HR Post Covid

For Microsoft Israel, Covid-19 success rested in its Teams

As the world went to work from home, Microsoft was sitting on its very own video platform to conduct virtual meetings: Teams

CTech 09:2725.01.21

 Many companies around the world had to adopt third-party tools to help navigate the ‘new normal’ of working from home and via a computer screen for most of the day. Whereas many organizations purchased or downloaded new systems, Microsoft Israel had its very own integrated platform ready and waiting: Teams.


“Today, our entire recruitment pipeline is conducted via Teams,” explained Ariella Shina, Country HR Director at Microsoft. “Because of the unique circumstances, we offer pre-interview support for applicants to ensure the virtual process goes smoothly.” Ever since the outbreak, all of Microsoft’s HR activities are conducted on Teams. “We even use it for Happy Hours and coffee breaks with colleagues,” she explained.


Ariella Shina, Country HR Director at Microsoft. Photo: Netanel Tobias. Ariella Shina, Country HR Director at Microsoft. Photo: Netanel Tobias.


Microsoft Israel has joined CTech for its HR Post Covid series to explore how, like 100 million other people around the world, the company’s employees adopted a video platform for almost every aspect of their work. Here’s how it impacted them.


Company Name: Microsoft Israel


HR Leader: Ariella Shina


Field of Activity: Security, AI, Business applications, local sales and marketing


Number of employees/locations: About 2,300 in Herzliya, Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Nazareth.


Professional background of HR Manager: I lead Microsoft's HR in Israel (Israel R&D center & GSMO). I have experience in global companies across all aspects of HR with a particular focus on corporate culture and strategic change, organizational leadership, diversity & inclusion, and talent management.


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


The pandemic disrupted nearly every company in Israel and around the world. For example, Our Sales, Marketing, and R&D Center were supposed to move to our brand-new, cutting-edge campus in Herzliya. The outbreak of the pandemic forced us to work remotely and postpone the inauguration of our new amazing offices.


However, we adapted to the ‘new normal’ very quickly and hit the ground running. We increased our recruiting and the transition to remote work was a smooth one. We invested in developing our managers in remote management training and remote onboarding and created a new managerial routine that enables us to support employees from afar and maintain optimal productivity.


A crucial change that we made was putting the health and wellbeing of our employees at the top of our priority list while meeting our business goals.


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


Like 100 million of Microsoft’s customers around the world, we also use Microsoft Teams – our communication and collaboration platform that allows us to work remotely by conducting video calls, holding team meetings, sharing content, and much more. Today, our entire recruitment pipeline is conducted via Teams. Because of the unique circumstances, we offer pre-interview support for applicants to ensure the virtual process goes smoothly.


Ever since the outbreak, all our HR activities are conducted on Teams. We even use it for Happy Hours and coffee breaks with colleagues.


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


It had an amazing impact on our people at Microsoft. Since the outbreak, our People Agenda, which we call Essentials, surged into the forefront of our everyday lives and proved to be stronger than ever. Our Essentials consist of four pillars: Community, Flexibility, Growth, and Wellbeing. During this past year, our internal communities, which were initiated by our employees with the company’s support, grew closer and stronger by increasing the level of care for each other. These organic communities brought our values to life by supporting their people personally and professionally, personifying the reasons why we love being a part of Microsoft.


In addition, our people showed they care for the community outside of Microsoft. Rising to the pandemic’s many challenges, they initiated several projects including holding a successful fundraising drive; donating computer and medical equipment to medical staff and hospitals; volunteering remotely, and distributing food baskets and equipment to Holocaust survivors and other populations in need.

Our flexibility was clearly evident as we rapidly adapted to work-from-home, trusting our people and allowing them to balance their work and family hours as they see fit.


While dealing with the repercussions of the pandemic, we kept our focus on the growth opportunities for our people. We did so by adjusting our training and learning events to the new reality, enhancing our inspirational activities to enrich our people especially when they’re quarantined, and keeping our internal mobility program to allow people to develop and grow even from home. In the last nine months, we saw also many internal career changes of people taking within the company new exciting roles.


The well-being of our people took center stage this year as we quickly prepared a comprehensive plan to cover their physical, psychological, and economic health. Our managers had special training focusing on empathy and active listening so they could extend optimal support to all of our people.


What is the major challenge you are coping with these days?


Our challenge these days is keeping our people engaged and connected to the company and to each other since we can only meet virtually. As HR this keeps us on our toes and requires us to innovate, think out of the box, and incorporate an element of surprise in our activities. We’ve created new routines for managers and teams and adjusted the company’s meeting routines. Our emphasis on practicing empathy and active listening across the board is what enables us to address our people’s changing needs. We have also started thinking about how teamwork will be changed when we return to the office.


All of this reinforces our people’s feeling of connection within Microsoft. We’re witnessing a greater number of manager one-on-ones and team meetings at the onset of hybrid work. In addition, we begin each session with a few minutes of small talk, offering “coffee breaks” in Teams as well as enriching formation activities.


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


Absolutely. New work teams are forming all the time and we’re always looking for excellent people who come with experience and expertise. Actually, if there was ever a time to join Microsoft, this is it! In an age of deep uncertainty, Microsoft can promise you a constant professional challenge, as well as a place where you can combine self-fulfillment with making a positive impact on the entire world. There’s a well-known quote of our CEO Satya Nadella, that we use: “Don’t think about just working at Microsoft, but Microsoft working for you, so you can realize your dream.”


These days we conduct video interviews via Teams and offer pre-interview support for applicants to ensure the process goes smoothly since it might be their first virtual interview.


We ask candidates to tell us if they need to stop, or even reschedule the interview for a better time because we want to see them at their very best and we recognize the strain everyone is dealing with.


Once we extend a job offer, senior staff members step in to help with the onboarding process. We created a Buddy program that assigns an appointed Buddy to each new employee to help ease them into the team, both professionally and socially.


You can see our open positions here: