Happiness in the Workplace: How Zoom Makes it Sustainable

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Happiness in the Workplace: How Zoom Makes it Sustainable

Welcome to another exciting episode of All About HR! This is the series for HR Professionals and business leaders who want to future-proof their organization and learn about the latest trends & insights from industry experts, CHROs, and thought leaders. 

How can you increase employee satisfaction in the hybrid work era? In this episode of All About HR season 2, we sit down with Jodi Rabinowitz — Head of Talent & O.D. @ Zoom — to talk about the importance of employee happiness in talent acquisition and retention.

Jodi is a passionate people champion whose mission is to drive employee development across a wide array of tech, corporate, and nonprofit organizations. 

In this episode, we’ll discuss: 

  • Getting the best out of people by championing authenticity at work 
  • How to develop your organization with happiness at its core 
  • HR’s role in preparing the organization for a hybrid re-entry 

Watch the full episode to discover how you can help your organization stay on top in the war for talent by building a culture that champions authenticity and happiness.


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Jodi Rabinowitz: One of the buzz things for HR these days is how you create culture. And so all of a sudden, you know, people are like, oh, like I have to create a culture. How do I create good culture? How do I keep good management? Well, if it was bad before, it’s harder to do it virtually because virtually, good management and amplifying culture have to be that much more deliberate.

Neelie Verlinden: Hi, everyone, and welcome to a brand new episode of All About HR. My name is Neelie. I’m your host, and on today’s episode, I speak with Jodi Rabinowitz. Jodi is the global head of talent and organizational development at Zoom. We had a fantastic conversation and we touched on talent, not just how to attract it, but also how to keep it. We also talked about authenticity and happiness. So without further ado, I would suggest you go and check out this episode straight away. But as always, before you do so if you haven’t done so yet, please subscribe to the channel, hit the notification bell, and like this video. Thank you and enjoy. Bye

Neelie Verlinden: Welcome to another episode of All About HR. 

Neelie Verlinden: First of all, hi there, Jodi and welcome to the show.

Jodi Rabinowitz: Thank you so much for having me. It’s such an honor.

Neelie Verlinden: I’m so happy that we could have you, actually. How are you? 

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Jodi Rabinowitz: I’m great. Everything’s great. Yeah, just sitting in my home office on my ball chair, making sure my posture is right. Ready for the interview.

Neelie Verlinden: I think I have an interesting one here, especially for our audience that’s been following us for a while already. Because I’ve obviously taken a look at your LinkedIn. And I’ve seen that you sometimes post some really beautiful poems. And for today’s episode, I would love to start with one of them if that’s okay with you. 

Jodi Rabinowitz: Sure. Yeah, yeah. 

Neelie Verlinden: Alright, so here’s the poem. I’ll read it. “Roses are red. COVID a scare. Time to surrender. Dyeing the hair. A welcome reminder of experience collected. Embracing what’s real, aging, acceptance. I support each grey, like a badge of honor. The joy, the pain, and mistakes, I ponder. Rocking the locks to tell my story. A celebrated life accumulated inventory. The big reveal before and after my authentic self. So delighted to capture.” Wow, okay, God, I think I’m just gonna go to you, of course now, and yeah, ask you: What made you post this poem? What many posts the poem I,

