The 100 Best Companies to Work for in Israel
Ranking by Haaretz's TheMarker and BDI Coface shows employees in Israel want to work for a strong company with a combination of good workplace relations and benefits. And, what was true before the coronavirus crisis hit, is even truer now
- All sectors
- All sectors
- Trade and services
- Telecom and media
- Public sector
The second most-important parameter was the combination of salary and benefits. Following that we find that the Israeli employee cared about satisfaction with the boss, self-fulfillment, and professional challenge – and only then job security, which came in sixth place, as befits a generation that doesn’t plan to spend decades at any one workplace. The stability of the company was the least important parameter.
“It was clear that this period was a test for us as an organization,” Eyal Dror, the CEO of food manufacturer Strauss Israel, says of the coronavirus crisis. “The theme that guided us was to get through the crisis with all our workers, because this would be the basis for emerging from the crisis.”
As a matter of principle, Strauss, No. 6 on the list, kept all its workers on the payroll as of April, furloughing only ones who requested it. Arguably, Strauss’ decision was an easy one given that it makes food; if anything demand for food products soared as people hoarded ahead of during lockdown. But Strauss is actually a group of companies that includes Strauss Water, Elite Coffee kiosks and more. Altogether, fewer than 100 employees were put on unpaid leave during the height of the pandemic lockdown.
No. 3 on the list of best companies to work for is Direct Insurance, where, as of April, 70 of the 120 workers put on unpaid leave requested it, CEO Koby Haber says. The company swiftly moved 90 percent of its employees to working at home, with only 10 percent still coming to the offices during the lockdown, he says. Indeed DI took a hit during the crisis and anticipates that recovery will take time. To mitigate the damage, it tried to balance income with expenses across the board, Haber says.
Israel Aerospace Industries was No. 2. “IAI offers its employees a lot more than job security,” CEO Nimrod Sheffer says. “There’s a technological challenge and meaning here – people here are involved in activity key to Israel’s security, which carries weight.”
The new Microsoft
Based on a survey TheMarker published in February, the professions Israelis most admire for their contribution to society are physician (90 percent), farmer (80 percent), career army officer in a combat unit (77 percent) career officer in a technological unit (75 percent) and teacher/preschool teacher (74 percent).
But admiration is one thing, livelihood is another. Working for a high-tech company may not be perceived as contributing much to society, but clearly tech companies pay well and offer great benefits.
Indeed, 13 of the 20 top-ranked companies are involved in technology. Five more are from finance, one is a manufacturer (Strauss) and one is an infrastructure company: the Israel Electric Corporation.
But the No. 1 company is Microsoft, which has revamped its image. If once people warned against working for it, now it’s seen as an exciting firm that competes with Google for talent.
In 2014, when Satya Nadella was named CEO of Microsoft, the company whose reins he took from Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer had a reputation for being predatory, thuggish and monopolistic. An article in Vanity Fair analyzed how the employee evaluation process at Microsoft led employees to be preoccupied with office politics. Nadella made changing the corporate culture a top priority, explaining that this was the best path to commercial success.
Nadella’s style is endowed with new-age slogans that might make some cringe. He says he aspires to a corporate culture that inspires growth, innovation, courage and attention to partners and customers, but primarily, one that doesn’t repel new ideas. The result is that Microsoft, which had been perceived as a company focused on preserving its monopoly over operating systems for personal computers, has become a company that encourages internal startups, fights to gain and keep the best programmers, and has become a leading contender for the title of “company that most indulges its workers.”
This new spirit is also palpable at Microsoft’s development centers in Israel. Parties featuring a host of stars; leasing a WeWork building so employees wouldn’t have to commute between Tel Aviv to the corporate premises in Herzliya; comfortable relocation options and more have polished Microsoft’s reputation and enable it to compete with Google, Facebook, and glittering new startups over talent.
Michal Braverman-Blumenstyk, the head of Microsoft Israel's R&D center, says these are the reasons she came to work for the company six years ago. “To Microsoft it’s very clear that the employees are the most important asset, and in recent years we’ve focused on what our employees want,” she says. She wonders if she would have been happy at the company before it made its change, but change it did. Microsoft is "learning and full of daring, and takes on the best people, especially in Israel. We can launch a lot of start-ups within the larger company," she notes. "Many products born in Israel are global products."
As the pandemic unfolded, Microsoft was one of the first companies whose workers switched to working from home. Like other top managers in the survey’s leading companies, Braverman-Blumenstyk says that throughout the crisis, workers were kept in the loop. Microsoft was also exceptional in another way: the company was responsive to employee proposals for volunteer work and allowed them to launch and work on social-welfare projects. She says a large number of these initiatives came from the company’s younger workers – the often-maligned Generation Y and Generation Z.
Will Gen-Y change?
Reams have been written about how Generation Y workers, aged 26 to 40, view workplaces and what matters most to them. But until the coronavirus, the jobs market was pretty consistently short of workers, enabling them to be picky. Post־pandemic, rampant unemployment could constrain the job-hopping characteristic of this age group.
