Creating Culture and Collaboration in the Virtual Workplace

08/11/2020
Shiran Yaroslavsky
Shiran Yaroslavsky Shiran is the CEO and Co-Founder of Cassiopeia, a startup that empowers managers that lead fully or partially remote teams to maximize workplace experience. Cassiopeia's solution delivers actionable insights to boost team collaboration, belonging, and mental health by analyzing communications patterns (not content) within and among teams. Prior to Cassiopeia, she worked as a product manager and led innovative products and teams in several Hi-Tech companies, and the product management course at Jolt. Shiran was featured in the 2019 Forbes 30Under30 list in Israel.
Creating Culture and Collaboration in the Virtual Workplace

As more teams are settling into their remote work experiences, a number of challenges have surfaced: prolonged workdays, increased time spent in meetings, feelings of loneliness among employees, and frustration from managers struggling to effectively manage their distributed teams.

In this episode, Paul is joined by Shiran Yaroslavsky, the CEO and founder of Cassiopeia, a startup that empowers managers who lead fully or partially remote teams to maximize their workplace experience through data. Cassiopeia offers a solution that delivers actionable insights to help boost team collaboration, belonging, and mental health by analyzing communication patterns within and between teams. A former product manager, Shiran was featured in 2019 Forbes 30 Under 30 in Israel.

Shiran and Paul discuss how Cassiopeia is utilizing data to help teams better navigate how they work and how they want to work. She also shares her professional journey from intellectual property litigation to tech CEO, a transition inspired by Shiran’s desire to connect directly with people and wanting to pivot ”from advising to creating.”

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Transcript of this episode

We can use data, we can use technology to really maximize the workplace experience and improve our team dynamics.

Introduction:

There's a revolution taking place right now. Talent and intelligence are equally distributed throughout the world, but opportunity is not. The talent economy, the idea that at the center of work is the talent, is the individual.

Paul Estes:

Companies today face a global war for talent, and high-skilled talent is demanding flexibility around the way they work and the way they live. This podcast brings together thought leaders, staffing experts, and top freelancers to talk about the evolving nature of work and how companies can navigate these changes to remain competitive, drive innovation, and ensure success.

Welcome to the Talent Economy Podcast. I'm your host, Paul Estes. This year's sudden shift to remote work is a wakeup call for many organizations and leaders. There's a lot more to remote culture than simply dialing in from home. Today, I'm speaking with Shiran Yaroslavsky, the CEO and founder of Cassiopeia, a startup that empowers managers that lead fully or partially remote teams to maximize their workplace experience through data.

Cassiopeia’s solution delivers actionable insights and boosts team collaboration, belonging, and mental health by analyzing communication patterns within and among the teams. Shiran was featured in 2019 as a Forbes 30 under 30 in Israel.

Shiran Yaroslavsky:

I'm Shiran Yaroslavsky, the CEO of Cassiopeia. Cassiopeia empowers remote leaders with the insights they need to improve collaboration, belonging, mental health within fully or partially remote teams. What we do, we just analyze communication patterns. So it's data like who sent to whom and when. We're not analyzing any texts and provide actionable insights, we just send weekly email reports to managers with the insights they need to really maximize the virtual workplace experience.

Paul Estes:

Well, hey, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me. I'm very curious about what you're learning from patterns. Cause I think a lot of times, we don't think of how data can help us navigate how we work or tell us about the teams that we work with and how people want to be communicated with, especially remotely. But before we get into all of that, you originally planned for a career in law and worked as an IP litigation clerk in Tel Aviv. Tell me how you went from IP litigation law to where you are today - being a product leader in this space.

Shiran Yaroslavsky:

So, I'm originally from Israel. I moved to the States eight months ago. So, I'm based in California. I wanted to be closer to our customer base, but originally I'm from Israel and I worked many years in Tel Aviv.

I decided to study law and I loved, I really loved law school. It's very logic. You can think about how to influence people and society for the better about social justice. I absolutely love it, but one of the reasons why I decided to, to choose to study law is my desire to work with people and to influence people. And I always love the intersection between law and tech and science. This is why I chose to major in IP intellectual property. And I was a very good student. I was always on the Dean's list and I was an excellent student and I was pretty good at it, practicing law.

But when I finally started my internship as a lawyer, and I really worked in one of the top law firms in Israel, I just realized it wasn't what I imagined it would be. I wasn't working with people.

I was kind of buried under all these papers and listening to interrogation recording. So I wasn't really working that much with people or wasn't influencing that much on people. And I was advising, not creating anything new. This is what I felt back then. Just when I finished my internship, I decided to move to tech. I really wanted to do something that will require my analytical thinking, critical skills, but also will require me to work with people and influence people. So I chose to be a product manager. So I just worked as a product manager as a meeting product many years in Israeli tech.

