HR Post Covid
Virtual Yoga? Not for ClimaCell
When other companies rushed to give employees Covid-19 perks, ClimaCell instead asked its team what they wanted. This is what they said
In an attempt to bring teams together, many companies organized virtual Happy Hours, or yoga and cooking events, to make sure people stayed connected with their employees. Weather data solution ClimaCell, did one better.
“From the beginning, it was clear to us that especially now, tough times require transparency and collaboration in order to keep trust and to go through this together,” explained Osnat Barak, ClimaCell’s Chief People & Culture, GM IL. “We learned, for example, that yoga/cooking classes that created a lot of hype in other organizations were not what our employees needed. On the contrary: They needed time for themselves.”
Instead of gathering all of its 110 employees into forced yoga positions, the company decided on a daily meeting freeze for 90 minutes across all of its sites and even had two company shut-offs for everyone at the same time in order for people to recharge.
Barak joined CTech for its HR Post Covid series to discuss some of the ways ClimaCell helped its employees during Covid-19.
Company Name: ClimaCell
HR Leader: Osnat Barak, Chief People & Culture, GM IL
Field of Activity: ClimaCell is a SaaS platform turning weather data into actionable insights to optimize revenue and reduce costs for companies from all over the world including Uber, AWS, United Airlines, and more.
Number of employees/location: 110 employees in offices around the world. The company is an American company with headquarters in Boston and additional offices in Boulder Colorado, Tel Aviv, and Singapore.
Professional background of HR Manager: For the past 20 years I’ve been leading people and culture domains, supporting startup growth. My passion is helping teams and leaders to build successful companies at scale. I Joined ClimaCell three years ago while living in Boston as the Chief People and Culture. I recently moved back to Israel and added the responsibility as the General Manager of the Israeli site as well.
On a scale of 1-10, how much did the coronavirus pandemic disrupt operations at the company?
Our company’s ethos is about putting people first, making an impact, and showing true grit. These proved extremely helpful going through this tough period. The pandemic made us look at everything from different angles and re-evaluate reality. Our main concerns were to create an atmosphere that would enable a successful work from home, to retain employees’ sense of belonging, and to ensure that ClimaCell’s employees feel supported. The bonus is that the new normal allowed us to open our recruiting efforts to many new locations. It doesn't matter to us anymore where you live or what schedule you keep, there are no boundaries in the Zoom world. This created amazing opportunities also for current employees to work from different places like Costa Rica, Taiwan, or Greece.
As a company with a ‘People First’ mentality, one of our top priorities with the existing team was personal development. We wanted to let people feel that their growth is happening in parallel to the company's growth and both are of great interest to the management, especially during these times. We wanted the employees to feel capable and grand even in a time of chaos. We created a personal development program that is integrated into their work plan and each manager is in charge of mentoring the employee and helping them reach their goals.
From the beginning, it was clear to us that especially now, tough times require transparency and collaboration in order to keep trust and to go through this together. We shared with the employees all relevant information behind our decisions, every quarter shared financial information and involved them in decisions. We learned, for example, that yoga/cooking classes that created a lot of hype in other organizations were not what our employees needed. On the contrary: They needed time for themselves. We decided on a daily meeting freeze for 1.5 hours in all of our sites, and we had two company shut-offs for everyone at the same time in order for people to really be able to recharge. The reactions were very positive and testified that they really had time to rest.
At the end of the day, we have really great people on our team. The team at ClimaCell is very strong, committed, and creative. It is amazing to see all of the achievements we have accomplished this year while facing vast challenges.
What interesting technological tools do you use in employee management/recruitment?
We implemented this year the use of Greenhouse, a recruiting management system that helped improve efficiency while supporting our vision around diversity.
More than 50% of the employees we hired this year came from ClimaCell employees’ referrals. We have also updated our hiring process by asking for feedback from every candidate that took part in the process: what worked and what can we do better. We learned a lot from it and improved our process accordingly to support the candidates with the unique challenges the current situation brought with it also in that aspect. The worst feeling nowadays is uncertainty and it is apparent in so many aspects of our lives. To help our candidates with the uncertainty in the hiring process, we added a booklet explaining the process and all the stages in it: what is the purpose of each stage, how can you prepare, etc.
Candidates that were not accepted were offered our assistance in searching for an alternative position during these challenging times. We referred them to relevant companies, we reached out to our internal network and made connections and we were very pleased to see these efforts bear fruits. I think that this sense of community and mutual support is something that we see more since Covid-19 and it is powerful.
What positive and/or negative impact did the outbreak have on the human capital of the company?
It is important to state that during this period, while everyone is working remotely, the ability to work independently with internal motivation and inner focus became acute in the success of every employee.
Covid-19 forced us to understand that as a company our resilience comes from our ability to be humane. Empathy is one of our strongest tools. We must focus on what we can control in order to enhance our personal capabilities. Being vulnerable makes us stronger as a group.
The situation created a need for a more complex set of managerial skills. There are opposing forces: new levels of uncertainty alongside the need to make decisions, fatigue alongside the demand to keep pushing forward, managing personal energy alongside work plans, obligation next to flexibility, professional management along with personal support. This accelerated our growth patterns as a company, both the management and each of the employees.
What are the two major challenges you are coping with these days?
The first one is to keep working on the sense of belonging. People are at home, alone, and are mainly in touch with the same small group of people in the company. We are focusing on personalization and meeting the employees in their meaningful moments -- both personal and professional (e.g., promotions, anniversaries, a work schedule that attends to specific employees’ personal needs, etc). In 2020, my team and I went to visit each of the employees at their homes, we sent flowers to their parents during the holidays to thank them for supporting us during these challenging times and share with them how much we appreciated everything their kids were doing for ClimaCell. We also wanted to show our employees that we care about what they care about -- their families.
The second challenge is around the acclimation of new employees. We updated the onboarding process for those new employees starting to work from home. Starting a new job is always complicated in the first few days, especially while working from home, as this is a new phenomenon after all. We have worked hard on how to connect them as soon as possible and how to help them feel that they belong to the ClimaCell team and hit the ground running. Building informal relationships that can turn into friendships is both important and harder to do for new employees starting these days.
Are you actively recruiting? If so, what is the process and where can the applicants find you?
Currently, we have open positions for 20 people in the U.S and Israel. The positions are varied - Product, R&D, Sales & Customer Success. The process always starts with a phone call with the recruiting manager to set expectations. The next step is professional interviews which are followed by a virtual coffee with the team. Nothing can build relationships better than meeting their future peers themselves. This part is more laid back with a focus on “get to know each other” conversations. We always include a behavioral interview and we screen for references. All of our positions are published on our website and the various social networks.
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?
We have understood that we can be effective while working from home but we all miss socializing. I believe the work from home will be part of our lives after Covid-19 as well in some percentage like a hybrid model.
Having said that, a lot of our belief system has changed: we found out that we can build a meaningful relationship even without meeting face-to-face. The geographical site is secondary due to schedule flexibility and Zoom. Suddenly we all work in our sweats, we get to know family members through the Zoom lens, and we are all going through this together. Strangely enough, this has brought us closer together.
We have always believed in giving employees independence, personal responsibility, and measuring outcomes but these things have gotten even stronger in ClimaCell’s culture.
For me personally, this period is ambivalent - on one hand, I got back to Israel, I got to rethink so many beliefs, and I think we are all much humbler than before. On the other hand, I’m missing a great part of my role and what I love the most about it - and it’s to meet people. But really meet them.