Jodi Rabinowitz: What made me post the poem? People tend to ask: what have you accomplished during the two years in lockdown? Obviously, one of them was letting the grey grow out of your hair. And while that seems sort of trite, there was a certain delight in the ability to kind of just embrace who I am. And what was so interesting about posting that (because really, it was just meant to be playful, although it does have a, to me, profound message) was how viral it went. And by the way, it didn’t really go viral, because I looked up what viral meant, and viral means 100,000. And it wasn’t 100,000. It was like 30 or 37,000. But what people shared it with people who shared it with people. And when I asked people: What was it about that poem that resonated with you? They use the word, you know, courage or authenticity. And one of the things that Zoom has taught me, and is so special, is that Zoom has been a home for me that has enabled me to embrace every single part of me. And when you’re in a work setting, that enables you to bring your authentic self to work, which, again, is a very sort of HR thing, but is true, you do your best work, right. And we hear this a lot in the spirit of, you know, diversity and inclusion that if you feel like you’re in a place where you’re accepted, and you can be open about who you are personally, you know, you get the best out of people. And that’s one of the things I love so much about Zoom. I have been in work settings where people say: We love you, God, you’re so honest, and you’re so caring, and you’re so straightforward, but you don’t belong here, or I’d write an email, and my boss would correct the email because the language was too informal. Again, another message of: You don’t belong here. And when people interview for jobs, they think they’re doing great in the interview. And then they don’t get the job and it was like: wait a minute, as I did so well in the interview! What it means is, the people who were doing this selection somehow understand how you may or may not fit, like what makes that culture buzz, and it has nothing to do with your competence. It just has to do with your style, or your approach or your informality, or your level of energy that the culture may be is super buttoned up. And so they’re really de-selecting you and, and they’re sparing you the messages of had you been there. You know, someone’s like: we love you, but you don’t belong. And so it’s a long way of saying that it’s important to be in a workplace or work setting like Zoom that is accepting, embracing, because it just makes you want to do more, give more, and support your people more. So I rock my authentic self. I love every grey hair. And some of the grey hair does represent the pain of being in places where say you don’t belong. So thank you for acknowledging the poem.

Neelie Verlinden: Yeah, I mean, I really loved it. Because I’m not sure that I came across something like that on LinkedIn before. So to our audience, I would definitely encourage you to take a look. But yeah, I think it’s a really beautiful talent that you have. And to your point of the importance of being able to be authentic at work. I had a discussion about that with someone last year. And he said: I thought it was very interesting, so many people put so much effort and energy in not showing certain parts of themselves when they were in the workplace. And he said that because of everything that happened over the past two years, you know, that already put so much extra stress on so many of us, that just becomes unsustainable because you cannot just keep hiding certain parts of your personality when there’s so much going on already in the outside world. If you actually can be authentic at work, that I mean, this is obvious. But like it will also mean that your work and therefore the company will benefit so much of it because you do not waste any energy on not being authentic. If that makes sense. 

Jodi Rabinowitz: If you think about Zoomies, and what Zoomies have gone through over the past two years, even though only 15% of Zoom’s workforce was remote prior to COVID. And even though we are very fluid in using our tool, that week in March, we went home and locked down. And many Zoomies had kids, they were homeschooling or close family or friends that were out of work as a result of the pandemic or sick or died as a result of the pandemic. And so they were sort of victims of the pandemic like everybody else. And yet they still serviced our customers and did so with a hyper-vigilance around care and privilege. In some ways, Zoom felt mission-driven, because we were able to keep people employed. We were in the war room right with the World Health Organization. And while this was going on, Zoomies were also feeling the pain of it, right. We weren’t shielded from it. And, again, because they were so committed to taking care of our customers, people’s feelings needed to be acknowledged. And when we talk about authenticity, one of the things that my group did was in order to care for our Zoomies – because care is very much a part of our values – we took time out and brought teams together and brought them through a structured intervention around: How are you doing? What are you learning? How are you caring for yourselves? What are you learning about your leader? What are some of the silver linings around this experience? And the reason why I’m talking about this is that there was no hiding during the pandemic. If you were not bringing your authentic self to work before, well, you were now because your husband and your kid were in the background. So you mentioned people not being as authentic as they possibly could be at work. Well, now, people were home, and there was no hiding their authentic self because not only were kids or spouses in the background, they got a sense of maybe some physical space in which they live. And people were tired and they were emotional, and they were stressed and they were also prideful. I mean, so there weren’t only the sort of the harder emotions, but they were also prideful and grateful for Zoom and proud that they could be part of literally keeping the world connected. So feelings were like: You couldn’t hide feelings. There they were. People brought their authentic selves to work. And as part of the work we did within tech teams in helping them during this crisis by bringing them through this structured intervention, having them talk about their feelings and what they were learning and some of the insights and the silver linings and things that they wanted to take forward after the pandemic, that brought real intimacy and real connection amongst the team members among zoomies. So what’s going to be interesting is, there’s been a level of, again, sort of opening the kimono these past two years and understanding much more about people’s personal lives. What will it be like, as you know, we make the transition to hybrid work, right? So does this forum create a level of intimacy that perhaps may not happen if you were face to face with somebody? So I’m curious to see what the hybrid situation is going to be like, but undoubtedly, people, they were just as authentic as you get, because, you know, we’re, again, all sort of managing this crisis together. And people produced incredible amounts and incredible quality of work to serve our customers. So I hope that that is one of the things from the pandemic that continues – that we are curious about who’s in the background, and we do stop and say, How are you doing? And, you know, you look kind of drained today, or, wow, you’re in such a good mood. And we continue to ask and care about sort of the whole person.

