Expert’s talk – The critical role of HR in tomorrow’s organization

Expert’s talk is a series of interviews with Human Resource leaders from the tech industry. These leaders shed light on the way they are experiencing the changes in the employment world, and what we should be expected in the near future.

In the second chapter, we have interviewed the mind-blowing-HR – Rotem Kazir.

Rotem Kazir

Rotem is a key player in the Human Resources arena for the past 15 years, specializing in startup growth. Rotem works with entrepreneurs and executive teams, both as Head of People at
Pitango VC, and as an independent consultant, and helping them build successful companies for scale.

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

During my work with startups, and since I’m exposed to many different types of organizations, I experience many different changes in workplaces. My perspective is that every company it’s a bit different. So instead of covering the obvious changes we constantly hear about — like the rise of AI and career development — I’d like to take this opportunity to talk about the more subtle changes I’ve noticed.

Employee burnout leads to high attrition. Though the digital age has improved our lives in so many ways, it’s also leading to different complications. We are all being expected (and have the ability) to remain connected at all times. We are expected to respond quickly and keep up with the fast pace of the tech industry. This trend is taking its toll, and impacting employees mental health. There’s a blurred line between employees personal life and work hours. The stress that comes with it is causing the best talent to feel worn out and ultimately leave their jobs. It is creating an ongoing cycle that creates a burden on organizations in terms of knowledge, expertise, and money. I see more and more employees, not only millennials, prioritizing work-life balance, and respect for personal time, as a major factor in their career decisions.

Decreasing human touch. As AI and data-driven machines taking over larger and larger chunks of d2d processes (and rightfully so), there’s an ever-increasing need to compensate for the lack of human touch in our d2d interactions. As machines begin predicting employee disengagement, matching mentors within organizations, and automating suggestions for internal promotions, we may be tempted to look at dashboards all day and neglect 1:1s and casual conversations.

HR gets a seat at the leadership table – In the last two to three years I’ve seen more and more CEOs adding HR representatives to their leadership teams. They need HRs as important sensors for the organization, as key partners in leading business and organizational changes, and strategic partners in preparing the organization for future challenges.

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

Personally, I think that HR should be an enabler for the company leaders and a driver of change. Its greatest asset is by understanding the human operating system, for its motives and quirks. Our role is by interpreting employee behavior to managers and vice versa. This role will only grow as we increase our reliance on machines and data. My good friend Ayala Dagan of Waze says we are “Chaos Architects”. We’re there to see and act on people’s blind spots, to assist with communication, and to bridge perception gaps. This human touch will always be needed.

Q: What tools/skills does an HR need to mitigate these changes within their organization? Should HR develop or adopt new skills?

Not all changes need mitigation, but there are a few key skills necessary to become a true partner in setting foundations for these changes:

Embracing change (cliché, but still true) — we should model to others the understanding that changes are not only constant but also a necessity (rather than a necessary evil).

Openness and curiosity – No matter how extreme a change may be, we’re not the first to experience it. Go out, read about it, consult and learn from others’ experiences globally, bring innovation and new approaches to the new challenges. We tend to stick with what we know, even if what we know is outdated… but the world is moving fast and we can’t stay behind!

Learn the business – As participants at the leadership table, we must speak the language of business. That means using data to back up our intuitions and perceptions, and showing a direct connection between our work and the business’s bottom line. 

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

I can’t wait for the day leader will realize that participating in the modern rat race is costing them talents. They will need then to remedy this by reducing stress for their employees. I’m optimistic: I think that day is right around the corner, and I hope that HR will be a part of this revolution.

Meanwhile, AI, data, and the increasing role of HR go hand in hand. The more scientific and efficient our work becomes, the more we seek what we can’t get from machines: Kind words, human touch, and emotional interpretation. The HR will be there to provide all that and more 😊

Experts’ Talk – Future of Work

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!