Should HR develop or adopt new skills?

A: I mentioned flexibility – I think that’s key. With the understanding that our professional field is ever expanding (which personally, I find invigorating), should come a willingness to always learn, adopt new ways of doing things, and then drop them if they’re not working.

I’m happy to see that my peers understand the importance of people analytics. There used to be a misconception of what that meant — either looking it as a way to measure HR work (which it isn’t) or thinking you need to be a world-class statistician to touch it (which you don’t). I heard concerned HR professionals saying it’s wrong to let data replace the conversation about people. What I found is that the great thing about people analytics is that it doesn’t do that — rather, it simply starts the conversation off in the right place. It saves us time spent proving our point (the data proves it, or at least points to it) and allows us to spend time tackling the solution. HR should focus on the unique application of solutions based on understanding people and what’s important to them.

Q:How do you see these changes impacting the future of work?

A: I think more and more “classic” HR practices like feedback and acknowledgment are becoming the norm. I believe there’s greater awareness of those elements across the working world. At the very least, employees expect to be treated with new standards of dignity and respect.

The more that work becomes talent-driven, the more employees will demand to be in conversation with their organization. That conversation is facilitated by people, ideally managers and other leaders in the company. I find this new conversation wonderful — it’s more inclusive and more personal. It connects people around their common goals, expectations, and experiences.

Ultimately, it drives greater engagement in a time where employees are being accused of disloyalty. I think employees are loyal, they’re just not tying that loyalty to their paychecks, but to a wider proposition of value. Organizations that don’t adjust to this new mindset will find themselves competing for talent and paying higher and higher salaries to compensate for the conversations they’re not having.

Thank you, Neomi for this inspiring conversation. Next week – a new chapter with another fascinating HR leader. there’s much to expect!

Use Performance Development to Create a Happy Workplace

More than 10 years ago, during my last year of business school, I met an impressive professor who developed a method of employee assessment and evaluation.

He had dedicated two decades of his life to the study of appreciative inquiry, which highlights employees’ strengths rather than focuses on their weaknesses. These glass-half-full evaluations had a tremendous, positive impact on productivity, eventually resulting in better overall organizational performance.

Generally, you can only improve your weak points by 10 to 20 percent. Nurturing your strong suits, on the other hand, can more than double performance outputs. All you need is need is a little encouragement.

Now, this professor (Avi Kluger) has developed yet another method, known as “Feed for Ward.” The idea is simple — identifying your employees’ strengths will spark an immediate change in the way they approach their work and foster a happier workforce, making for better business.

The Link Between Happiness to Productiveness

Throughout my career as both a direct and indirect manager of hundreds of employees, I took Kluger’s method one step further.

Today, so many people are constantly seeking happiness. Whether it’s through meditation, mindfulness, or other tension-reducing techniques. Most of us are stressed out from the demands of day-to-day life: from the competition, the need to stand out, the desire to make something of ourselves. Not to mention, in an age and place where our work seems to define us, we experience even more pressure to be beyond excellent.

I always felt that employees should bring their passion to the workplace. They should be able to feel impassioned, inspired, and indispensable. That way, they’ll be excited to share that passion and knowledge with their coworkers.

Developing Employees or Developing People?

As a manager, I’ve often used a performance evaluation tool to help my employees see their own strengths. Together, we define their star qualities and discuss how I, as their manager or mentor, can help them shine. Then, my employees are properly equipped to become leaders in their respective fields of expertise.

Better yet, the performance evaluation gives me an overview of all individuals’ strengths, so I can conduct a true team orchestra — where each instrument contributes to the ensemble, making music that is better than the sum of its parts. This way, I was able to put each team member in the right seat and maximize every individual’s contribution to the business.

In short, my philosophy is to encourage each employee to focus on what they love to do, and help them sharpen their strongest skills.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: what about that work that nobody wants to do, but still needs to be done? Well, when employees have regular opportunities to shine, they’re more connected to their own goals and those of the company — and thus, more willing to spend time on energy doing the things they don’t love so much.

How do you evaluate your employees? Setting the right ground can make all the difference!

An Afternoon Discussion About HR Tech and Challenges

We caught one of Mensch dear clients and an HR expert, Orit Federline Doodai, for a quick chat about HR technology, people strategy and challenges.

Please tell us a bit about yourself – I’ve been working in the HR field for over 10 years, where I’ve held a wide variety of different positions, covering aspects like training and organizational development, recruitment/head-hunting and leading HR activities. Today, I’m the HR Manager at Wiser, a data solutions startup located in the heart of Tel Aviv.

Please describe Wiser – what kind of organization is this? what is its DNA? Wiser, an Israeli-American startup, helps retailers and brands turn omnichannel data into action that increases revenue, reduces costs, and improves marketing effectiveness. Our headquarters are in the US and our Israel offices are located in central Tel Aviv. Both locations offer a dynamic work environment with cutting-edge tech development challenges.

Why it was important for you to add an HRM to Wiser? HR management software is a must-have for every growing company. HR is a wide discipline that encompasses various responsibilities. A company’s HR department is the leading and the executor of a people strategy; they set relevant KPIs, define processes, and measure and identify insights to hit KPIs. But of course, it’s impossible to do any of this without the right HRIS platform. It’s important to find a platform that streamlines your HR processes by putting them all in one place, helping you track and meet KPIs.

On top of that, an HRIS will take a company’s HR department to the next level when it comes to efficiency. It makes it easier for everyone to work together, creating a seamlessness between HR and managers, HR and finance, and management to employees. This enables better process measurement and management, and while you might think of it as a managerial tool, it ultimately provides transparency for all employees within the organization.