Neelie Verlinden:  Yeah, totally. I couldn’t agree more. I’m curious to see but I’m quite optimistic. I’m quite optimistic. And I hope that that’s something that we’ll be able to keep going forward. Now, we were talking about the pandemic, and a number of organizations that we spoke to here at the Academy to Innovate HR, during the pandemic, they dealt with a bit of a survival kind of situation where they had to keep their people employed. And then Zoom was in a very different situation because you experience massive growth, and you became a household name even more across the world. So yes, God. So starting with, in your opinion, why does talent choose Zoom? And what are you doing that is different from your competitors?

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Jodi Rabinowitz: Why Zoom? For me, that’s easy. We have such an inviting, embracing culture. As I mentioned earlier, care is at the center of what we do, we truly live and breathe our values. Our onboarding experience is all about feeling integrated – and not focused on benefits – and all of those things that are important, which do have a place. But it’s a place that’s secondary to the welcoming experience and the culture dip. We use our tool to immediately get people into breakout rooms and get to know each other and learn about our product. You know, we put them in a fake elevator and have to come up with an elevator pitch. And so really, from day one, we help people embrace and live and understand what makes our culture so unique. And these days at the moment with a very, very strong job market, a differentiator will be culture, no doubt. So I think one of the big standouts for Zoom on Glassdoor would be that people are excited to be here. They’re grateful to be here. We have a CEO that takes care of people. And as I said, it’s at the center of what we do. And so not to mention our really fun product and so easy to use. And we use it to build engagement with fun things, with our backgrounds and things like that. I’ve made several job offers literally by the background saying you’re hired. And so we, you know, I think we live our values and that’s one of the differentiators for us.

Neelie Verlinden: Yeah, totally, totally. I think that’s a really, really strong one, to be honest, because people know when a company is actually living its values, I think. And I also think that especially in these times where we see this really strong movement towards people looking for a purpose in the work that they do as well. And they’re looking for values that resonate with themselves. So yeah, I think we’ve talked about this on the podcast before as well, I think that yeah, they can sense it if something’s genuine or not, and if it resonates with them, and I think that is a very important factor for people to choose to work for a company or not. So yeah.

Jodi Rabinowitz: I often get asked, or one of the buzz things for HR these days is how do you create culture, and this is my totally uncensored Jodi view. If your culture was bad pre-COVID, it’s probably even worse in a virtual environment. So, if your culture was good and positive, and you felt it, that carries over to a virtual environment. And so all of a sudden, you know, people were like: Oh, like, I have to create a culture, how do I create good culture? How do I keep good management? Well, if it was bad before, it’s harder to do it virtually, because virtually good management and amplifying culture have to be that much more deliberate. Right? So the things that you got, the niceties that you got in the pantry, you know, don’t occur unless you make them occur in a virtual environment. The panic around the pandemic, how do I create a good culture? You’re kind of behind the eight ball if you didn’t have it before. So we’re really lucky that we had such a positive culture, and it is carried forward by our sort of original culture carriers. You know, 

two-thirds of our Zoomies have never stepped foot in the office. So the 1/3 that, I would say, I call them the culture carriers, because they sort of gave birth to it, they lived it and breathe it in an office. They are very strong and are working to carry it forward to Zoomies who have never touched it, felt it, or smelled it. 