Paul Estes:

Now you're in tech, you're in Israel, and you have this idea. You have an idea that you can solve a problem using your background in education and your passion for product management. What was the problem, or what was that "aha" moment that you're like, "Hey, I think I can spend my time solving this problem to make the world a better place or at least make the way we work better"?

Shiran Yaroslavsky:

Yeah. I think, my partners and I, we experience unpleasant experiences in the workplace, some bullying, or just feeling, not belonging. And at some point, we really had this idea. What about if we can use tech to improve workplace experience? And we researched the field, we talked to so many experts in that field, and we decided, yeah, we can do it. We can use data. We can use technology to really maximize the workplace experience and improve team dynamics. So I think this is what led us to the impression of, you know, using AI and data to just improve workplaces worldwide.

Paul Estes:

Now tell me a little bit about Cassiopeia. I think some of the interesting data that you have up on the website is that 66% of remote employees experience difficulties with loneliness and work-life balance collaboration. And more than I, as someone who's gone from corporate big tech to fully remote, I identify with some of those, but you also say that 77% of managers are struggling on how to best manage teams.

So tell me a little bit about how Cassiopeia is trying to help, not only the people that are working but also the managers that are struggling.

Shiran Yaroslavsky:

Yeah, definitely. So as you mentioned, just the remote work is as yeah, but in my view is, is amazing, has a lot of benefits, but also creates new challenges, both for managers and employees. So from employees, basically, we can see an increase in problems that relate to collaboration, work-life balance, loneliness, communication.

So this is on the employee side, and for managers, so according to Cassiopeia's data, more than 77% of managers indicate it's harder for them to manage their employees remotely. And the reason for it is that basically, as a remote manager, you're working with a smaller dataset in some sense.

You don't see how people interact there... the dynamic in the office... with whom they’re drinking coffee with.

So you don't have all these small data points you used to have while working in the office. So this is why it's so difficult, right? So difficult for managers to really lead their team remotely. And what we do at Cassiopeia, we help them to close that gap. So we provide the insights they need about the team dynamics, about the experience, about the engagement within their teams. Also, all working remotely. So this is just, in general, what we are doing and how we are helping managers these days.

Paul Estes:

Now, give me an example of a customer or, even better, a manager that's used the platform and the type of insight they received that really helped unlock their ability to not be one of those 77%.

Shiran Yaroslavsky:

So it really depends. We're working with companies that either decided to have more remote employees than they used to work in the office, but now they're going either fully remote or partially remote.

So we have a lot of insights for these kinds of companies. We also have, working with companies that are, you know, were working remotely since day one. They are remote-first from day one and they have their own challenges also while growing significantly.

So I can share, for example, one of the use cases is that we saw, for example, a drop in collaboration between specific teams. For example, one thing that we see in many cases is that when shifting to remote work, between the fact that collaboration between teams and within teams and what we do in part of the insights we provide is also the data about collaboration and how it's affected.

So I can share that we saw a drop in collaboration between specific two teams that [were] really supposed to work together, really closely, and really affected the performance of the company. And we managed to catch that in a really timely manner.

So, it helps managers to detect the relevant actions that we recommended in our report, and it really affected the performance of this department. So, this is one thing that I can share. Also, we have so many examples for how we managed to improve workday balance. So one of the things that companies are struggling with, and I can share that companies are shifting to remote work, but also companies that are remote-first from day one also struggling with it, is we need the ability to design a better and balanced workday. And we really have managers to track. For example, if there is an increase in meeting times or a decrease in focus times within the team, or if we are not very efficient with our meetings. So we have a lot of insights that we provide that relate to workday balance that really helps teams to create better workday.

Paul Estes:

Let's talk about collaborations. Let's talk about a company that, four months ago, went suddenly remote.

When you talk about collaboration dropping, are you talking about, "Hey, these people that used to email each other are not emailing each other. Hey, they're not meeting anymore"?

What are the insights or the database insights that you're seeing that say, "Hey, this is an early warning sign that the people that used to be always chatting and always sharing information are really slowing down”?

Shiran Yaroslavsky:

Yeah. So as I mentioned, we are looking at data like, who sent to whom, and when. So when people are writing some comments on Slack or email or meetings on, you know, we see the calendar information. So if we say that the, let's say, for example, two teams, we see are meeting less and they're writing each other less. They're just chatting over Slack less than they used to be. And we're seeing like as, as part of a trend over time, this is something that really we can highlight and say, you know, as a manager, you should take into account because we see a decrease in collaboration over time between these two teams, for example.

Paul Estes:

Great. So let's say that Cassiopeia comes into an organization and they say, "Hey, we want to get better insights and action plans to really help our teams because” - to your point - “we're losing some of the data that we used to have when we were in the office.” How do the workers feel? From "Hey, you're kind of looking at my calendar, you're measuring my Slack," you know, I may be talking to a friend a lot, and you're looking at that, like, as it relates to being watched or having their data mined. Are you hearing any concerns from the workers as it relates to their relationship with the organization or their managers?

