Zoom’s chief people officer: ‘Hybrid working is here to stay’

Zoom’s employee base doubled in the pandemic

Zoom’s chief people officer: ‘Hybrid working is here to stay’

For Lynne Oldham, chief people officer at Zoom, it’s been a busy few months. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic led to a surge in interest for the video conferencing app, with the company growing at an unprecedented speed. And, through it all, her employees thrived in the disruption.

“When the pandemic hit, the number of daily meeting participants increased massively – which of course meant more work for our employees,” Oldham told HRD. “However, because Zoom is cloud-based, it's a very scalable product. For me, it was exciting to be on the other side – looking at what was needed to scale our organisation from a people perspective.

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“Over the past few months, our employees have been so excited to be part of our mission. They could see how Zoom was impacting the world - not only connecting companies, but connecting grandparents with grandchildren, churches with parishioners, friends with friends. Even though we were growing fast, which sometimes places stress on an organisation, it was great to see the growth happening as a result of our teams’ great work.”

And boy did Zoom grow. Throughout 2020, Zoom’s usage ballooned.sales rose by more than 40% At its peak, the company counted over 300 million daily meeting participants in virtual meetings. with sales of $1.8bn. This surge in interest led to a hiring spree.

“At the start of the pandemic we had around 2,400 employees – as of last week, we’re at 5,000,” added Oldham. “I myself joined in January 2019. I remember turning up to my interview at the San Jose office and seeing the words ‘We Care’ on the wall. That really stuck with me. Everyone I met at Zoom embodied that value – it shone through in every conversation. There’s this inherent culture of delivering happiness, both to our customers and to our colleagues. That's very much sewn into the fabric of Zoom.”

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At the forefront of the WFH revolution, Zoom is now synonymous with remote working models. But how long will that flexibility remain post-pandemic? Will we see a rushed return to offices? Or are we hanging up the keys for good?

“I think hybrid working is here to stay,” Oldham told us. “I mean, let's face it, the desire to be flexible and work from home has always been in employees’ minds – at least for the last two decades. However, employers just refused to relent. The request continued to fall on deaf ears. The pandemic has forced organisations to open their eyes and their hearts to the idea that flexi-work is here to stay. As they say, you can't put the toothpaste back in the tube. I can't imagine people will be interested in going back to something less flexible.

“Essentially, there's three pillars that drive the future of business. The first is talent. Leaders need to embrace the concept of radical flexibility. You have to build your organisation around a hybrid workforce, empowered to decide when, where, and how they work. The second part is transformation - that's the transformation of your organisation. How do you deliver your services? How do you sell? How do you develop your workforce? Then the last piece is trust. The Speed of Trust is our favourite book at Zoom. A culture of trust is imperative. Employers have to support their workforce, and their customers, wherever they are.

“Honestly, I do think hybrid work is here to stay – and it’ll begin with employees telling us what they want, rather than the other way around.”

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