Neelie Verlinden: Now, that was, let’s say, the start of the journey that people get when they join Zoom. But we hear a lot of speak about the great resignation, of people who are leaving. And so in a way, it’s all it’s almost logical, I think, now that it’s not just important to think about what we do about candidates. But I mean, what are we actually doing for the people that are already in the organization? So is there anything that you are doing or let’s say, is there anything that you think is very exciting that you’re doing in the employee experience space that is really helping you keep people engaged?

Jodi Rabinowitz: So first, we just talk about what it means because maybe your audience has a very different view than mine. Look, undoubtedly, during the pandemic, people had to sort of stop and take stock of their lives and their values and all those things. It was a time to be reflective and go deep, because you had no choice, right? And so with those reflections came some eye-opening thoughts like: I really don’t want to be in a city, I want to be out in the country. And so I’m going to move if work is remote. Or maybe I really want to get divorced from my husband, who I’ve been thinking about getting divorced from for all this time. But just people had sort of deep revelations. To me, the great resignation means like, you sort of picked your head up, and you’ve had this time to assess. And if you are privileged enough to have choices, great. But also, the great resignation is not for everybody, there are people that have to work, whether they like their workplace or not there, you know, I mean, we’re talking about a certain population that has the ability to say: I’m going to go move to a potato farm. And you know, that’s good, because I have enough money to do so. But what it is, it’s another reminder of what it means to take care of your people. We are always actively engaging our people in not only growth opportunities by helping managers give people stretch assignments and understanding what their career ambitions are. We just instituted a push message every quarter with some prompts around having career conversations because people are so busy, so we send it to the employee. We sent the manager just a couple of interesting sort of provocative questions that they can use to have a dialogue. And we know it works because we did it with onboarding. So we send the same prompts 30, 60, 90 days: How’s it going? So it’s not about like your work performance, it’s just about connecting. And again, building that sense of community, we’re just always actively engaging people. Also in the fun, so we have something called Zoom Rendezvous, which is run by our Happy crew, which is a group of volunteers whose sole job is to create fun and build culture. And so once a quarter, you just show up with a bunch of random people, and for 20 minutes to do a round-robin. So those are some of the fun things that we’re doing. And then in terms of development, again, I gave you an example of career chats, we have fireside chats with CEOs, we have all kinds of workshops around wellness, and the things that we teach, and from a development perspective, are authentic. So, you know, in a manager training, we talk about, say, what are you doing if somebody’s crying, because that’s real life, and that happens. So I feel like even our development programs are a little bit edgier to try to help people with real-life situations. So we are constantly thinking about how do we keep Zoomies growing, engaged, involved, excited, and I don’t want to say doubling down because that means that all of a sudden, the lights went on and we said we had to care? I would say actually, we’re just business as usual. Because we cared before the pandemic. 

Neelie Verlinden:  Yeah, what I really felt when you were talking about that Jodi was that I really got the sense of connection from all of that, to be honest. That seems to be good. But I’m gonna take from that. And I think that’s really important. And it comes back to what we talked about a little bit earlier as well. I think that’s a beautiful one. I’m also glad that you already mentioned organizational development a little bit, because I believe that over the past year, Zoom has developed organizational development courses, such as Beginning Happy, Leading  Happy, and Sustaining Happy. Now that triggered my interest. Maybe first, we can start by why the focus on happiness? So why is this? How is this different from more traditional employee engagement, for instance?

Jodi Rabinowitz: I think it actually goes back to the beginning of our conversation, which is, if you can bring who you are, and every inch of you to work, and you feel good about who you are, and you are embraced, you’re going to do better work, which ultimately reaches our customer. Simple as that, you know, individual happiness. I bring my individual self to work and I’m connecting with you. And you know, you and I are working together to make good stuff happen that will ultimately meet the customer. 

Neelie Verlinden: Something I was wondering about, Jodi, is how have you made everyone in the organization enthusiastic about this concept of happiness? Because I can imagine that perhaps, you know, not everybody was immediately feeling this one. But I might be totally wrong here. So I’m kind of curious to hear your thoughts on that.