Shiran Yaroslavsky:

I can share two things we are doing. The first thing is to know how to communicate it. And when we're working with customers, we have a messaging package that we share with the relevant messaging about how to communicate what Cassiopeia is doing, why we're doing it, what is it for the employees, you know, what they're getting out of it, what is the value we are providing for employees. And from our experience, when you're communicating what we're doing in a very good and accurate and transparent way, their reactions are amazing. So employees really appreciate that, you know, the company is doing the extra steps to create the work environment for them. So definitely, part of it is how you communicate, you know, in a very transparent and very clear way, what we're doing in a way that can really foster trust. So, this is the first thing.

And second, it’s really important to understand how we provide the data. So, we provide insights about either the manager's communication with each and every one of his employees - so for example, if I, as a manager, maybe communicated last with one of my direct or non-direct employees compared to last week, for example, or insights on the team level or subgroup level. So we won't show any specific insights about specific employees.

For example, John didn't talk that much or haven't done that much with Dan this week - we're never going to see anything like that in our reports. So it's also really important. This is how we make employees feel comfortable using the software because we're not going to spy on them or, you know, going to, you're going to show anything that relates to them on the individual level.

Paul Estes:

You're not out saying, "Hey, I'm on my Facebook page half the day" or something like that.

Shiran Yaroslavsky:

Exactly. So I can't, I can't really tell, you know, I don't have that anyway, but yeah, it's not something that we will show or tell the managers about.

Paul Estes:

So one of the things that I'm passionate about and talk a lot about is how we sit in too many meetings. It's one of those things of - hey, what's the old saying - like, if you need a friend, call a meeting.

What are you seeing as companies go remote? Cause what I've experienced, at least with some colleagues that work for large tech companies, is now they're stuck in meetings from eight in the morning till six at night. And they're all still structured as an hour, and they were traditionally on-premise.

What is your data telling you about in this COVID world as it relates to how companies are working? Is it changing? Is it staying the same?

Shiran Yaroslavsky:

Yeah, definitely. We have a lot of insights about team meetings and also the work they are doing, they mentioned. And what we see, that when companies are shifting to remote work, they feel like they need to overcome these challenges - the gap that I mentioned before - by over-communicating.

So companies just setting up more meetings or more calls just to overcome these challenges, which is, you know, it's a really important thing over to not just communicate and make sure that everyone's aligned. But also, what is created is just a lot of stress and work off a lot for employees that don't have any time left to actually work on their personal tasks. So the question is how we can create this balance for employees, really could design a better workday experience for them. So we saw like more than 40% in our data. And so, we saw it, just an increase, in meeting time or 40% of the teams we were assessing. And it was very obvious, and we saw a lot of just this significant increase in meeting time.

How we use this data is really highlighting for managers. So let's say you're the VP R&D and you have a lot of teams that you're in charge of, if there is increasing meeting time for one of your teams. So we can highlight it for you and say, you know, listen, there is 30% increase in meeting time for the back-end team compared to last week and you should do this and this, you know, you should maybe talk to the team and ask them to feel they have too many meetings, and if so, what kind of meetings are redundant.

So we can also, we are working with the lead experts in the field of remote work and organizational development people to really provide the most relevant and insights for the recommendations for managers. So also, we help them to take the right action, not just providing the insight itself.

Paul Estes:

What was one of the things as you got into this process and started looking at data? I'm sure you had some assumptions where you had the general belief that, "Hey, this data cannot only help companies be more productive but on the other side can help people that are working, find some sort of balance, and really understand how to get into their flow." What is one of the things that surprised you as you got into this and, one or two years down the road, started looking at real datasets?

Shiran Yaroslavsky:

I think as we work more and more with remote employees, it's amazing to see the different patterns and difficulties for different companies. Also, one thing that we see a lot these days and I can share is onboarding new employees. And we can see that for companies that were used to work from the office and now shifted to remote work is really struggling about how to onboard their new hires in an efficient way. And we also see the employees are struggling with creating the network they need and being connected and engaged. So, we also provide a lot of insights in that space of really how to onboard new employees and make them feel more connected and engaged. So this is something that really, I saw it very clearly from the data. Now, these days, when we are working a lot with remote companies that just shifted very abrupt way to remote work, definitely, it's really, this is something that really surprised me.

Paul Estes:

If you had a person that onboarded from a traditionally on-premise business and their manager normally would go and say, "Hey, here are the people you should meet with," and you do all of that, but there's also sort of those fly-by conversations, which are really important as you join a new company to understand the culture. What type of data is Cassiopeia able to provide to that new hire to help them onboard? Give me an example of something that the platform would provide to them that helps.

