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HR is rapidly becoming one of the most influential departments of an organization, from constructing the corporate brand identity and aligning strategic and organizational goals, to ensure the implementation of legislation through the systems and processes of the company.

In the series “Experts’ Talk”, we’ve interviewed Human Resource leaders from the tech industry, to shed some light on how they experience the changes in the employment world, and what to expect in the near future.

In the first chapter, we had the honor to host the one and only, Neomi Farkash.

Neomi Farkash

Neomi is VP HR at Taboola, and one of the strongest HR leaders in the tech industry. Neomi applies advanced practices of people analytics to manage Taboola’s 1,300 employees. Her motto is: Listen, Understand, Do.

Q: What are the 2-3 most rapid changes you’ve seen in today’s workplace?

A: So much is changing! I think in the past year, we’ve seen a change in the way employees perceive their career within a company. The conversation surrounding value is becoming significantly more important. It’s not just about salary — though of course, that’s always an essential element (and more so when there’s competition for talent) — but about a wider range of values. Employees are asking to know what’s in it for them, i.e. what do they have to gain from this position. They focus on what they’ll learn, who they’ll interact with, how they’ll feel.

Another change is around communication — with work becoming more global and more flexible, building a foundation of communication is key. If you want the person on the other side to do their best for you, you have to acknowledge them, to get to know them. We encourage employees to get on a video call whenever possible, even if a phone call will do. We encourage small talk. Though you might not see the immediate need for it or even think that it’s a waste of time, when it’s crunch time — when there’s a looming deadline or a tricky implementation or a wall you keeping bumping up against — you’ll be grateful to rely on a person who knows the stakes and cares about the outcome.

Q: What is HR’s role in applying these workplace changes in organizations?

A: HR needs to be at the forefront of identifying changes, investigating them, and generating ideas on how to tackle them. To do that, we have to partner closely with managers and hear about their day-to-day. This way, we can easily pick up on shifts and challenges that need attention before they become dire. Typically, if we wait until a manager defines a problem and reaches out to HR for help, a lot of time has passed. By then, in most cases, we’ll first be dealing with symptomatic issues — results of the problem instead of the actual problem. So the sooner we can engage these troubles, the less we’ll have to strip away to get to the core issues. Of course, not all core issues can be fixed, but they can all be addressed.

HR should also be flexible, and not assume the answer is somewhere in our existing playbook. New problems call for new solutions and fresh points of view. We should be willing to solve issues from a perspective other than classic HR – the way a salesperson or an engineer would tackle it. We need to be professional in out fields, and fuse together different paradigms for the bigger issues, matching a solution for the company or team we support.

Q: What are the tools or skills contemporary HRs need to use in order to mitigate these changes within their organization? Should HR develop or adopt new skills?

A: I mentioned flexibility – I think that’s key. With the understanding that our professional field is ever expanding (which personally, I find invigorating), should come a willingness to always learn, adopt new ways of doing things, and then drop them if they’re not working.

I’m happy to see that my peers understand the importance of people analytics. There used to be a misconception of what that meant — either looking it as a way to measure HR work (which it isn’t) or thinking you need to be a world-class statistician to touch it (which you don’t). I heard concerned HR professionals saying it’s wrong to let data replace the conversation about people. What I found is that the great thing about people analytics is that it doesn’t do that — rather, it simply starts the conversation off in the right place. It saves us time spent proving our point (the data proves it, or at least points to it) and allows us to spend time tackling the solution. HR should focus on the unique application of solutions based on understanding people and what’s important to them.

Q:How do you see these changes impacting the future of work?

A: I think more and more “classic” HR practices like feedback and acknowledgment are becoming the norm. I believe there’s greater awareness of those elements across the working world. At the very least, employees expect to be treated with new standards of dignity and respect.

The more that work becomes talent-driven, the more employees will demand to be in conversation with their organization. That conversation is facilitated by people, ideally managers and other leaders in the company. I find this new conversation wonderful — it’s more inclusive and more personal. It connects people around their common goals, expectations, and experiences.

Ultimately, it drives greater engagement in a time where employees are being accused of disloyalty. I think employees are loyal, they’re just not tying that loyalty to their paychecks, but to a wider proposition of value. Organizations that don’t adjust to this new mindset will find themselves competing for talent and paying higher and higher salaries to compensate for the conversations they’re not having.

Thank you, Neomi for this inspiring conversation. Next week – a new chapter with another fascinating HR leader. there’s much to expect!

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