Ronni Zehavi
CEO & Founder Hibob Follow Follow

On today’s episode of the RecruitingDaily Podcast, William Tincup speaks to Ronni from HiBob about the impact of the four-day work week on retention and productivity.

Some Conversation Highlights:

So instead of just thinking or measuring time, how many hours you spend a day, you all of a sudden understand, you focus on productivity when it comes to a four-day work week. Now it’s tricky because today two years into this, we understand that it has other implications. For example, work-life balance, burnout, the employee mental health, because you really need to give tools to the employees. And then to the managers, especially the line managers, how to balance between work and life when you work remotely, or you work from home.

But I think from productivity perspective, at least the customers we serve are the ones that we engage with. I think they’ve shown a really high level of productivity, while allowing people to choose what is the right mix for them in terms of working from home or working from an office or working from anywhere.

And I think this combination will stay with us forever. I think the recipe, the ultimate mix would be, this is what we hear from our clients. And I would say at the minimum, two days at the office, maybe maximum three days. And then the rest you work from home.

 

Tune in for the full conversation.

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Listening time: 33 minutes

 

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Music: This is Recruiting Daily’s Recruiting Live Podcast, where we look at the strategies behind the world’s best talent acquisition teams. We talk recruiting, sourcing, and talent acquisition. Each week we take one overcomplicated topic and break it down so that your three year old can understand it. Make sense? Are you ready to take your game to the next level? You’re at the right spot. You’re now entering the mind of a hustler. Here’s your host, William Tincup

William Tincup: Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup and you’re listening to the RecruitingDaily Podcast. Today we have Ronni on from Hibob and our topic is absolutely fantastic and such a great time to be talking about this. It’s the impact of the four day work week on retention and productivity.

And so we’re going to have a really… It’s a great topic. And Ronni and I are just going to have a lot of fun with it. So, Ronni, would you do us a favor and introduce yourself and Hibob?

Ronni: Yes. Thank you very much for inviting me.

William Tincup: Sure.

Ronni: My name is Ronni. I’m the co-founder and CEO of Hibob. Hibob is the name of the company and we stand behind the platform, the HRIS platform called bob. I’m based in Tel Aviv, Senior Entrepreneur. This is my third company.

And Hibob was founded about six years ago, 450 employees with offices all over the world, from Sydney Australia, London, Tel Aviv, Amsterdam, and all over North America. And we serve around about 2000 customers, what we call mid-size customers with many 100s of employees. And we are very successful. We are growing very nicely. And I’m very excited to talk about employee retention, employee productivity, about the hybrid work.

So the insights you’re going to hear from me are based on two elements, one, what we are experiencing as a company ourself, and how we drink our own Merlot. And also what we’ve been hearing from our clients. And I would say most of them are the most sophisticated ones, more than a company’s… So I’m glad to be here with you.

William Tincup: Awesome. So the four day work week, I remember my wife went to Australia, oh, this is in the ’90s, after she did her master’s thesis. And she came back, she was down in Sydney for about four months. And she said, they work 35 hours. I said, well, tell me about it. And she goes, well, work’s important of course, but they balance that out with family and other things, activities and hobbies and all this other stuff. But they work 35 hours.

I was in my 20s, right. At the time, I was, well, that’s just insane. Why would you work just 35 hours?

Ronni: What’s wrong with them?

William Tincup: Yeah, exactly, Ronnie. That’s exactly… This is a 20 year old thinking, right. So of course I’m thinking to myself, well, what’s wrong with these people? Why aren’t they working harder? This doesn’t make any sense.

And now of course I’m in my 50s, I look back at that and go, they had it right, we had it wrong. I had it wrong in particular. I had it wrong. So when you talk to people about the four day work week, what’s been your journey? Because, again, you’ve done this a couple different times in a couple of different ways. And I’m sure you didn’t always have a four day work week. But how did you get here?

Ronni: So I would say it is a fantastic question. And by the way, it goes back to the motivation of founding Hibob six years ago. I built a start-up and then I work for a large American corporation who acquired my company.

