HR Post Covid
OTORIO created ‘Meet the Mates’ to combat Covid-19 loneliness
As its 70 employees were sent into lockdown, the cybersecurity company knew it had to find a way to keep employees engaged
In hard times, it’s always nice to see the brighter sides of our work, family, or friends. Next-gen OT security company OTORIO was aware of this and so its HR leader, Noam Avimor-Paneth, made sure the team stayed motivated and engaged with one another.
“We added a weekly corner called ‘Meet the Mates’ - a 90-second video in which we present the lighter side of our employees,” Avimor-Paneth told CTech. “From their favorite Disney movie to their animal spirit, what's the last thing they do at night, and tips on how to deal with quarantine boredom.”
According to Avimor-Paneth, “at the end of each video, the employee invites another employee for coffee, so we continue to maintain the interpersonal connection even in the absence of offices.”
OTORIO joined CTech for its HR Post-Covid series to share some of the unique ways the company maintained its sense of community during one of the loneliest years in modern workforce history.
Company Name: OTORIO
HR Leader: Noam Avimor-Paneth
Field of Activity: OTORIO, a leading industrial-native cybersecurity company that delivers Next-Gen OT Security solutions and enables reliable, safe, and resilient digital manufacturing.
Number of employees/locations: 70 globally. Our headquarters is located in Tel Aviv, Israel.
Professional background of HR Manager:
Noam Avimor-Paneth – Head of HR.
I am an MBA graduate with over six years of experience in startups and enterprise companies. I joined OTORIO as the first recruit during the founding stage. After blitz-scaling, OTORIO now has over 70 employees in Israel and around the world. Throughout my time at OTORIO, I successfully established, managed, and executed OTORIO's HR processes from scratch to become one of the strong supporters of the achievements of the company's goals.
On a scale of 1-10, how much did the coronavirus pandemic disrupt operations at the company?
As Covid-19 first began to impact the global market, obviously we felt some disruption at first, as our customers were all adjusting to the crazy new normal. But luckily, our customers come from diversified industries — and some of them, like the ones from the pharma, food, and beverage, and pulp and paper segments — actually grew due to Covid-19.
We quickly realized that this was not a passing event and rapidly tweaked our platform and daily operations in the company. Now we can install and manage large-scale deployments remotely, which is a huge differentiator in a no-travel world. Our services teams also developed methods to work remotely, so the quality of services we provide remains very high and the travel bans did not hurt our customers.
As for the OTORIO culture, when Covid-19 first hit, we knew we needed to act quickly in order to maintain maximum certainty in a rapidly ever-changing and unclear environment. We boosted our internal communication. We've added weekly updates by the CEO and management team, as well as one-on-one and cross-company meetings.
What interesting technological tools do you use in employee management/recruitment?
We use all the technologies available to us - Slack, Mail, Zoom, Company WhatsApp, and more. In addition, we added a weekly corner called "Meet the Mates" - a 90-second video in which we present the lighter side of our employees - from their favorite Disney movie to their animal spirit, what's the last thing they do at night, and tips on how to deal with quarantine boredom. At the end of each video, the employee invites another employee for coffee, so we continue to maintain the interpersonal connection even in the absence of offices.
What positive and/or negative impact did the outbreak have on the human capital of the company?
We learned that attempts to mimic past processes and force them upon the current reality had created anomalies that have the potential to impair the functioning of the organization as a whole and for employees in particular.
We understood that on the emotional level, it's not ‘business as usual’. The transition between the previous reality and the new virtual reality is challenging not only technologically but also includes a significant increase in personal burden for many of our employees. Relationships, parenting, work - we are required to be 100% in everything, all the time, and people have an abrasive dissonance between the gratitude of employment in a crumbling market and the rapid attrition that was created.
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This is where we come in as an attentive and trusted employer. It was essential for us to maintain a high level of moral and mutual trust. At OTORIO, we use a multilevel approach.
First, though it seems like work-from-home creates flexibility on the organizational level, the truth of the matter is that it's tough to set a work-home balance. Employees needed to adjust as their daily routines became chaotic. Therefore, as an organization, we took it upon ourselves to go beyond the creative and pampering events and make changes in the day-to-day discourse. For example, we've analyzed common needs and created optimized collaborative working hours for teams to conduct meetings, and added summarized AI and agenda to all meetings so employees can sync offline, and initiated an organizational lunch break that allows us all to clear our minds.
At the social level, we maintained the previous organizational rituals that remind us that we are all in this together. Events such as company updates, toasts, mutual recognition, Happy Hour, cross-company training, and content sharing were adjusted and maintained. Once the governments' guidelines allowed it, we also encouraged teams to meet outdoors - even at the expense of working hours - in order to maintain the unmediated connection. Also, we encourage as empathic, transparent, and clear discourse as possible. We added more personal check-ins like an open conversation over coffee with the CEO in small groups, one-on-ones with the executives, one-on-ones with the HR, and weekly management meetings to quickly adapt to the employee's morale and needs.
The last part is at the individual level. We kept close connection with the employees’ personal needs and tried to support it. Sometimes it means helping with screens, a chair, or noise-canceling headphones, while it was more community support for others. We encouraged communal social responsibility. We expect and inspire everyone, management, and colleagues to be aware of behavior and morale changes that need support and, therefore, create a 360° empathy. Of course, we also remember to cherish individual success, big or small (for example: people who push forward, discover new communication skills, or initiate ideas that push us forward).
What are the two major challenges you are coping with these days?
The business successes we experience result from all the company's internal cooperation, from product and development to services, marketing, and sales. This would have been considered a success during a regular year – and when it comes in a year like this one, it is 10 times the success!
Still, there are challenges. One is the difficulty of balancing this load when you do not experience human touch and recognition (such as a smile or a "high-five"), and the feeling of "togetherness" is missing.
The other is the challenge of burnout, missing interaction, and health. In this, we are no different from many other companies. We try to balance the growing desire for all of us to work from offices 100% of the time and our organizational responsibility to maintain our employees' health and continue working in capsules. I'm happy to say that despite it all, our team sticks together.
Are you actively recruiting? If so, what is the process and where can the applicants find you?
We are definitely continuing to recruit. It is true that growth is not as rapid as we would like - but in places where we identify a need for reinforcement and pushing forward (for example, international sales teams or support of development teams) - we do not delay recruitment.
Which changes forced upon you by the circumstances will stay in place after Covid-19 is over, and which are you most eager to revert back to normal?
Once possible, we plan to bring back as many of the physical encounters and company events as possible. I believe we will keep a hybrid model that will allow flexibility between home and work throughout the workweek.
The most important thing is that everyone at OTORIO knows that they are welcome to contact their managers, me at HR, or even our CEO – to speak their minds regarding any personal and team challenges. Open communication is critical now and in the post-Covid-19 era. That is why, as we did before, we will continue to strengthen our internal communication, synchronization, agility, operations, coffee meetings with the CEO, and of course, our unique corner “Meet the Mates.”