You mentioned People Strategy – can you elaborate more about what it is? People strategy is actually very similar to marketing or business strategy – you set the northern star and creating the path to reach it.  

For me, creating People Strategy in about building the right programs and processes to improve the human performance in the company, and demonstrating its clear contribution to the company bottom line. Applying people strategy is done by setting KPIs and measurements of HR processes, tracking and improving constantly.

What did you look for in the HRM? what was important for you? what are the important capabilities of an HRM? There are many parameters to consider when choosing an HRIs platform: First, I looked for a user-friendly tool to enable me, as HR Manager, to input all HR info (data, policies, processes).

Next, I looked for a system that integrates all HR and employment issues, so I can easily use the data for various analyses, gathering employees’ personal data, updating personal files, and other ‘behind the scenes’ processes.

Last, it was important to me that my tool-of-choice would allow managerial staff to easily receive reports, data and charts for both of their direct employees and the entire organization.

How do you see the HR tech evolving? What’s your tip to other HRs when trying to understand which technologies worth to adapt:

Right now, there’s a huge number of HR solutions. So many, in fact, that it can be overwhelming. Many of these are silo solutions that attempt to solve a single, narrow issue in the workspace: from mentoring apps to diversity and inclusion apps and different employee engagement tools.

Many of these solutions are geared toward the recruitment field — a huge industry and constant painpoint for any company. Due to the fierce competition between companies we see in the market today (especially the tech market), job opportunities are abundant for all employees. Thus, employees are constantly job searching and job hopping, making turnover high throughout the tech industry.  This is where recruitment software comes into play. Plus, because HR is such a wide and varied discipline, there are always new and different technologies to explore.

When choosing an HR technology to adapt to your organization, you’ll need to consider your KPIs and how technology can help you reach your goals.

 

I am Y generation! How did I stay 7 years in 1 company?

Everyone seems to have an opinion about millennials and the employment market.

The media calls them narcissistic, their parents call them lazy, the media calls them, and employers characterize them as impatient, disloyal, flighty, self-centered job candidates.

But even millennials grow up. Now, these “self-centered,” “lazy” “narcissists” make up 25 percent of the US workforce. By 2030, that number is projected to rise to 75 percent.

Yet generational gaps have existed for as long as generations have. And the things that Boomers hate about millennials also happen to be the things that give them an edge in the job market. It’s only that a different generation comes with a different mindset, and maintaining these ambitious young adults means adopting a modern way of management.

And I would know.

I’m one of those flighty Generation Y narcissists. But contrary to the stereotype, I’ve spent seven years at one company. So, speaking from personal experience, here are a few ways that you, the employer, can create high engagement and retention amongst your Generation Y employees.

Upon completing my bachelor’s degree in business and East Asian studies, I went straight to work as a junior clients account manager at an online media company. It was a small startup made up of 60 ambitious employees, where I had the opportunity to grow with the team and learn directly from my manager.

In fact, my manager (and ultimately, mentor) was an integral part of my experience here. He never told me how to do my job. Instead, he exposed me to industry trends and business models, guiding me toward my own method of managing my client’s portfolio. I learned a lot, grew professionally, and developed a new skill set.

Luckily, both my manager and the HR team recognized my management skills early on. They actively challenged me by increasing my responsibilities, involving me in solving complex problems, and assigning me to support and mentor new employees. They boosted both my confidence and my abilities during this pivotal, early stage of my career, helping me thrive.

The company appreciated my motivation, and I was promoted to managing a small team of media buyers. While this was an obvious win for me, it was also a big win for the company: by nurturing internal talent, they were home-growing their very own future managers. Plus, I became even more loyal to the company, aligning more closely with its goals and missions. After all, their success directly benefited me — the more the company grew and diversified its business models, the more I could grow professionally.

Though autodidacts and self-learners are commonplace amongst millennials our company’s HR team deliberately worked to foster the talents of today’s young manager, helping them grow into tomorrow’s leaders. For instance, I had the benefit of a monthly mentorship plan, as well as a six-month course in leadership and managerial skills, all of which strongly influenced the type of manager I am today.

This taste of success further motivated me, and I searched for my next challenge. Suddenly, leading five people was no longer enough — I wanted to challenge myself, to learn, to evolve by managing a much larger team, and when the opportunity came along i was well prepared for it. My last job at the company I’ve ended up leading a five-team department, including client success, business development, M&A, sales, and marketing.

My managers and the HR team identified my strengths early on, helping them understand the best way to lead me. The realized that to succeed in developing my career, I needed to be constantly challenged, yet I need to constantly deliver results. Plus, they made me feel important: they asked for my opinion, my ambitions, and how I gauged my own success within the company.

Of course, not all millennials are the same. But we are ambitious, hungry, and driven. We long to be challenged, and we need to be heard.

  1. Understand what matters to us. Generally, millennials are high achievers. But they may define success differently: to us, personal growth and development often outweigh financial rewards.
  2. Let us know how we’re doing. We crave constant feedback, good or bad. Provide recognition for good work, and constructive criticism on points for improvement — we’ll up our efforts in return 🙂
  3. Define goals, but don’t micromanage. Since Generation Y treats all of a company’s roles (from CEO to the most junior employee) as equal, expect to be treated that way. We appreciate leaders who mentor and are inspired by those who lead by example, are professional and experienced.
  4. Involve them in creating their work environment. Feedback is a two-way street, and employees should always have a voice when it comes to company activities, management, or anything else company-related.
  5. Don’t limit them. Millenials are multitaskers who like to get their hands dirty and try out new things. They don’t want to focus on just one area of responsibility — they want to learn. This can be a huge attribute to your company.