So I understood the two aspects of being in tech, a small company or a large corporation. And I thought that if there is one trigger that would change the way we view work and the relationship between employer and employment, will be driven by the generation transformation. So when I looked at my kids and they are in the early 20s, I thought that there’s no way they will get work and they would have the same experience that I had and my father had 45 years ago. Doesn’t make any sense.

And when we built bob, the platform, we hired consumer designers and consumer developers to build a B2B platform, because we understood that it’s all about the employee experience, the UI, the UX. And in reality, what we see, and it was accelerated in the past two years because of the pandemic, that the stuff that we used to live with, how we were educated, going back to your comment, for example, work 9:00 to 5:00, work at the office, work full-time, work only in main cities, all those things around how people work were no longer relevant.

William Tincup: Yeah. They are almost tourisms, right?

Ronni: Yes. And you look at the endless buzzwords, work from home or work from office, work from anywhere, work-life balance, employee experience, people analytics, remote, hybrid, being global, those buzzwords did not exist 15 years ago or 10 years ago.

William Tincup: That’s right.

Ronni: And now they’re part of life. So if I take the rationale about, let’s say work 9:00 to 5:00 or work from the office, two years ago allowing people to work from home was a perk.

William Tincup: Yeah.

Ronni: We trust you. So you are exceptional, you can work from home a day or two or so. But the vast majority came to the office. And then what happened, within two weeks or three weeks in March 2020 everybody were forced to work from home.

William Tincup: Right.

Ronni: And I don’t think, there is no turning point. This is the future.

William Tincup: I agree.

Ronni: So instead of just thinking or measuring time, how many hours you spend a day, you all of a sudden understand, you focus on productivity. Now it’s tricky because today two years into this, we understand that it has other implications. For example, work-life balance, burnout, the employee mental health, because you really need to give tools to the employees. And then to the managers, especially the line managers, how to balance between work and life when you work remotely, or you work from home.

But I think from productivity perspective, at least the customers we serve are the ones that we engage with. I think they’ve shown a really high level of productivity, while allowing people to choose what is the right mix for them in terms of working from home or working from an office or working from anywhere.

And I think this combination will stay with us forever. I think the recipe, the ultimate mix would be, this is what we hear from our clients. And I would say at the minimum, two days at the office, maybe maximum three days. And then the rest you work from home. What we do in Hibob, we insist that you get one day to the office with your teammate and you work with them, and then voluntarily you choose another day to show up in the office. And the rest of the week you choose where you want to work. By the way you can work from anywhere. You can go and spend the next three months in Portugal or in Greece or in the West Coast or in Hawaii, as long as you can be productive and be part of the overall team efforts. Then no issue if you feel like moving to another location.

I think the bottom line, it works. And it shows really impressive level of productivity. And it’s interesting, I saw a nice post on LinkedIn the other day. There was a post by one of the talent acquisition player, they said, whenever I see a company who has in the policy full week at the office, I really recommend everybody to chase their employees and try to hire them. Because I don’t think… If you force all of them to come to work, it’ll be a huge challenge.

William Tincup: And recruiters are trying to figure out synonyms for the word commute, which was not a thing two years ago. Commute was just a part of thing you did. If you worked in Manhattan, or if you worked in Tel Aviv, you commuted, you lived out somewhere and then you commuted to work.

Let’s get back to productivity for a second, because one of the things that I think you’re unpacking is not the focus of how work gets done, as much as the focus of the outcomes or the output of what gets done. And I think that’s an easier transition for employees, especially over the last two years. I’m wondering about managers and leaders and how they’ve made the shift to understand. Okay, I don’t have to Lord over them. I don’t have to see them working per se. I just need to measure towards the outcome. I need to measure towards the goal or the initiative, et cetera. What are you seeing with managers and leaders, and how they’re consuming the change in work?

Ronni: I think you named it, because it’s all about the managers. And by the way, it’s not the vice presidents or the CEOs, it’s the line managers, the team leaders, those who are in the trenches.

William Tincup: Right.

Ronni: And in many cases, there were individual contributors a year ago or two years ago or three years ago. So they don’t really have the experience that their senior management may have, as how to manage and how to lead team, not to mention how to lead team remotely, how to onboard an employee that you haven’t met before.

So I think the focus is all about empowering your managers. We all know you join companies and you leave because of your managers. I think now it’s more important than ever. And it’s all about empowering the managers and also providing them the digital tools that they need to operate as managers. You cannot ask, you cannot expect managers to think about productivity without training them, without understanding, without educating them, what does it mean to be productive? How you measure output. How you make sure that when you don’t have the one-on-one interaction with your teammates, how you do it remotely or in a hybrid work. How you really care about their mental health, about their wellbeing, about their work-life balance.

And to throw these critical missions on a junior manager or a line manager, it’s really not fair. And I think the successful companies, they realize that ahead of time. Number one, they really focus on line manager’s empowerment. And number two, they provide a set of tools that are easy to use in the flow of work, that they can adopt. So they can focus on really interacting with the team and get the rest of, I would say, boring or automated HR or management work to good systems.

Of course I’m biased, but Hibob really solved this problem for managers. But, we didn’t call ourself HRIS, we call ourselves people management platform because the management component is so important. So when you think about productivity, when you think about outcome, when you think about KPIs, when you think about measuring stuff, when you think about, are you really aligned with the company goals?

The journey starts with the line managers. The more you focus on them and you empower them and you provide them the tools to do their job, and you basically eliminate the basic automations, a nice digital workflow can do for them, I think you see the results.

In my organization, since COVID we launched so many training sessions, how to be a manager. And we all agree that it’s really more challenging to manage people remotely.

William Tincup: Right.

Ronni: Or hybrid or globally. So if you do a good job and you really focus on managers and you invest there, then you will collect the fruits, and it’ll be easier for you to transition from, I would say the best practices that we were all educated upon, 9:00 to 5:00, blah, blah, blah, to a new era, which will be the future.

William Tincup: That’s right.

Ronni: So companies really need to focus on their managers and their line managers more than ever.

William Tincup: This is such great advice, Ronni, because it’s your tools, got it. These line managers need tools. But you’ve really emphasized training. Because we just haven’t historically done a great job of training managers. We just expected them to be a great manager. You’ve been maybe a great sales… This happens all the time in sales, at least historically, you’re a great sales person. And then all of a sudden you get promoted to a sales manager position, and you’re not great at it, because no one trains you. You’re just great at closing deals. And all of a sudden battlefield promotion.

Ronni: Especially when companies are growing from 200 employees to 700 employees. So who will be your managers? If you’re the one you are promoting all the time.

William Tincup: Well, yeah, some of that’s good from an internal promotion thing, but if you don’t give them the tools and resources to be successful, you can’t really expect them to be successful. And one of the things that I think the layer that you’re adding in, that is really helpful, is training is mandatory.

You should look at training when you look at line managers, and all of your managers, it’s not a nice to have. If you really expect them to be successful, you’re going to have to invest in their training so that they can be successful. Especially in this new model, this new way of work that we’re all consuming.

I wanted to ask a question about values and thinking about productivity in the sense of, do you have to be values-driven in the sense of productivity being in alignment with your values?

Ronni: Yeah. First of all, I’m a great believer in culture, and it’s not a bad word. I think this is the queen and the king of any successful organization. What does it mean culture? And it goes back directly to values. I think culture, it’s a summation of relationship between people, how they interact between each other. Again, more importantly, in the hybrid work, when people are not physically together. And culture is something very subjective and it’s relevant to the founders team, the very first 20, 30 people who joined the business at the beginning. And when you grow, you have more and more people adding value to your DNA and to your culture.

I think as long as you treat your people as humans, and you really put them first, really put them first. What does it mean to put them first? That you listen to them. You have the right cadence in interacting with them and doing your one-on-one with them. And your performance review is not annoying, and it’s customizable. And you have all the data you need to know about them.

I’ll give you an example. There is a very nice feature in bob called Employee Timeline. So any event related to the employee, when the individual joined, when he was promoted, when you got kudos from the system, from other people. So in one click, you can see the journey, the timeline of the employee. The impact of this small feature on culture and values and DNA is enormous.

