Tech startups face their own HR and People Management challenges. In this TecHRseries interview, Saray Ben-Meir, Chief of Staff of technology startup SQream joins us to discuss these challenges while sharing her inputs on the evolving HR and HR Tech landscape.
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Tell us about yourself Saray. We’d love to know what a typical day at work is like for you and also what your favorite part about being in HR is!
A typical day at work is a day with a lot of meetings both with employees and with managers that I work with, some are pre-scheduled and some are spontaneous – we have an open door policy, so people sometimes come and want to talk with me. Regardless of the spontaneous interactions, there are certain processes which we promote to increase efficiency, communication and collaboration, within and among different departments. My role is to ensure that the organization, performs at its best.
My favorite part is obviously the people that I work with. I enjoy helping people analyze certain situations and offering them an alternative point of view and actions that they can take regarding how to handle them. I also find it very rewarding to come up with solutions to things that don’t work well.
What are some of the biggest HR challenges you’ve faced given your time in the industry?
One of the biggest challenges that I have faced is the one that we are currently facing, which is how to handle such a major global crisis which in no time shifted the entire environment to which everyone was accustomed. The challenge has been in handling it from an operational point of view, but even more of a challenge has come in the soft aspect of making people feel secure in this uncertain environment, while keeping the organization focused on achieving its goals.
As a startup we exist in an intense, fast changing environment and one of the biggest challenges and at the same time assets that we have is responsiveness and the ability to adjust very quickly to circumstances around us. This requires a flexible mindset that needs to be adopted by everyone in the organization.
Could you share some of your top strategies for upskilling/reskilling activities that you undertake at SQream? How do you use HR technology to drive this initiative?
We actively encourage our employees to grow their skills set, both on the job and outside of it. On the job, we share knowledge within the organization, utilizing different platforms that we have deployed to increase communication within teams and between departments.
We also frequently hold brainstorming sessions which allow people to upskill themselves, as they are exposed to new tools and ideas. We take pride in the research that our R&D employees carry out, they are truly pushing the boundaries of technological knowledge, making new discoveries and utilizing them in our production processes.
When we feel that the knowledge cannot be reached independently or within the organization, then we take advantage of other courses, conferences, workshops and online tools.
According to you, how can global B2B/Tech teams capitalize on HR Technology more to improve their overall work culture and environment? Besides HR Technology, any other suggestions you’d like to share for HR teams to drive or build better workplace / employee cultures?
I believe that HR technology tools can increase transparency, communication and engagement of employees. These tools offer the employee full visibility into their ‘employee account’ at HR, while also providing a view into the organizational structure, the organizational directory and the benefits that the employee can enjoy. At the same time, thanks to these tools, the input and feedback of employees can be more easily collected, such as through surveys and questionnaires. Core HR processes such as the employee evaluation process can be fully managed by these tools, allowing the managers access and increasing efficiency and timeliness. Using these tools also allows HR to easily provide management with online dashboards, sharing integral data and insights such as HC, hiring statistics, attrition, performance evaluation analysis, survey results and so forth.
Overall, these tools are connecting management to the employee, and growing employee trust in the organization.
Given the current world (pandemic) situation, what top tips would you share with other tech CHROs/HR Heads? Any specific tips on remote work, team management while being remote, etc?
We frequently use Slack as our main communication channel, and we created additional channels on Slack, now that we are working remotely. We created virtual video conferencing rooms that are constantly open to each department, so that if the team wants to work and feel like they are in the same space as their colleagues, they can join in the morning and if they feel they have questions, or just want to be in the same open space, it is available to them.
Most teams have daily meetings to sync and catch up. Management have a coffee meeting every morning and the CEO has coffee meetings with different employees to substitute for corridor chats. We are holding our weekly office happy hours online, and we have increased the frequency of lunch-and-learn sessions, to create a better sense of togetherness. The HR team makes sure to randomly touch base with different employees, to see how they are doing, how their families are doing, etc.
Could you share some examples of game changing HR activities undertaken by some of the world’s best tech companies, that you look up to as examples or industry benchmarks? Or, more importantly, what some leading tech companies are doing given the current (Covid-19/pandemic) situation that you’d like to throw light on.
I prefer in this question to focus my answer on actions we ourselves have taken during this challenging period in the effort to nurture belonging, loyalty and camaraderie among our teams, as well as sense of giving back to our community. One of the recent things we did was surprise our employees by delivering branded company hoodies to them in person, when it was still safe to move around. They were delivered in person by members of the company’s management team, which really touched people. Employees were also given the option to donate their holiday gift certificate to families in need. We also are trying to make our purchases from small businesses which are now struggling under the current Corona restrictions.
How do you see the role of HR Technology/AI in HRTech change how companies will recruit/manage and retain employees in future?
I would say that obviously first of all, video interviews will be more adopted and will make it easier to reach people from different locations. And now that I think about it, because we are practicing our skills on video communications, HR will get better at reading people and correctly analyzing the first impression on video.
In addition, thanks to the fact that all the employee related information is in one place (employee feedback, training needs, career moves, benefits, performance evaluation, etc.), in the near future I expect there to be new tools available (AI-based) that enable us to get deep insights and predictions into the employee needs, engagement, and development.
What according to you are the top 3 HR Tech Trends that will define 2020?
- Working from home related tools
- Online hiring
- Employee retention solutions in unstable / lean environments
Your favorite quote on employee engagement/recruitment/leadership?
“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” – Peter Drucker, management consultant and writer
Tag (or mention/write about) the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read.
Professor Ichak Adizes, Founder & CEO of Adizes Institute
SQream Technologies is the company behind SQream DB, the fastest GPU-accelerated data warehouse. With minimum cost, hardware and infrastructure changes required, SQream enables businesses to easily ingest, store and analyze tens to hundreds of terabytes of data and beyond, with ease, in near real-time.
Saray brings 20 years of experience in the hi-tech industry, in both corporates and startups in Israel and abroad. As Chief of Staff, Saray focuses on working across teams to ensure alignment on strategic and broad initiatives across the company, building partnerships, leading organizational changes and leadership design, driving constant process improvement through feedback and iteration, and ensuring we live by our cultural values. Saray is part of SQream’s Executive Innovation Team, which envisions and incubates SQream’s next-generation products, create partnerships with strategic stakeholders and integrates those projects into the main work stream of the company at the right point. Prior to SQream, Saray served in diverse HR and operational roles at prominent hi-tech companies including NICE and Sapiens.