I get to help businesses thrive through a people lens.
As a part of my HR Strategy Series, I’m talking with top experts in the field to teach prospects what hiring managers are actually looking for, while also supporting business leaders in their hiring and retention strategies. Today I had the pleasure of talking with Lynne Oldham.
Global Chief People Officer at Zoom, Lynne Oldham is a successful Business Leader with 20 years of progressive experience in strategic HR leadership and key talent acquisition in various industries, driving profitable growth strategies for startups, private and public companies, and international organizations.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I am the first in my family to attend college and, when I began to think about going to a university, my mother thought a nursing degree would be perfect for a woman because of the ease of returning to the workforce after having a family.
So I embarked on a nursing degree and about 3.5 semesters in, when I started getting and giving shots to each other and patients in the VA hospital, I thought, “What I am doing here?” I changed my major (and my university) to Business Administration/Finance.
I had to foot my own bill in school so I worked full time during the day in the local hospital transcribing operating room notes while I attended university full time at night. This brought me to my first job post-graduation — I applied for and got hired to a Benefits Administrator role. They liked my knowledge of medical lingo and my finance degree — and my career in HR was born. And, but for a small dalliance in law after I graduated law school, I have been in it ever since. I love it because I get to help businesses thrive through a people lens.
Can you share the most interesting or funny story that happened to you since you started this career and what lesson you learned from that?
I spent the first half of my career working in various areas within HR — Benefits, Compensation, Mobility, HR systems and operations. I ran all of the above for the U.S. for BNP Paribas, the largest bank in France.
My boss let me know I might have the opportunity to succeed him as HR leader for the Americas, but without time in Paris that might not happen. He asked me if I would take a short-term HR assignment in Paris and gave me just one weekend to think about it. I said yes without hesitation, without even knowing the full scope of the role, and within months my husband and I were living in Paris.
Upon arrival, I learned that I was going to create the global talent identification and development program for the investment bank. And I had no headcount and no budget AND I had no experience doing anything in talent development. But I loved every minute of the work — and then returned to the US to lead HR and implement my new program for our US population.
Are you working on any exciting new projects at your company? How is this helping people?
I joined Zoom pre-IPO in January 2019. Zoom has since become an essential service connecting the world through video.
We have quite a few projects ongoing but one that is critical to our employees’ well-being is the introduction of Thrive Global. Earlier this year, we introduced this wellness app to our employees. And our leaders rolled it out by expressing their own ways of coping during the pandemic. Our employees are loving it because with the app, they get to set micro-steps of wellness.
Fantastic. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our series. Hiring can be very time-consuming and difficult. Can you share 5 techniques that you use to identify the talent that would be best suited for the job you want to fill?
- We have to ensure we attract new talent that is additive to our culture. In order to do that we need to be clear in our messaging about who we are and want to be at Zoom. Our branding and social media efforts are quite critical to this step.
- Despite mountains of applicants, we are keen to also source candidates. It is critical that our sourcers and recruiters attract the best candidates and move quickly through the process. We know that candidates who are in play typically have several offers they are choosing from. Speed is essential.
- Technical assessment tools early in the process help us make quicker calls.
- Our structured interview process is key to ensuring equity in the hiring process.
- We are deploying a program for anyone who is or will be a hiring manager so that we are all on the same page as we go out to market and assess new talent for Zoom.
With so much noise and competition out there, what are the top 3 ways to attract and engage the best talent in an industry when they haven’t already reached out to you?
One of the ways we attract the best talent is that we involve our employees in helping us to recruit. Our employees know who not only fits but also who will be additive to our culture — so we offer a referral bonus program as a thank you for their efforts.
A second way we attract great talent is through our campus recruiting program. We have partnered with some excellent universities including an in-depth partnership with Claflin University, an HBCU, in South Carolina. These programs help us access dynamic talent who show immense enthusiasm in their work.
Finally, our talent engagement team is active on social media to build a reputation and a strong connection through social media and search for potential candidates and encourage them to apply to the company.
What are the 3 most effective strategies used to retain employees?
There are a couple of things about Zoom that employees stay for. First is the culture. We have one value: We Care. We care about the community, our customers, the company, our teammates and ourselves. Care is palpable within the organization and its people.
Another thing people stay for are the development opportunities. In addition to formal programs, our growth has afforded us the ability to give a lot of stretch assignments for our employees and teams.
Finally, I would cite our open channels of communications — employee surveys provide us chances to listen to our employees but we also have All Hands meetings every two weeks where our employees can ask anything on their minds.
Wonderful. In your experience, is it important for HR to keep up with the latest trends?
Critical. And it may be easier in tech to tap into the innovation happening around us. An example would be a group that I am involved with that gets a first look at all the HR tech startups.
An example of new software we are looking at is BrightHire which works in conjunction with Zoom. Basically, the interview is done over Zoom and BrightHire software sits alongside, displaying questions, recording the session and creating metrics regarding how well hiring managers are doing for training purposes.
Can you give an example of a creative way to increase the value provided to employees without breaking the bank?
We think creativity will lie in flexibility. For example, at the start of the pandemic, we offered a monthly gym benefit, a stipend. With the pandemic and gyms closing, we re-purposed the money to cover necessary things like emergency child care, home office equipment, and food and grocery delivery.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
This one is particularly relevant for me because I turned down employment at Zoom when first offered. The job required me to pick up and move to a new state, in a new industry with a new company when I was at a company where I was comfortable.
Am I glad I changed my mind? Absolutely. Zoom is an incredible company and there is much to do as we mature and grow.
Great quote! Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have a private lunch with, and why?
I would love to have lunch with Arianna Huffington. I had the occasion to connect with her briefly when implementing the Thrive app at Zoom. She was such a gracious lady and she actually had done homework about me. How disarming and wonderful! I love what she has done with both HuffPost and now Thrive Global. She is an impressive woman — very driven, but down to earth.
Thank you so much for taking the time to share your valuable insights with us!