I don’t need to guess when did you start your job. When was the last time you were promoted, how much you are making. Do I really have good access to the latest performance review? But if you have a nice platform that in one click you get all the information, and you get one-on-one with somebody, and you know about a person ahead of time, the impact on is enormous. And you feel you are a person, you’re a human being, that somebody sees you and understands and have a whole picture about you, about your hobbies, about your superpowers, about your family status. Whatever you want to share.

This holistic approach, I think that’s the future. And it goes back… Now, if you invest in your people and you put them first and they feel attached to your culture, and they believe in your DNA and you build the right values with them. And they believe in the values, and they believe in, for example, the organization contribution to the society, they understand that you stand behind your statement about DNI, the diversity inclusion, you walk-the-talk, you stand behind everything you say. Then you get productivity. That simple.

William Tincup: Right.

Ronni: People who work for you, they will do the extra mile. They will do what you need them to do to be successful.

William Tincup: You and I have worked for people like that. We’ve worked in our lives, we’ve worked for people like that or with people like that. We’re, hey, listen, I’ll do whatever you ask. You want me to mop the floor? Not a problem.

There are two questions left. One is when four day work week first came out, became popular in the press. I think a lot of folks looked at it as utopian. I think that was one of the things that it was positioned as, maybe incorrectly, it was positioned as, we should do this because we should cram 50 hours worth of work into four hours. This is an American perspective, at least. Is we still want the hours, we just want to cram them into three day or four days. So you have three days of your other part of your life to yourselves.

And I think a lot of folks when they looked at that, they’re, yeah, it’s utopian, it’s not going to happen. What have you seen, again, when you looked at four day work when they first hit your desk, if you will? And what do you think of it now?

Ronni: So, first of all, when I took on my team, I would say, guys, don’t forget, it’s not a social club, at the end of the day we work. And somebody’s paying salaries to us, because we need to work and we have shareholders. So it’s not a club on one hand. On the other hand, as long as you find the right recipe for what is right. By the way it can be as flexible as what is right for a team or a site, or a department. And you all believe in that, and you give them the flexibility. I think it’s all about flexibility.

William Tincup: Right.

Ronni: The name of the game is flexibility. It’s not one-fits-all. It may change because seasonality over the year. It may change because you have employees in Ukraine right now and all your people in Eastern Europe are under pressure. As long as you have this flexibility mindset, then you can easily navigate between what’s happening.

And you can be successful in flexibility if you understand exactly what’s happening. Because the easiest way to say one-fits-all, I have no idea what’s happening, so let me choose one policy relevant to all of them. And God bless you.

William Tincup: Right.

Ronni: Yes. And flexibility requires a level of understanding, interaction, an ongoing discussion dialogue with the organization. And it’s not easy. And then you need to conclude the data and to make the right decisions. So those who are taking the flexible approach, I think are the ones that hopefully gave thought ahead of time, how to make it right for the organization.

And I can tell you, Hibob and most of the clients that we serve, they do it very nicely, being hybrid, being flexible, easily adapting to remote, easily expanding globally. I think this is the new culture, the new DNA that many companies adopted. And it was accelerated over COVID, and collecting the fruits now. And they will collect the fruits in the future. As long as they don’t treat it as the autopilot and the stakeholders time for corrections.

William Tincup: What’s nice about that is we’re rewarding efficiency or we’re rewarding agility, which is where you started at the very beginning, when we were talking about efficiency. And it’s, now we’re getting to a place where we’re rewarding people and companies, leaders, managers, employees, that embrace flexibility, embrace the agility. And that there’s going to be a certain amount of ambiguity in any business and anything you do. And it’s okay. But there’s a flexibility that we’re rewarding now that we didn’t previously reward.

Last question before we roll out, Ronni, is I want to talk a little bit about retention. Because I can see again, especially as we talk about flexibility, we talk about being efficient and being cognizant of training managers and also being flexible to employees, caring more, if you will. There’s just seems there’s more empathy in business, which is nice. What have you seen in retention? Just what have you seen in retention, both for Hibob, but what have you seen in your clients as well?

