“Adaptability is key” during Covid-19, says Augury’s VP of People Operations

As everyone was sent home to work remotely, Augury’s Keren Rubin remembers how the IoT served its employees and their families

CTech 13:2802.12.20
“For many, working from home meant working while taking care of family members and kids,” recalled Augury’s VP of People Operations, Keren Rubin. “So we focused on the team’s health and well being, and mainly on keeping the team together.”


Maintaining company morale as hundreds of your staff is no easy feat. Rubin knew that to make sure it was a success, she had to understand that “adaptability is key for our ability to come out of this stronger as a company, and worked with the team on this mindset shift.”

 Augury’s VP of People Operations, Keren Rubin. Photo: Augury Augury’s VP of People Operations, Keren Rubin. Photo: Augury


Augury joins CTech for its HR Post-Covid series to discuss the importance of adaptability and how it might have saved the company.


Company name: Augury


Field of activity: Industrial IoT -a leading provider of Machine Health AI solutions to enable predictive and condition-based maintenance for industrial Fortune 500 companies.


Number of employees/location: 120 in Israel and the United States.


Professional background of HR manager: Keren Rubin, VP, People Operations.


When I was a food engineer at Strauss, I discovered that I Iove building systems and solving problems. Over time, I realized that I could apply the same approach and skills not only to production lines but also to building companies and designing processes for people. On the journey to Augury, I also gained an MSc in Organizational behavior and ran the Technion’s Entrepreneurship Center. Currently, I’ve been at Augury for four and a half years.


On a scale of 1-10, how much did the coronavirus pandemic disrupt HR operations at the company?


I think it disrupted everyone’s lives at a 10 level. The Covid-19 crisis has revealed critical challenges in the global supply chain. The shortage in basic products due to the increased demand coupled with the inability of manufacturers to enter the factory doors to manufacture them demonstrated the urgent need to change the old paradigms and digitally transform the manufacturing world. Augury has the ability to remotely monitor and control production processes, and business-wise, we’re experiencing tremendous growth as a result of this digital revolution.


Looking internally, Augury’s first company value is People First. We adjusted our focus accordingly to support the team and built what was needed to begin working remotely, in an erratic time.


We shifted the entire company to working remotely within days. For many, working from home meant working while taking care of family members and kids. So we focused on the team’s health and well-being, and mainly on keeping the team together. We knew adaptability is key for our ability to come out of this stronger as a company and worked with the team on this mindset shift.


Three months into the pandemic, we moved from a response mode to a build mode. This new reality gives us an opportunity to reinvent the way we work in ways that we hadn’t imagined before. We’re working to create a new method for hybrid work, re-defining the role of our office, face-to-face interactions, and the virtual work-from-home experience — where we spend most of our time.


We have also trained our managers on how to work in this new environment: How to have real conversations with their teams and how to create new processes for planning, team building, and more.


Since Covid-19 hit, we’ve re-defined our core around collaboration and creativity and made the adjustments to build it into our New Normal. We focused on enabling individuals to work effectively from their homes while supporting them in upgrading their home stations. Face to face interactions still matter, so we also took the time to redesign the office so it’s optimized for teamwork, ideation, and informal conversations. We created a “neighborhood” concept to encourage a safe work environment in team capsules. Lastly, we shifted the company to a bi-weekly four-day work week, to enable more time with their families — away from zoom.


What interesting technological tools do you use in employee management/ recruitment?


Since we needed to learn to conduct all the hiring processes remotely, we started to explore some whiteboard digital tools and found some of them very useful. We’re also using Miro for team activities, where we want to encourage brainstorming and creativity, and Tandem as our virtual office.


What positive and/or negative impact did the outbreak have on the human capital of the company?


As I’ve said, the first value at Augury is People First, and the most positive impact the outbreak had on us was that we’ve gotten to know one another better as people. From seeing children occasionally pop-in during All Hands meetings to seeing each other’s homes, and taking one-on-ones while walking our dogs (plenty of those at Augury), we’ve become closer, more empathetic, and more tight-knit.

Work-from-home has had a great positive impact on people’s autonomy, ability to focus and get their individual work done. The team’s feedback on this has been positive and we want to enable our people to maintain the upside of work-from-home.


As for the negative impact: when communication becomes scheduled and structured, the small moments that enable random conversations are lost. This has limited the connectedness to people with whom you don’t work with day-to-day. While teams still work well in this environment, creating a community is harder than before. The second negative impact is that a remote environment can limit creativity, innovation, and the ability to learn just by being around one another and having random conversations


What are the two major challenges you are coping with these days?


Our way of communicating and interacting with one another changed entirely due to Covid-19 and remote work. We’ve always preferred transparent, face-to-face communication across the company— especially during our all-hands meetings where we speak openly about the current standings and future of the company. When Covid-19 began, we knew that the way we lead through the change and communicate with our team is essential for us to remain strong in these challenging times. We’ve pivoted the content and frequency of communication, and focused a lot on providing our people more transparency and additional insight into how we view the macro environment and its impact on our business. It’s interesting to note that in our engagement survey, the topic of open transparent communication was the strongest driver for our high engagement score. I think there's a good story here about how we know leading with purpose works.


As I mentioned before, innovation and creativity are hard to cultivate in an exclusively digital environment. So we are building ways to enable individuals, and teams, to be more creative (now that it doesn't come as naturally). We are at the beginning of designing a digital space that will encourage this kind of activity.


Are you actively recruiting? If so, what is the process and where can applicants find you?


Definitely yes! In Israel, we’re focused on Product, R&D, and Operations people. Our solution is full-stack- from sensors, through cloud running algorithms, to delivering insights to customers via web and mobile. Check out our Career Page and feel free to drop us a line.


Which changes forced upon you by the circumstances will stay in place after the medical emergency is over and which are you most eager to revert back to normal?


This really is an opportunity to reinvent how we work. We learned a lot about our core as a company and what we care about. The “old way” of having the entire team in the office five days a week will probably be less relevant. The whole notion of work-life balance got a new meaning with Covid-19, and so did the need for an office and face-to-face interactions.


The way we work is structured around autonomous teams since we believe it’s the best way to build a company for scale and we're optimizing for teamwork. Working from home enables focus, the ability to work autonomously and execute well, and allows people to spend more time with the family. But it also requires creating healthy habits of home/work separation, pro-active communication and transparency, and the use of collaboration tools to enable creation and a-sync work.


What we've found is that the team still values face-to-face interaction. Both for relationships, but also for ideation, brainstorming, planning, and building things together. Once safe, the team has asked to come back to the office. Our office is currently designed and laid out to allow teams to safely gather once a week - to collaborate, ideate, learn from one another - and to just spend time together.


We can learn to work remotely and become great at it, but there’s something about face-to-face interaction that creates ‘the magic’ that Zoom and other tools just can’t replace.