Like many companies, Augury faced numerous challenges with the COVID-19 crisis. However, by following a ‘People First’ philosophy and being transparent internally in how we dealt with our business health, we were still able to scale.
Augury provides Machine Health services for various industrial sectors – from food & beverages to chemicals, from forestry to utilities. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, we were forced to focus on our Business Health to ensure that we would survive.
The threat to the company was indeed existential. At the time, Augury was just proving its long-term sustainability. It became crucial to take care of future financing and continue sales and business growth.
And to provide machine health diagnostics to new clients, we needed to get on-site to install our sensors. Without these sensors in place, we could provide no solutions…
In Hebrew, the word “company” is the same word as for “society”. For the team, Augury is both.
Before the pandemic, our employees were equally divided between Israel (R&D) and the US (HQ). Most of us were working from our offices on a daily basis. Only a small portion of our employees are spread across the US – working “in the field” – and therefore often already home-based.
With all our employees, Augury follows “People First” guidelines that embrace agility, cooperation and creativity across the team. And so, our first response to the crisis was the right response: make sure all employees and their families were safe.
It was decided that everyone should work from home. We also reassured everyone that layoffs were not planned.
The company launched an internal campaign called “The New Normal”, which encouraged employees to update a space in their homes into a small working station. An allowance was provided to purchase any necessary equipment. Employees were encouraged to share pictures and videos of their efforts in the form of a friendly competition.
As we began to work remotely, it became clear: “Adaptability is key” during Covid-19, says Augury’s VP of People Operations’. For instance, many of the larger regular meetings were cancelled since not everyone could be available at the same time due to family constraints (children are wonderful but they can also distract). Other norms and more casual forms of communication arose. Our Slack became increasingly active – with both professional and more personal interaction.
Meanwhile, other internal changes were also made. For instance, we future-proofed the offices to better enable the working in capsules once we could return (as nicely described by our creative Adi Shaul in this article in Hebrew).
In parallel to maintaining employee satisfaction and health, the company was extremely transparent about how they would deal with its business health.
One major decision was to move immediately forward on the next (fourth) funding round, as opposed to waiting a year as we had originally planned.
Naturally, we were concerned about sales taking a heavy hit (even though, down the road, the opposite would prove true). We also worried about how our investors would manage their finances (this was before banks and governments took steps to ensure that money kept flowing to the markets).
So management decided to make temporary wage cuts until the funding round was secured.
These cuts were progressive (i.e., the higher your “rank”, the higher the cut). They also came with the promise that once the funding round was secured, the cuts would stop and partly reimbursed.
This fiscal measure – and the reasoning behind it – were communicated clearly to all employees. As a result, the wage cuts were accepted and fully understood by everyone. In fact, team motivation had never been higher. Productivity even increased (as much as was technically possible during the lockdown periods).
Meanwhile, we also needed to update our products and services to deal with the external world at large: to deal with the new rules and market realities.
In particular, we needed to figure out how to support remote installations by customers. This process has already been nicely described in Adapting to COVID-19 Restrictions: Remote Guided Installations and Quarantines? Social distancing? In the COVID-19 era, Israeli Industry 4.0 startups find creative ways to install their technologies remotely.
And I am more than happy to report: it worked.
Thanks to all these steps and the accompanying internal communication and transparency, Augury was able to rise above an unparalleled medical crisis:
Needless to say, salaries are back to normal. I can also confirm our internal Slack communications are as bubbly and inspiring as ever.
But we still can’t wait to see each other – and our clients – in the flesh again.
At Augury since 2015, Amir Bahalul is the company’s Advanced Innovation Director. Originally in R&D as part of the team that developed Augury’s first wireless system, Amir has now found his sweet spot in the CTO Office: surfing the wave between technological vision and real-world business needs. “It’s about finding creative solutions to accomodate both,” says Amir.