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Empathy Helped Zoom Earn A Spot Among the Best Places To Work In 2021

Posted by Dominique Fluker

Content Marketing Manager, Editorial

Last Updated January 27, 2021
|11 min read

Collectively our world was turned upside down due to the emergence of COVID-19. Companies globally fought to keep their businesses afloat, retain, and motivate their employees all while transitioning from an office workplace to remote. At Glassdoor, we frequently receive this common question, “How do I become a Best Place to Work?” The answer is simple, companies with mission-driven cultures, transparent senior leaders, amazing career opportunities, and those who truly put people first are traits employees love and appreciate most. When a company operates this way organically, the feedback then shows up when employees share reviews and ratings on Glassdoor. In 2021, Zoom Video Communications is one of the very best to work for, according to employees, for the third time (previous wins in 2019 and 2018, too) because they continue to put people first.

This year, Zoom created an atmosphere of community, connection, and empathy in a new virtual world. We relied on their product to speak to loved ones, attend working meetings and further connect with employees. Because of Zoom we were able to retain a bit of normalcy within chaotic surroundings. Zoom, the leader in modern enterprise video communications, with an easy, reliable cloud platform for video and audio conferencing, chat, and webinars prides itself on having a close-knit and strong company culture that trickles down from senior leadership and their CEO Eric Yuan. Continuing to foster and develop an inclusive, supportive, and innovative culture are top of mind for Zoom, even in the midst of a global pandemic. For the communications technology company, Zoom, being voted a 2021 Best Place to Work (#22, 4.4 rating) was the confirmation they rightly deserve for creating employee and customer happiness, globally. 

Zoom has always had a strong company culture, because this has been at the core of who they are from the beginning. Our CEO, Eric Yuan, often talks about how he founded the company with a mind toward building a place he would want to work at in ten or twenty years,” says Lynne Oldham, Chief People Officer at Zoom. “He believes happy employees are key to innovation and customer happiness, so we have always worked to create a supportive work environment.”

Prioritizing empathy and their employees year-round, led Zoom to return to the Best Places awards’ list for a third year. We caught up with Oldham to dig deeper into Zoom’s company values, their investments in their employees and how they were able to navigate the perils of COVID-19. 

Zoom Employees Volunteering

Glassdoor: Congratulations on your win for being a Best Place to Work! What steps did your company take within the last year that may have led to this recognition?

Lynne Oldham: Zoom has always had a strong company culture, because this has been at the core of who we are from the beginning. Our CEO, Eric Yuan, often talks about how he founded the company with a mind toward building a place he would want to work at in ten or twenty years. He believes happy employees are key to innovation and customer happiness, so we have always worked to create a supportive work environment. The challenge of 2020 has been maintaining that culture of happiness during a shift to remote work as well as extreme growth. Right now, more than a third of our employees have joined during the past few months and have never set foot in a Zoom office or met a fellow employee in person. We’ve found ways to show employees that we care virtually, whether by providing employees with equipment to work from home or expanding our wellness benefits to help support things such as food delivery. We also look for ways to build connections virtually. We encourage all employees to meet with their video on, for example, as this helps get to know colleagues better than voice alone. Our all-volunteer Happy Crew, who work tirelessly to create virtual events and opportunities for our employees to come together, has recently re-configured themselves to ensure that the newest employees feel the love even though they have never been to an office. 

Glassdoor: What is your company doing to build and nurture the company culture? Have any strategies changed during the pandemic?

Lynne Oldham: Our culture can be summed up in two words: We care. We care for our customers, employees, company, community, and selves. Care is the value we look for when hiring new employees, because employees who care will go far for their customers and colleagues. Because all of our employees were familiar with our product, we were well-prepared for the shift to remote work, but it was still a transition as the majority of our employees previously worked in the office. Our hiring process is fully virtual now, and we have adjusted our onboarding process into a five-hour interactive experience designed to immerse our new employees in our culture. To support huge increases in demand, we have hired significant numbers of new employees. Since a third of our employees were hired in the last few months and have never been to a Zoom office, it’s very important that we find ways to touch our newest remote employees to make sure they feel part of Zoom. My team’s job is to hire at the pace we need to support our business needs, without compromising quality. We recently introduced structured interviewing, where interviewers at each stage will ask some level of experiential values questions to make sure we are finding those candidates who share our value of care. For current employees, our all-volunteer Happy Crew has kept us busy with virtual events and holiday celebrations for the whole family. We also encourage socialization through Zoom Rendezvous, our program which randomly groups employees in breakout rooms to allow people from different departments and geographies to meet on a less formal basis.

Glassdoor: How have you encouraged employee engagement and retention amid COVID-19?

Lynne Oldham: We have worked to make sure employees feel heard and supported during the pandemic. “Working from home” can look dramatically different from person to person depending on living situations. Some of our employees need to juggle parenting young children or helping children with virtual schooling, while others may be living alone in small spaces and struggling with feelings of isolation. This means flexibility in benefits is key so we can help support employees through their individual challenges. We expanded our wellness benefit, which was previously a monthly stipend for gym memberships, to cover items like grocery shopping, food delivery, and home office equipment. We introduced a mental health benefit through our provider, Lyra. We also regularly hold all-hands meetings where all employees have the opportunity to put anonymous questions for the executive team to answer.

