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Workforce Executive Council Member Spotlight: Zoom’s Lynne Oldham

Lynne Oldham, chief people officer of Zoom Video Communications

Zoom Video Communications

With millions of people around the world working from home to ease the spread of the coronavirus, videoconferencing company Zoom Video Communications is experiencing a boom in business. Over the last few months they have added millions of users. Since Jan. 31 the communication platform’s stock has skyrocketed 101%.

But what does that mean for Zoom’s more than 2,500 employees? In CNBC’s first WEC Member Spotlight, Zoom’s chief people officer and Workforce Executive Council member, Lynne Oldham, tells us what it’s like behind the scenes.

With the sudden shift to remote work, what is a typical day like at Zoom right now?

It is being on all the time. There is a lot going on to keep the lights on and engines running. There’s no beginning, middle and end to the days right now. I have three screens on at all time.

How long have you been with the company?

I joined Zoom in January 2019, just before we went public on April 17 last year. It feels a little surreal that we were just at NASDAQ ringing the bell and now we are here. We have grown so fast since the IPO. A month ago about 25% of the team had joined since the IPO; now I think that has risen to about a third.

I’m surprised to learn you weren’t a fully remote team prior to this point. How has the transition been for you and your employees?

Before the coronavirus pandemic, most of our employees were working from our offices in San Jose, Santa Barbara, Kansas City, Denver and Atlanta, as well as in our international offices in several major cities in APAC and EMEA, with the exception of our sales teams in the field. They were working from home comprising 25% to 30% of our total workforce. So this has been an adjustment for the company. What we had going for us is that all employees know the products, such as videoconferencing, chat functions, breakout rooms and so on. But adjusting to life working from home is something we have had to deal with, such as childcare and pets.

When this is over, I think that every company on the planet will probably see their remote workforce grow twofold. I don’t think traditional company offices are done for. I just think it will increase the idea among employers that an employee can work remotely one or two days a week.

Zoom needs to grow to meet demand. That means adding to your workforce, and you are doing it all via Zoom. Tell me a bit about that.

We are growing and adding to our workforce, largely in technical support, which is an area that is experiencing a tenfold surge in volume with all the new Zoom users. But we can’t do any of the interviews in person right now. The most important thing, from our perspective, since we have a value-driven culture, is to not change the process, because hiring has become video-driven. We need people, but we are not willing to sacrifice values. We are pretty good at picking our people in general, but in the video world, that means not to multitask. It’s more important to pay attention to your interview and watch all the cues. You can’t fiddle with the phones or reply to emails or texts.

Even before all of this, we had been working on our onboarding plan so from day one a new hire would understand what planet they landed on when they joined. Onboarding takes a village to begin with — from the trainers to the hiring managers — to ensure our new Zoomies are fully functional. Today that is all done remotely so hires can work remotely. 

Thankfully, we had been perfecting the in-person process for the past several months, so we were able to swing it to remote work quickly. It’s a huge burden on our training team, who need to get our new hires up to speed so they can start assisting others. They run around the clock in Australia, Europe and the U.S. Now that we are onboarding online, we use the things in our toolkit like breakout rooms to make sure people understand what everything means. We make sure that its interactive and not just video after video. After someone starts, it’s up to their manager to pull them in close.

How do you avoid employee burnout?

Some of the teams are under heavy stress, particularly in sales operations and order desks where the system is overloaded. We are trying to build their teams as fast as we can, but we are making sure that their managers are staying in really close contact and giving them rest periods. They need a chance to turn off. It’s scary for some people, and I’ve started some of my meetings now with check-in and see how people are feeling, and other teams have, too. The goal is to communicate how people can draw strength from one another. 

Earlier this year by chance, we added a mental health provider to our employee benefits, called Lyra, which has been great. It’s an employee assistance program of sorts, and people can make appointments for in-person or online help. People are grateful for it.

I’m also so grateful for our Happy Crew, which is a volunteer group of people who organize Zoom Rendezvous, where people can chat or have open-mic nights and have a chance to come together and bridge the isolation. 

What’s something you have learned over these past few weeks that you will carry with you once life gets back to normal?

I’m really all about getting the work done. The feedback I’m getting is, Keep it up. 

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