Ronni: It is, and it will be the number one challenge for modern businesses. The battle on talent is endless.

William Tincup: Right.

Ronni: And when you think about the cost and the time you need to spend on hiring a new individual, training, onboarding, it’s really uncomparable. We do it and we see great companies are really doing a fantastic job on their employee retention. They spend time with the people trying to understand, what’s your plan with us? What do you want to accomplish as an individual? Is it only about salary? Is it about being promoted? Is it about being able to try another position in the business? Since development I wanted to be in marketing. Is it the fact that you want to be surrounded by smart people that you can learn from? You want to relocate?

So as long as you have a dialogue with the team and you have the tools to do it, I think you can get to a point that you have the right answers ahead of time, try to retain the people. And again, it goes back to the managers. It’s not HR, it’s not the C level, it’s the line manager, the team leader, the squad leader. These are the guys that can do a great retention if they have the tools, if they are trained to do it. And if the organization has the mindset of really making sure that you listen to your people.

By the way, you don’t need to answer yes. And you don’t need to always stand behind every request coming from your people. But if you hear it again and again from different individuals, then you need to pay attention to it. So retention was, still, and we will be a big topic for companies.

The great resignation in the US and in other geographies, I think it’s a wake-up call for companies and managers more than ever, pay attention to your people retention. Make sure that you really invest in the right thing that will make them happy with you and productive. If they’re happy with you and they are committed and they feel that you are there for them, they will be more productive than you can imagine.

William Tincup: It’s funny and it’s off topic, but when people talk about retention, sometimes they allude to it in a way that we think of marriage. And it’s, well, why do people cheat? It’s, well, people cheat because there’s something unfulfilled. There’s an unmet need, largely.

And people think about retention, they think about it in the same framework. It’s, well, if you don’t meet the needs of your employees, again to your point, if they keep saying something over and over and over and over, we should have an espresso machine in the cafe. If they keep saying that, and then you don’t give that to them, someone else will. There’ll be another company that will say, hey, by the way, we have an espresso machine.

And that could be the difference. Just that alone could be nothing to do with anything else, other than they were heard. Someone provided something that was unmet. And I think, again, not listening to your employees and then not actioning those things that come up. I love how you came at it, you don’t have to say yes all the time. You’re not a doormat. You’re not a rubber stamp. That’s not the point. The point is, you get your finger on the pulse of the employees. And if something keeps occurring and reoccurring and reoccurring, look into it, there’s signals being sent. Pay attention to the signals.

Ronni: Yes. It’s basic. We have been around for many years, both of us. There is no magic. We’re human beings. We want to be treated as human beings. We want respect. We want to be empowered. We want to be guided. We want to see a path in our career. We want people to believe in us.

And hopefully if this is more or less what’s happening, then why not? I will do the extra mile. I will do the extra hours. I will make sure that… I will treat the company like it is my own business.

William Tincup: That’s right. That’s a discretionary effort that every employee has at their disposal. And it’s, do they exercise that discretionary effort? If they care. Again, now getting back to productivity and being listened to, and having great managers and those managers being trained and having the tools, and they care about the values of the company.

There’s a lot of things that come into this, but that’s unlocking that discretionary effort. Is where employees that care. That you’ve pivoted over. You’ve moved them over to a place of, this is my company. Hibob is my company. It’s my company and I decide. I got an email Friday at 5:00 or 6:00, and I could have easily done that on Monday or whatever, but I chose, because I wanted to, it was an easy response. It was something I could’ve easily back out. [crosstalk 00:32:20].

Ronni: Exactly.

William Tincup: Is that discretionary effort. Ronni, you have been wonderful. And I know I could obviously talk to you for hours, but I know you’ve got a job and other things to do today. So thank you so much for coming on the podcast.

Ronni: Thank you for inviting me. And speak to you soon.

William Tincup: Absolutely. Thanks for everyone to listening to the RecruitingDaily Podcast. Until next time.

The RecruitingDaily Podcast

Authors
William Tincup

William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.


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