Zoom’s CPO on hiring at scale in the remote revolution
It’s been extraordinary: “At the beginning of the pandemic we were around 2,400 employees and the numbers at the last analysts call were greater than 5,700.”
Why You Should Care
Zoom boss Eric Yuan has repeatedly said that working from home is here to stay.
The video conferencing company expects sales to rise more than 40% this year, reaching more than $3.7bn. In 2020 profits jumped from just $21.7m in 2019 to a record $671.5m.
Zoom is now competing against stiff competition from Microsoft and Google who are both upping their virtual meeting game.
Zoom, like many technology companies, went from 0 to 100 amid the pandemic as adoption of remote work tools grew exponentially.
Now in a moment of reflection, Lynne Oldham, Zoom’s chief people officer can take stock of how she and her team managed their own shift to remote work, how they hired at scale as their workforce doubled in size.
Sitting down for a Zoom chat with UNLEASH, Oldham, also tells us how she engages the company’s, now record, 5,700 employees remotely to tackle the new buzzy phrase ‘Zoom fatigue.’
“I think right now, like everyone else, we’re working on, what does work look like in the future? And how do we think about a post-pandemic workplace?” she says.
“Communication, engagement, culture… are all things that, we’re working on constantly to improve, because it’s critical not only in keeping the best talent, but also attracting talent, and we are growing still.
“It’s important for us to work on our employment brand. And all of that is part and parcel of our daily work here.”
Hiring at scale
Working via Zoom and hiring at scale via Zoom became the number one priority for Oldham’s team last year and she’s proud of their learnings.
“Before the pandemic, you know, we were probably about 85% in an office and 15% remote, give or take. Just like everybody else all our workforce went remote, which meant all of our interviewing went remote and we had to adjust.
“We already did some of it remotely but keeping up with hiring during this time as been big for us.
“At the beginning of the pandemic we were around 2,400 employees and the numbers at the last analysts call were greater than 5,700.”
“[Recruitment] is a little easier given you’re not having to schedule people into the building for interviews, but at the same time, you know, you’re not going to get the full flavor of someone if you’re not paying attention.”
Engage personally with people
Keeping focused on the task at hand and engaging personally, Oldham says, are key.
“We all live in the world of multiple screens. I’ve got three open right now but I’m looking at you because I want to see you. I want to see how you react to what I’m saying and how your face lights up on a particular question.
“As our employee numbers grew quickly, we’ve had to tune in more with respect to hiring and the interviews. We also have to make sure that we’re engaging in the right way. If we have alerts dinging and other screens taking our attention it won’t work. So that’s been a big focus in our hiring efforts as we continue to grow.
“As is making sure culture is the people that we’re hiring. We want our people to not only be culture fits but culture addicts, right?
“I’m proud to say I think we’re pretty good at this, we do a very good job of preparatory work in the interview process and know what we’re looking for in a particular role. That’s been key as we’ve kept on the rails at hired at pace.”
Interviewing on Zoom
Oldham advises hiring managers to “focus on the individual, make sure your camera placement is where you want your eyes to be.
“I put my camera right over your head and I spend a lot of time moving my zooms screen, right under the camera.
“When I am talking to you, I particularly want to see you right under the camera. This is because I want to make sure that I’m focusing on you. And that’s that is that’s my biggest tip really. Focus your attention on the individual.”
The growth at Zoom has been extraordinary.
Oldham reveals: “The challenges have been really keeping my team focused I’ve had to obviously scale my team as well to ensure that we can hire those numbers across the company because you don’t just say to someone who’s hiring in a 12 a quarter now hire 20 for a quarter… you must bring another person on. So really, keeping ahead of the growth has been one of my challenges. But we’ve done it and we have good networks in our team. I’d say we’ve done a stellar job of keeping, like I say, the train on the tracks.”
Creativity when you’re remote working
Can you be creative and innovative on Zoom?
Many Silicon Valley execs argue that innovation has no place remotely and the brightest minds need to come together in-person to brainstorm and create new products as these ideas can’t be sparked in a pre-arranged hour-long video call. Oldham disagrees.
“I would say to you that my most creative moments are generally either in the shower, or when I’m blow drying my hair,” she laughs.
“Well, before I had curls. But I don’t have my most creative moments in the office.
“That said, I understand that some people do and that’s why one size does not fit all.
So you see, companies really have to think about how do we accommodate all of the needs of our employees. Their capabilities, creativeness, innovation, meeting them where they are… and how do we make sure that we can bring it all inside one company?”
Zoom leading the future of work
“I like the idea of being flexible because your creativity may not be my creativity, right? So I think it’s important to open Pandora’s box and let folks create where they can create where they do it best, right? That’s the foundation of the Zoom platform going forward.
“We want to not only think about it that way, but listen to our customers and deliver on their needs. That’s what’s important to us.
“So if a customer says, ‘No, no, we have to have whiteboarding sessions.’ Well, guess what, we have a Zoom app for that. You’ll be able to whiteboard in a meeting. Some of you may be together and some of you may be remote, but the whiteboard lives not in a room where if I’m remote, I can’t see it again.
“It lives online where we can all see it, we can all iterate on it and we could iterate it asynchronously.
“At Zoom it is about coming up with or partnering with tools, or other software, that really makes sense to plug into this framework of working.”
Tackling Zoom fatigue
As people live more of their working (and often personal) lives in video-calls than in-person interactions, the 2021 buzzword ‘Zoom fatigue’ became synonymous with burnout.
Shouldn’t technology, especially work technology, be a force for good? How do we stop people switching off?
“So, you know, I think about it more like schedule fatigue,” Lynne explains.
“If I look at my calendar and it’s overloaded.. I’ve actually made the practice now of looking at it the night before and clearing out things with no agenda. We need to focus our time where it is most productive.
“I’ve switched things up and if it’s possible, I might say: ‘Can we not do video today? How about we go for a walk while we talk?
“So I am being more proactive about my scheduling. But you do look at those heavy days and think if you did all that in the office, you’d be just as exhausted as you were doing it on Zoom. The solution is really to look at your schedule and get ahead of it a day at a time.”
No meeting days
“Another thing we do at Zoom is offer no meeting days,” Lynne reveals.
“I think it’s a really good way to get folks to connect with the work and not necessarily with each other. Sure I make a call or two that day because I have to clarify something or I need a quick piece of advice.
“But it is a good day for that centering around, you know, the work that you’re pulling out of each one of these meetings, and how do I get it done? What is the result of the meeting and can I do my work without it?
“We’ve been doing these days for most of the year now and it’s enabled us to stay ahead and use the tool more productively when we do engage in that way.”
Head of Special Projects at UNLEASH
Jennifer Dunkerley is an award-winning editor and senior digital content manager.