Glassdoor: Many job seekers leverage the Best Places to Work award to help jumpstart their job search. What are some benefits and offerings that make Zoom worthy of top talent?

Lynne Oldham: Job seekers will find Zoom offers a fast-paced environment full of opportunities to innovate and grow. Our focus is on delivering happiness to our customers by reliably providing a best-of-breed video communications experience that just works, and we are constantly innovating to improve and build on that core video experience. We have an open culture without a lot of hierarchy which provides lots of opportunities for skill-building and experiences. Our employees tend to be very friendly and approachable. We also offer competitive benefits such as unlimited time off, an employee stock purchase plan, charitable gift matching, and competitive healthcare benefits. We recently added mental health and fertility benefits. We even have a book reimbursement program, which is a reflection of our commitment to continuous learning: we reimburse any books employees buy.

Glassdoor: Given COVID-19, what are you doing this year to prioritize your employees' health and well-being?

Lynne Oldham: At the beginning of 2020, before the pandemic started, we added a mental health benefit through Lyra. This became more important than we had imagined and proved a good source of support, allowing our employees to access virtual therapy and mental health resources. We also partnered with the American Heart Association for a series of talks to help with strategies for stress reduction and advice about nutrition. We also expanded our wellness benefit. Prior to the pandemic, each employee received a monthly allowance to use on a gym membership. Given the pandemic, we expanded this to include almost anything to support employees working from home––the purchase of home office equipment, home gym equipment, groceries, and even food delivery. We are also excited about the forthcoming release of the Thrive Global app to help employees set up micro-steps on their journey to mental well-being.  Thrive Global will be available on Zoom’s App Marketplace for companies to add for their employees so they can take space between meetings to breathe and unwind.

Glassdoor: Zoom has been such an instrumental force in so many lives during the pandemic. How has increased public visibility impacted what it's like to work at Zoom?

Lynne Oldham: 2020 has brought Zoom to a level of attention we never anticipated. We could not have imagined a world full of Zoom weddings, yoga classes, and theater productions. It is an honor to be able to help the world stay connected during these difficult times, and it is also a responsibility that our employees feel keenly. I am proud of our employees for stepping up to keep our service running, help our new customers, and work with users to innovate new ways to make our technology support their needs. We have a “Cool and Inspiring Stories” chat internally where we share stories of innovation and gratitude that help lift everyone’s mood. Whenever you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed, you can click in there and get a reminder of why we are doing this work.

Glassdoor: Why is 2021, the perfect time to join your company?

Lynne Oldham: In many ways, the pandemic has accelerated changes that were already in motion. There was already a shift toward allowing more remote work and rethinking the office, but the pandemic has pushed us several years into the future. We are eagerly anticipating the vaccines that will allow us to gather again in person and we look forward to seeing our colleagues, but we realize the office is never going to be the same. The world of work is changing forever, and Zoom is going to be there, both by enabling remote work and by innovating products to connect remote and in-office workers in a hybrid environment. Products like our Smart Gallery feature, which shows each person in a room in a Zoom square, will help bring the best of remote working into the office, while features like our virtual receptionist desk will help offices reopen safely. Zoom is more than just meetings: in 2021, we will continue to develop as a platform, working to support developers who want to build on our core tech stack. 2021 will be a very exciting year to join Zoom and gain a hand in building the world of the future.

Glassdoor: What do you do to engender a sense of belonging at your company?

Lynne Oldham: Belonging is very important to us here at Zoom. We work hard to make sure employees feel like part of the team from day one, through our redesigned virtual onboarding process, which uses breakout rooms to create interactive activities that allow new employees to get to know one another within their cohort.  When people join and then annually thereafter, our employees receive a credit to the Zoom store where they can get their Zoom swag to solidify that they are part of the team.  To encourage employees to recognize and reward one another’s efforts, we also get to nominate our fellow employees to receive a gift of their choice as a thank you for a job well done.  

For our philanthropic foundation called Zoom Cares, employees also get to choose the focus of our giving each year, and we additionally provide donation matching up to $250 per year.  We are so focused on employees driving these efforts, we just finished an equitable grant making training for 100 Zoomies who will participate on the Regional ZoomCares Boards.  

Glassdoor: How do you ensure there are pathways for career growth for your people?

Lynne Oldham: As we continue to grow our product set and in key verticals such as education, healthcare, and government, the roles and opportunities to add value keep expanding. We believe career growth is a matrix, not a ladder, and are committed to providing opportunities for horizontal growth as well as vertical development. Before this year, we used to regularly design “stretch assignments” for our employees to encourage them to take on challenges and grow their capabilities. Of course, 2020 has been one GIANT stretch assignment for all of our employees! Our employees are talented, committed people who like to learn and grow, and we believe it is important to nurture that potential.

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