As part of our series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times,” we had the pleasure of interviewing Dikla Yuval, Global Head of People at global programmatic recruiting advertising leader PandoLogic. In this capacity, Dikla is responsible for setting the strategy to attract, hire and retain qualified tech talent across disparate regions. She supports the company’s growth plans and is a valued member of the leadership team.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I started my career at a large engineering company in Israel, immediately following my required military service because I did not know what I wanted to study in higher education. When I joined the company, my role was focused on budget control, and I found I liked working in Microsoft Excel (a funny thing to hear from an HR professional, until a few years ago, I know). Yet, I felt for future roles, I would like to do something that involved more communication, and people, and to be even more specific — kids. And so while I continued to work at the company, three years later, I graduated from the University of Tel-Aviv with a Bachelor’s Degree in Educational Leadership and Administration. Immediately after graduation, the company I had been working at offered to relocate me to Atlanta, Georgia, and promote me to U.S. Controller. I took the opportunity and spent three years abroad. It was an amazing experience. Not only was I working in a multi-national company and collaborating with individuals from different cultures, but I was also further challenging myself by leaving my home, my support system, and my professional comfort zone. At the end of the three years, while I was traveling back home to Isreal, I felt it was time to make a change. True, I loved Excel, but I needed people, I wanted to communicate with them and make an impact on their lives. And so, I’ve been in HR ever since. Over the last ten years, my HR career has evolved from organizational development and training to the taking on of HR leadership roles in large global companies. Joining PandoLogic as Global Head of People in November of 2019 was a crowning achievement for me. Not only was I going to work for an HR tech company, but I was also going to work for a company where the product itself is helping to revolutionize the way candidates are advertised so that they get to the right positions faster. It’s the impact I’ve been chasing since that flight back from the United States. I am Global Head of People at a company that is disrupting the HR technology space for the mutual benefit of the employer and their prospective employees. It’s incredible.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
I once invited a group of over a hundred people to an outdoor activity an hour and a half away and accidentally sent everyone to the wrong address. There is humor in looking back on it, but also one of the most crucial lessons I’ve learned: keep a checklist and then check, check, and re-check. Whether you’re working on internal events, external corporate gatherings, training sessions, or outdoor activities — always work with a checklist. Then be sure to double-check it a week out and again the day before. There are always last-minute adjustments to be made — alterations you could never have accounted for — it’s imperative to always go back to your list and check. Today, I manage my team in much the same way. In the past year, PandoLogic has experienced incredible growth, and that growth, coupled with the effects of COVID-19, has necessitated my team to take on a myriad of responsibilities simultaneously from getting everyone set up to work remotely to hiring at an increased pace and from modifying our tech stack to enhancing our employer branding efforts. We simply could not do it without a project management tool that houses our task lists to ensure we’re checking all the right boxes.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
That is a hard question because there are a few individuals that come to mind, but the person I’m most grateful to is my life partner. Omer has moved across the world with me, leaving his family, his friends, and a promising position. He understood what was being offered to me. The opportunity to work abroad launched the trajectory of my career. Without it, I don’t know that I would be Global Head of People at a multi-national company with dual locations in Israel and the U.S. My experience in and my ability to work in a multi-cultural environment are thanks to the journey we took together. I would not have taken this adventure without him joining me and supporting me.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose-driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?
PandoLogic’s purpose has always been to help companies meet their hiring needed while maximizing their recruitment ad spend. Through the power of programmatic, where the use of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning allows for the evaluation of 100 Trillion data points and 7,000 micro-decisions per minute, our fully automated job platform, pandoIQ, automates and optimizes job ad placements to transform our clients’ lead funnels. Its streamlined approach eliminates inefficiencies and waste, helping companies stretch ad budgets 10 to 20 times further; while at the same time, consolidating spends into a single performance-based platform. This consolidated approach removes the need for management of multiple contracts, vendor relationships, payment schedules, and logins — allowing our clients to focus on what matters, our vision: reaching the right candidates on the right sites at the right time for the right price.
Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?
In 2012, I lead my team amidst a military operation. The entire country of Isreal was under a missile attack. The first decision I had to make was a personal one. At the time, I had two small daughters at home, working remotely was not a possibility, and my team — HR, executive, managerial, and individual contributors — all needed me at work. It was an impossible situation, but I chose to go to work for the duration of the operation. Looking back, I’m not sure I would have made the same decision, but at the time, it seemed the right thing to do. During the first few hours of the attack, we had some significant hurdles to overcome. The first was that more and more of our employees were being called to Reserve Service, creating operational issues in every department. Second, and more importantly, I needed to keep track of the safety and well-being of our employees and their families. I decided to evaluate my team’s ability to operate under the circumstances first. I understood that some team members would have to prioritize personal matters and others could focus on the company. To this day, I think taking care of my team — the team that is supposed to take care of everyone else — was the right call. Those of us that could focus on the company incentivized a much larger group to stay on-site, help out where necessary, send out packages, and ultimately help find shelter when our office was under direct attack. That experience was crucial to dealing with the immediate impacts of COVID-19 in my role at PandoLogic. I again put people and their families first. I knew if I took care of them, it would in turn help maintain our business’ health. And that’s exactly what happened, except we not only survived, we grew at a record pace — surpassing even our most aggressive goals.
Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?
Yes, there was one role in my career when navigating politics — not innovating, making an impact, and strategizing — was the entirety of my day. I often felt I was dealing with unfounded objections and that it wasn’t worth it. So I forced myself to step back and evaluate whether or not I believed in the larger company vision. Ultimately, I did. So I willed myself to keep the broader perspective in the forefront of my mind and think of the obstacles more as part of the process than deterrents. Keeping my mind set on the mission and the vision sustained my commitment and my drive then and it continues to sustain it today. I think I am successful as Global Head of People at PandoLogic because I believe in our mission, our core values, and our people.
What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?
Taking the lead to make the critical decisions that will help care for your team. Everyone handles challenges differently and it is paramount to be empathic to that. Understanding that some people will thrive in uncertainty and others will flail, as leaders, we need to make sure we make the right modifications for the right people in the right places to help make them as successful as possible.
When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire,
motivate and engage their team?
I believe one of the best ways a leader can boost morale is through heartfelt communication. When things are uncertain, the more we communicate with our employees, the more we share our own concerns or worries and how we’re dealing with them, the more comforted our employees feel because they no longer have to wonder or try to come to their own conclusions. They know what you know and they trust that as you know more, you will share it. Trust is an incredible motivator. People excel when they feel safe and communication is the cornerstone to that feeling. Even in times of certainty, I find communication to be key to relationship building and mutual respect. It is something I incorporate into my every day at PandoLogic.
What are the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?
I believe difficult news should be shared transparently, even when it may have adverse effects.
How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?
The future is unpredictable, for sure. But, if you listen to professional advice, are bold enough to make unpopular decisions, and are always planning for the next day, you can succeed in creating effective plans.
Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?
For me, the “number one principle” I think guides a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times is the same as the one that guides me individually: belief in and following through on the company’s mission and vision. Then making sure your operations are leading toward achieving them.
Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during challenging times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?
- The first mistake I see is reacting too fast, without first calculating the after-effects
- The second is a failure to listen to enough advice from all sides of the situation
- The third is a lack of investment in time, research, and data, to prepare ahead of the catastrophe — there should always be a solid disaster recovery plan in your drawer, you never know when you’re going to need it
Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a challenging economy?
I think the most important thing you can do is give back to the communities you are a part of because when you give back, you get back in ways you could have never imagined. When COVID hit, there was an unexpected, increased need for health care workers. Time was of the essence and so rather than trying to sell our product — which is designed to get the right people into the right roles faster — we initiated a grant program giving our product to the businesses who needed it the most and getting essential workers to the front lines faster. It was a bold move, but it proved to be impactful for everyone involved.
Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Making bold decisions: COVID dramatically changed HR’s role. In the span of a few days, we became the axis between keeping the business running and transitioning people to a permanent work-from-home environment. The boldest decision for me was deciding to take on significantly more responsibilities while I was going to be home with three kids. It was a huge risk because I had no idea what the future would look like, how much time I would be able to invest in work, and how I would attend to their homeschooling.
- Act fast, but only after getting advice from all senior leadership and doing a thorough market comparison. When COVID hit and the first lockdowns began, we had to understand very fast who where the people struggling and what we could do to help.
- Communicate to everyone at once as soon as decisions are made to avoid any assumptions. Transparency is key. During the initial onset of COVID, we decided the primary vehicle of communication would be Slack. We asked everyone to monitor it closely and follow messaging on all channels. This decision has ultimately contributed to the incredible closeness we’ve been able to create between our two main hubs in the U.S. and Israel.
- Collect data and benchmark: When COVID began in Israel, hundreds, if not more, virtual HR meetups, webinars, etc., were set up to help deal with the crisis. After evaluating a few, I chose to follow the one I felt was acting with the same core values as PandoLogic. I used the group to compare strategies and bring external data to key executives within PandoLogic to evaluate what we were doing, then compared that data to our own pulse surveys to understand the current company climate.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Progress over perfection (but keep it excellent). This lesson has brought me to where I am today. Looking for a model always made me feel numb. Is it good enough? What needs to be done to make it better? What have I forgotten? In the end, I learned so much more from my mistakes when trying to do things the fast, that now I feel like I can prioritize the area’s where I cannot settle, and it has to be perfect, and where are the places were starting to move will get to the same (or even better) result.
How can our readers further follow your work?