Shiran Yaroslavsky:

For a manager, for example, if we see that the new hire, for example, the core onboarded was onboarding them, let's say, three months ago, and we see that the new hire is less connected to his teammates compared to his colleagues - let's say, it's like 40% less connected or 40% less engaged. This is something we can highlight to the manager and saying, you know, you should pay attention to it. And again, we are not showing anything about individuals, but we will share these data about new hires as a subgroup. So for example, we will show these kinds of insights about new hires in their department, if they are less engaged, less connected. And we will highlight it to the relevant managers and we will command some actions that they can do in order to better support the new hires, new employees.

So it can be more activities like mentorship or some informal team growing, and we can help them to think about different kinds of activities that really can help to make employees more connected and engaged.

Paul Estes:

So, we talked about onboarding. What feedback are you hearing from customers about the impact that this data is having on their, not only organization but also their culture?

Shiran Yaroslavsky:

Yeah, so what we see definitely affects the engagement level within the company and how we collaborate. So, for example, if the onboarding of new hire is not a very successful one, it won't be able to collaborate as much as he needs to be with other teams or other departments. You can see it very clearly that the employee network within the company is less spread. And this is really important for performance.

So we really want employees to develop the network that he needs within the company in order to, to be successful. So it really affects performance in the bottom line. So definitely, it's crucial for making sure these days, also while onboarding employees remotely, that we can do it in the best way we can.

Paul Estes:

Yeah. And so you don't leave people. You spend a lot of time trying to get the best talent and you don't want to leave them behind and you want to make sure they have a good experience, at least like in the first 90 days. For sure.

Shiran Yaroslavsky:

Yeah.

Paul Estes:

Well, thank you so much for those insights. This is my favorite part of the show. It's the rapid-fire section. And I'm going to ask you five questions and I want you to say the first thing that comes to mind. Are you ready?

Shiran Yaroslavsky:

Yeah, let's do it.

Paul Estes:

What's one thing about you that's not on your LinkedIn profile?

Shiran Yaroslavsky:

I'm a long-distance runner. I’ve run a full marathon before, and I really like running. And I think it's also, you know, a big part of who I am. So I think this thing is not on my LinkedIn profile, for sure.

Paul Estes:

If you could trade lives with anyone for a day, who would it be and why?

Shiran Yaroslavsky:

I think I would choose someone, you know, they have a really completely different life experience than I am. Someone they've seen Africa, or, you know, maybe in Philippines, or someone that really have different challenges or different perspective than I do these days. And just to, in order for me to really expand my, you know, my view on life. I think this is something I would love to do.|

Paul Estes:

If you were stranded on a tropical island, what two things would you want with you?

Shiran Yaroslavsky:

My phone with music and pictures and my laptop with a lot of books to read.

Paul Estes:

Speaking of that, what book or movie has inspired you the most over the past year?

Shiran Yaroslavsky:

I just finished watching The Last Dance, the story about Michael Jordan, and I think it's absolutely inspiring. And also, you know, it really emphasized how much grit and hard work is really crucial to be very successful. It's not, it's much more than just talent. So yeah, I really love this movie.

Paul Estes:

And last, what is one word to describe the next decade of work?

Shiran Yaroslavsky:

Dynamic. I would choose dynamic because I feel like, I think that shift and the challenges that we are now experienced, I think work as we now see it and experience it will be completely different in the next few days and few years. And definitely, we can expect much more challenges, and our ability as leaders to really be agile and make the relevant adjustment is crucial to make it work.

Paul Estes:

That's great. Hey, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me. If somebody wants to learn more about Cassiopeia or get in touch with you, what's the best way to do that?

Shiran Yaroslavsky:

Yeah. So feel free to reach out on LinkedIn. So, you can just find me Shiran Yaroslavsky or write at [email protected], feel free to reach out. And thank you so much, Paul. Thank you for having me.

Paul Estes:

Well, I'll put all those links in the show notes and best of luck.

Shiran Yaroslavsky:

Thank you.

Paul Estes:

I'm your host, Paul Estes. Thank you for listening to the Talent Economy podcast.

Learn more about the future of work and the transformation of the staffing industry from those leading the conversation at Staffing.com, where you can hear from experts, sign up for our weekly newsletter, and get access to the best industry research on the future of staffing.

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Shiran Yaroslavsky
Shiran Yaroslavsky Shiran is the CEO and Co-Founder of Cassiopeia, a startup that empowers managers that lead fully or partially remote teams to maximize workplace experience. Cassiopeia's solution delivers actionable insights to boost team collaboration, belonging, and mental health by analyzing communications patterns (not content) within and among teams. Prior to Cassiopeia, she worked as a product manager and led innovative products and teams in several Hi-Tech companies, and the product management course at Jolt. Shiran was featured in the 2019 Forbes 30Under30 list in Israel.