Jodi Rabinowitz: So I’m going to answer two ways. One is, as part of the interviewing process, we interview for values, right? So we’re automatically screening out the people that don’t care about, you know, our community, ourselves, our customers. So that’s that. I mean, that’s a disqualifier. But the other is, you know, Eric’s story, his origin story is that in his previous workplace, there were things that the customer wanted, and the organization wasn’t responsive, so the customers weren’t happy, and he couldn’t have gotten the company to align with the customer needs. And so he built Zoom, and the customer’s needs always come first. And so, again, the idea is, if you’re making customers happy, then you’re going to be happy. And like, it just sort of feeds on itself. So we always put customers first. And it just worked. So it means that Zoomies are a little bit creative and deliberate. And if they recognize that a customer isn’t getting what they want, they, you know, everybody just aligns behind to try to deliver to the customer, as long as the request is reasonable. And it’s part of our DNA. So happiness is, it sounds trite, but it’s actually true. And then, just from a development perspective, it’s important to talk about when there isn’t happiness, you know, where is the conflict and how do you address it? And is there a different solution? And how do you acknowledge it? That’s also an important part of happiness, which is to address unhappiness, right?

Neelie Verlinden: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think that without doing that, then you’re going to have an issue. At some point, you need to address whenever there was unhappiness, and that’s actually then leading to something else I wanted to ask you about Jodi, and it’s the Sustaining Happy. What does that mean? You touched on it a little bit, but what does that mean for Zoom?

Jodi Rabinowitz: Sustaining Happy, you know, in terms of our development initiatives means that every month we introduce a new topic for managers that is relevant. So a 40-minute interactive session to introduce a topic. So for our hybrid reentry, which we’re preparing our workforce for a hybrid reentry, every quarter, we will have a module around hybrid work, because it’s going to be an ever-evolving experience. And so, as we learn what managers and employees need, we will introduce those Sustaining Happy modules. And that’s what it means – just always keeping new content, new training relevant. So people are prepared and developing actively.

Neelie Verlinden: Yeah. Love it again. Now, let’s go because this is a beautiful segue to the next one as well, Jodi, because you mentioned hybrid work there. And you mentioned it a few times throughout our conversation already. Some of the criticism sometimes when we talk about hybrid work, is that it has a tendency, or it can have a tendency, to exclude the people without access or those who are not in the room? What are your thoughts on that? 

Jodi Rabinowitz: I think that mindset is pre-Zoom. And what I mean by that is, in the olden days, we would watch people in a conference room, right, with that Star Trek thing in the middle, and you’d have that warm hybrid person out in the back, everyone’s laughing and yakking. And they’re like: Oh, by the way, maybe we should ask that person, maybe, or maybe not. They ignore that person the whole time. A couple of things. One is our smart gallery, our technology will change that because even though you’ll be sitting in a room, you will also have, you know, the boxes in front of you, which will create more equity so that, you know, so everybody’s included. And this is new territory for everybody. And just like I said, about building culture, you have to be deliberate. And we need to be more mindful of creating inclusion, more thoughtful about saying, hey, so and so, what do you think. And I do think the technology will aid that because everybody will be present. But you know, those are the best practices around inviting all voices, whether you’re in a room or not need to, again, be amplified. So it’ll be interesting to see how we are preparing our managers and our employees about having ongoing conversations about what your needs are. And, you know, saying like, do you feel like you’re part of the group if you’re remote and the rest of the group isn’t? How do we be thoughtful about when we do plan a lunch that we give you enough time to get babysitting, or whatever you need so that you can be part of it live? Those actions are going to need to be more thoughtful and more planful. And that’s what we are teaching our managers and employees around. So we’ll see how it goes. It’ll be interesting.

Neelie Verlinden: I’m actually very excited to see where this will go and how companies will go about it and the best practices that are going to be created from this. Yeah, then I mean, maybe you can share something about this as well, because and you know, our podcast is called All About HR. So as HR, do you have any ideas, apart from what you just mentioned, on how can I prepare my organization for these kinds of transitions?

