How Zoom's chief people officer handled unprecedented growth during the pandemic
- Lynne Oldham oversaw
Zoom's HRresponse during the pandemic.
- The company started hiring for hundreds of openings to meet 30x increases in demand in March 2020.
- Oldham brought in a new chief diversity officer who helped reshape the company's equity efforts.
There aren't many companies or products that have been as central to the pandemic workplace experience as Zoom.
In a six-week period, the video meeting software went from 10 million daily meeting participants to 300 million, a 30 times increase that put chief people officer Lynne Oldham in a very complicated situation. She had to increase the employee headcount significantly while moving the entire company remote and meeting the needs of this skyrocketing demand. For these efforts, Oldham was also named one of Insider's HR Innovators for 2021.
Over the past year, Zoom added new leadership in cybersecurity, engineering and product, and a chief diversity officer. It also made an acquisition of Keybase, further complicating the execution of Oldham's workforce
Oldham also had to keep pre-pandemic employees top of mind. These workers were tasked with handling the initial bursts of demand, as well as a sharp shift to remote work.
"Zoom's workforce was only 15% remote pre-pandemic," Oldham said. "This meant most Zoom employees were navigating a new work from home environment while also working long hours to keep the Zoom platform up, and make updates to address the needs of new users and educate new users."
One of her first priorities was holistic support for employees, adding new mental health benefits and wellness offerings, which expanded from covering gym memberships to covering grocery and food delivery, home office furniture, and more.
Oldham and her team also created "Camp Zoomitude" for the children of Zoom employees. This summer program provided "camp-based" virtual activities three days a week and featured family sing-a-longs on Fridays.
For newer employees, Oldham put a heavy emphasis on their digital onboarding program. Knowing they would be adding to their headcount significantly, Zoom
Zoom announced the hiring of chief diversity officer Damien Hooper-Campbell in late May 2020. After George Floyd's murder, Oldham facilitated an "all hands" town hall-style meeting to hear from employees on how they were feeling. In follow-up, executive leaders held additional listening sessions with Black employees to continue gathering feedback.
"Learning and education, we believed, were the key to making Zoom a more inclusive workplace," Oldham said.
Continuing on the theme of education, Zoom launched ZoomTalks, a nine-part series of discussions on race in America completed in partnership with TIME and the University of Southern California where Hooper-Campbell was a co-host. Zoom also forged a five-year partnership with Claflin University, an HBCU, that will spend $1.2 million to provide internships, scholarships, technical support, strategy support, and more.
For Oldham, the main lesson from the pandemic was the responsibility for the holistic support of employees and the role that HR can play there.
"We are now all working through the cracks of life rather than just trying to live life through the cracks of work," she said. "This means for the HR profession that social engineering will be more critical than ever. Understanding social capital and the nature of the remote workspace is going to be vital so that we can help create collaborative, innovative work cultures in the new remote/hybrid world."
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