Strauss CEO Eyal Dror won’t make predictions about the labor market. “I don’t know what the future will look like,” he says. “In the coming months more people will be looking for work... but I don’t foresee anything substantial changing in the notion that an enterprise that is committed to its workers will get something in return.”
Even Generation Y employees will stay at a workplace if they enjoy working there, Dror says. “What they care about is interest, challenge and the work environment. A direct relationship with executives is also very important because workers want more of a chance to have influence. We, on our part, are trying to understand how to make the enterprise more nimble and flexible, and they want to stay,” he says.
IAI’s Sheffer does think the coronavirus crisis will change the labor market. “People will revert to appreciating what was once obvious: job security. Young people see themselves changing place every four or five years, and a 30-year contract doesn’t appeal to them. In recent years job security was less important to people. The crisis will change this. People see what’s happening at the big companies with solid foundations and appreciate that.”
The survey underlying the companies ranking shows that Generation Y workers came into the crisis not especially happy with their employment situation. For example, 42 percent of workers 35 and younger felt they weren’t realizing their potential at their job, compared to 13 percent in the survey taken last year. Similarly, 59 percent of workers up to 35 believe that they are underpaid for their talents, though that applied in varying degrees to all age groups.
This year’s survey found that younger workers seemed even less eager to rise to management positions. In 2019, about 75 percent of respondents up to age 35 said they aspired to be managers, while this year the ratio dropped to 66 percent. Again, however, this phenomenon is not unique to Gen-Y: management as a profession has been losing its allure.
Will Isracard get credit?
The top 20 employers include five finance firms. Direct Insurance, ranked highest among the five, kept most of its workers during the coronavirus crisis. At Bank Leumi and Bank Hapoalim, some workers used up vacation days. Isracard moved up a spot in the rankings but proved to be less sympathetic to its employees during the pandemic, putting a third of its workers on unpaid leave as of April – one of the first companies to do so even though it operates in areas that weren’t directly affected by the crisis. The Clal and Harel insurance companies did too.
Isracard did pay workers their annual bonuses for 2019, and to be fair, credit card use declined during the closures and lockdown and the company had to make adjustments. That doesn’t help mitigate the damage done to the employees’ trust. Isracard’s labor committee was consulted about the decisions, and yet many employees were not paid salaries for April but had to apply for unemployment, which pays only 50 to 70 percent of their base pay.
Ranking the best places to work for is built on multiple surveys, one internal, which carries substantial weight because the willingness of management to allow its workers to be asked what they think about the company, demonstrates openness and a willingness to deal with criticism – both admirable characteristics. The question will be how Isracard will rank in 2021: will it pay a price for taking out the crisis on its workers?
“When the economy went into lockdown, the scope of credit card purchases fell dramatically,” Isracard stated. “Putting workers on unpaid leave was aimed at preserving Isracard so it could be a stable and good workplace in the future as well.” The company also noted that the management is taking a 20 percent pay cut for the second quarter and that no employees were fired.
Among the companies that furloughed workers was Elbit Systems, a defense company which at the end of April won a $103 million contract to supply electronic warfare systems for the helicopters of an Asian country. Two days before winning the contract, Elbit put 300 of its 12,000 workers on unpaid leave, after it had already reduced people’s hours or sent them to unpaid leave.
Cyberark joins the pack
A new entry into the top 10 companies is Cyberark, a cybersecurity company founded in 1999 by Ehud Mokady and Alon Cohen. The firm has been traded on the Nasdaq since 2014 and employs 1,400 people, 500 of whom are in Israel. It joined the list of 100 best companies to work for in 2017, then ranking 45th.
“We knew that it was important to us to build an organization that isn’t arrogant,” says Mokady, Cyberark’s CEO and president: they may hire the best and brightest but there must be humility, amnd the people have to be team players. “That’s who our first recruits were, and we made that an organizational value – we’re looking for smart people with humility and daring.” He is proud of the fact that even though cybersecurity is a dynamic business, a lot of the employees are with the company for years.
Mokady experienced the dot.com bust of 2001-2002 and the global financial meltdown in 2008, which gives him perspective on the coronavirus crisis. “At Cyberark, the 2008 crisis generated a sense of mutual responsibility that serves us to this day,” he says. “The workers saw that we got through the crisis without dismissals. That established an unwritten covenant between management and employees, under which if everyone does his part, we all succeed.”
How we ranked the top 100
The company rankings by BDI Coface are based on surveys conducted with tens of thousands of employees, and on employer data from the 12 months that ended in December 2019. It began with a preliminary examination of a representative sample of employees (more than 2,000 were surveyed) which yielded the parameters important to the Israeli worker in choosing a workplace. Then 150,000 workers were surveyed and their answers were weighted in accordance to the values established by the preliminary examination. The rankings were also based on the results of internal company surveys conducted in more than 100 companies in various industries, which were combined with two other surveys – one among college and university students, and the second among human resources executives at leading companies. Data providing by the leading companies regarding the benefits provided by the organization and the level of investment in them were also considered in the final rankings.
The rankings are based on a mixture of opinions and perceptions of workers of their own companies and of other companies – workers were asked about workplaces they might prefer in general. To avoid bias and to include a wide variety of opinions the surveys take place over the course of a year and are conducted throughout the country.