3

Star Interview

Galit Zucker,
Chief People Officer,
SodaStream


The manufacturing firm’s Chief People Officer reveals how the employer is engaging with staff to ensure that they are happy at work...

Words by Liam Soutar

SodaStream’s ethos centres around ending some of the greatest uncertainties that the planet is currently facing. The sparkling water machine manufacturer has rocketed in popularity since being bought by PepsiCo in 2018 – particularly in the UK, where it first became a household name during the 1980s. Today, the firm has been using its resurging brand power to help "change the way the world drinks” by providing people “with a choice that’s better for them and better for the planet”.

SodaStream is also committed to the avoidance of 78billion single-use plastic bottles by 2025. “Each of our reusable bottles replaces the need for thousands of single-use plastic bottles, whilst also reducing carbon emissions and pollutions,” says the company on its website. But while they fight environmental damage on one front, they, like millions of workplaces, are facing the uncertainty posed by the post-pandemic world of work. In Israel alone, where SodaStream has a huge factory, large swathes of the population find themselves unable to work for traditional reasons, or through struggles with poverty. But through their work with local communities, ex-offenders and in turn, getting their employees to buy into their mission to help the planet, SodaStream has helped provide a clear and certain vision for both individual employees, and the environment we all live in.

Which is why myGrapevine magazine spoke to Galit Zucker, SodaStream's Chief People Officer, to find out more about how they are engaging with staff to ensure they are happy at work, as well as the HR thinking regarding the importance of creating a meaningful work environment.

CV of
Galit Zucker

Experience

Chief People Officer, SodaStream International Ltd,

Oct 2016 – present

Head of Global HR – Delivery Group, Amdocs,

Mar 2013 – Oct 2016

Head of Learning and OD, Better Place,

Oct 2010 – Dec 2012

Director of Human Resources, Bezeq International,

Sep 2009 – Oct 2010

Director of Human Resources, Cellcom,

1999 – 2004

Q

How do you engage with employees to ensure they’re happy at work?


A

I manage a company-wide survey globally for SodaStream that also operates across every single division of the business, from marketing to distribution and production. This is completely anonymous and asks [work-life] balance questions. The production team in particular has an engagement rate of 80% which is just phenomenal. Every employee at SodaStream feels a part of the company's success, and I am a firm believer that this is because SodaStream is a company that is striving to make a real difference in the world.

If you’re thinking about joining SodaStream and you hear that we have employees with high engagement, I’m sure it's something people appreciate. I think part of our success is that our HR team is one of the most engaged in the company. When you have HR who feel that they are very synthesised with the place they’re working for, I think it’s a great change agent. They feel happy and this is the message they take to the teams, and it's how we impact the organisation. If the employee is happy, they will stay. We see very low attrition rates in the company as a whole, and people don’t want to leave us.

“All employees feel part of the success in SodaStream's mission to make a better world”

When I came into SodaStream, it wasn’t something that was done before. I was the first to bring it in. For me as an HR leader, I need the data in order to understand what kind of solution we need to provide so that people are engaged. Since the company is global, with thousands of people, I need the tools for that. We made sure that everyone could answer the survey, but understood that some questions would not be relevant for all areas of the business.

We provided support by translating the survey into several languages. In the end, we reached about 90% participation rate, because we made it accessible. We now do it every year and align our HR plan according to the results. We’ve made it a journey. In the start we had a very low score, and now in its fifth year I'm very proud to say the improvement is really amazing.

We’re an organisation that has a very clear purpose and we’re able to really improve every year with fantastic numbers [of engagement levels]. The thing that I’m most proud of is the fact that our production workers in Israel – we’re talking about 3,000 people working on the production lines, which is not easy work – had the highest [engagement level] in our last survey. For me, [this is] proof that it’s not just about money. People need to feel part of something bigger. They need to feel part of our success, part of an organisation that’s trying to make the world a better place. And they need to feel that we see them, that we treat them fairly. Altogether, it translates to a very high engagement level.

"People need to feel part of something bigger. And they need to feel that we see them, that we treat them fairly"

Q

Tell me your thoughts on the importance of a productive and meaningful working environment?


A

This is even more important considering how destructive the past year has been, a constructive work environment is needed especially when we all are working remotely now. I encourage my team to feel part of the revolution in the fight against single-use plastic, which means that even with flexi-working, all employees feel part of the success in SodaStream's mission to make a better world.

Of course, yes, it was much harder to engage people when they are all at home and aren't able to meet face-to-face. For me, there’s no replacement for a personal touch. It was quite a challenge but as an organisation we did everything we could in order to let our people know that we cared about them. We tried to relate to the different populations and their different needs – for example, single parents who didn’t have anyone to look after their kids while they were on Zoom all day.

We understood we needed to take care of them. We’re still in this crisis and, in the future, we need to face the challenge of people who need to come back to the office. People now expect some more flexible options, so we’re working on that.

About SodaStream

  • Headquarters are in Kefar Sava, Israel
  • Founded in 1903
  • The firm’s mission is to “revolutionise the beverage industry by empowering people with simple, creative, and fun ways to make and enjoy better-for-you bubbly beverages”.
  • SodaStream home carbonation systems are available in 46 countries and sold in some 90,000 stores on six continents.

Q

How had SodaStream helped ease the uncertainty of poverty and underemployment through CSR initiatives?


A

We’re very proud to be involved in these areas. In Israel, our production is located in the desert, nearby, the biggest city for the Bedouin population, which is a very traditional population.

Before SodaStream was based there, there weren’t many opportunities for people to go to work. Only temporary work, cleaning jobs, [roles] like that. When we came in, we opened up the option for them to come and work for us. This opportunity created major change to the environment and the city. First of all, people could bring more money back home and the city benefitted from that. The unemployment rate declined, and the crime rate did as well. It brought a lot of prosperity.

SodaStream is investing heavily in supporting Bedouin Muslims in Israel. Traditionally women in this community are not able to leave their village to work, so SodaStream brought the work to them, building a factory in the area to create jobs. The factory is run entirely by these women with a hundred of them manning the production line.

"We see very low attrition rates in the company as a whole, and people don’t want to leave us"

In Israel, we are the biggest employer of prisoners. We employ about 400 that are part of a rehabilitation process. Instead of doing nothing in prison, they can come and work on our production lines, which we have built into the prison. Suddenly, when they wake up in the morning, they can come into work and take responsibilities. In many cases, it can be a life-changing experience because for some, it’s the first time they’ve worked for someone, and they’re earning money. This can help their families.

They are very proud to tell me their stories. Some of them are coming out of prison and we’re then taking them on at SodaStream. This is not something obvious to some employers. For some, it’s really the only opportunity to start a new life.

Usually, at least in Israel, something like 70-80% of prisoners go back soon after a few weeks, because they go out, nobody will hire them, and their only opportunity to make money is to go back to crime. We’re giving them an opportunity and we have great success stories, we have around ten ex-prisoners working for us at the moment. It’s not obvious that the company is investing in such projects. It takes a lot of resources, energy and time. But it’s something everyone in SodaStream were so supportive of.

You are currently previewing this article.

This is the last preview available to you for the next 30 days.

To access more news, features, columns and opinions every day, create a free myGrapevine account.