Jodi Rabinowitz: There’re two things that I think we are doing. One is mindfulness – the hyper-awareness of it. The circumstances of the person, you know, across from you. As you’ve seen from our blogs, we’re asking employees to declare if they’re hybrid or not coming into the office at all, that’s never your intention. And so that creates clarity. And that’s huge. So with that clarity, there’re parameters, and the contract is clear. So one of the things that we’re teaching managers to do is contract and understand completely the mindset of your employee, and in the same vein, continue to ask because things might shift. So you may have somebody who initially wants to be in the office three days, and then decides to come in once. And so that ongoing conversation and that ongoing contracting is one thing that we are focusing on for our managers and our employees. And the other, again, is the acute sensitivity around inclusion, being thoughtful and deliberate about some of the micro behaviors and some of your own biases around in office, out of office, and checking in. So if you love being in the office, and you can’t wait to get back to the office, and you’ve only experienced being in the office, and you have a new employee who’s never been in the office, like, do you have some unconscious feelings about that new person saying they don’t want to be in? Well, let’s pay attention to it and make sure that that bias isn’t somehow playing out. And so those are the things that Zoom is doing to prepare the workforce. So it’s the mindfulness, your awareness of how I’m interacting, and also the clear contracting and conversation around what’s working, what’s not working, do you want to change so that there isn’t this sort of ongoing ambiguity like the rules are shifting in flight? That’s how we’re approaching it.

Neelie Verlinden: Yeah, I think that’s a really good approach. Thank you so much for sharing that. Now, on to one of my favorite parts of each episode Jodi. And this is the part where I get to ask you, first of all, about the biggest cliche that you believe exists about HR, let’s start with that one.

Jodi Rabinowitz: And I think the biggest cliche about HR is, I’m in HR because I like people. 

Neelie Verlinden: Yeah. 

Jodi Rabinowitz: Have you heard that one before? 

Neelie Verlinden: I have, yes. 

Jodi Rabinowitz: We do like people, I love people. Sometimes people are annoying because they just are, but most of the time, we embrace people for every inch of them, even the annoying parts. But we also love the business. And we also are energized by the business and intrigued by the business. And so that’s one of the HR cliches that came to mind.

Neelie Verlinden: Yeah, no, it makes total sense. Now and the other thing I am really curious about as well is I always ask my guests if they would like to share an epic win, and an epic fail with our audience. And they can be anything. So we have had some personal ones. We’ve had some business-related ones, anything that you feel like sharing. 

Jodi Rabinowitz: I’ll start with the failure because I didn’t get my size in on time for Zoom’s tenure t-shirt, so I missed out on size small for the 10-year t-shirt. I’m so bummed because my whole wardrobe is Zoom. One of the benefits Zoomies get is a very generous stipend to the Zoom store. And so I don’t own anything but Zoom wear, but I missed out on the small size for the 10 year anniversary. And now they only have extra-large. So that’s my epic fail for the moment and my epic win. I have never in my whole career worked with a team like the team that I have at Zoom. I literally went into the sea of LinkedIn recruiting and fished out this incredible team. I have somebody with a master’s in neuroscience, somebody who is finishing their master’s in behavioral science. I have a master’s in ODand teaching and they’re so interesting and so different and they are all smarter than me. I’m much older than them but they’re still smarter than me. So it’s like Yoda versus like brains. But I would say that is my biggest professional win, aside from scoring a job at Zoom.

Neelie Verlinden: Nice one, I could feel it as well and I always love it when people say that the people that are in their team are smarter because you know, I’ve read or I heard several times that that is actually a sign of someone as being a really good manager. So that was beautiful that you said that. Thank you so much for that. And thank you so much, Jodi as well for this conversation because we’ve come to the end of this episode. Yeah, I hope that you enjoyed it.

Jodi Rabinowitz: I did, and I loved your questions. Thank you for having such creative questions.

Neelie Verlinden: You’re very welcome. And thank you everyone for tuning in. Again. I hope you enjoy this conversation just as much as I did. If you haven’t done so yet, please do not forget to subscribe to our channel, hit the notification bell, and like this video. Thank you so much, and see you soon for a new episode of All About HR. Bye!

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