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Radical Flexibility is Key with New Hybrid Workforce

Gary Sorrentino

Gary Sorrentino

Global Deputy CIO at Zoom

Gary Sorrentino, Zoom

Today’s workforce is no longer a one-size-fits-all model, and the tools and technologies provided to employees need to accommodate remote workers as well as those who choose a hybrid or in-person model.

Quartz Network Executive Correspondent Britt Erler sat down with Gary Sorrentino, Global Deputy CIO of Zoom to discuss how to accommodate a changing workforce and still deliver the tools they need to succeed.

Gary shares ways to:

  • Accommodate the diverse needs of remote, hybrid and in-office workforces
  • Adjust technology offerings based on the varying needs of your workforce
  • Collaborate by video in creative ways that rival traditional in-person meetings

Quartz Network: Can you share some background on yourself and your current role at Zoom?

Gary Sorrentino: I’ve been in technology about 42 years. I’ve worked for mostly in the banks. The last 25 years I worked with four of the largest banks in the world. About 18 months ago, I started with Zoom as their Global Deputy CIO.

Quartz Network: Since the pandemic began, employees began using many new products and services to work remotely. Do you believe this style of working will change as we move forward?

Gary Sorrentino: There’s going to be certain jobs where you have to go back to work. You can’t build that car in your driveway. Then there are different places where we’ll see a lot of people actually staying home. Those that have been very productive and effective are staying home, and then there’s that middle group.

Today, we kind of know what to do with the people that go back to work, because we’ve lived that life our whole careers. For people that work from home, we’ll figure out what to do with them. It may just continue with where we are.

I think the middle hybrid part is really the part that we’re going to see an issue with. That that is going to be the biggest group—the most predominant group—and those are the people who are going to embrace that work from anywhere model.

I also think that in styles, we’re going to see a group that we can call alienated. At the beginning, they’re going to be a little disconnected. They’re not going to be working with everybody at an office. They probably looked for companies that work the way they want.

The next group is what we can call detached. They’re separate from the company. They’re engaging. They’re living the new work style. They still have some decisions to make in their career.

Then the next are those who are connected. They’re connected. They’re working. They’re effective. The plugged-in people are going to be the best group going forward. They figured out the company. They figured out how to work. They’re effective, they’re collaborative and they’re going to stay with the company.

I think we’re going to see those different levels. Not everybody has decided what level they’re on right now or what style. I think that’s going to be the big decision.

I’m a boomer. In theory, they think I want to go back to work, but over a long time. I’ve been thinking like a millennial. I’ve been thinking differently, so we can’t automatically make assumptions. I think we’re going to see new styles and new types of employees and workers very soon.

Quartz Network: With these different tiers of workers, how should CIOs and other IT professionals look at the road ahead?

Gary Sorrentino: Gone are the days of a one size fits all technology decisions from the type of desktop to the type of software. I think CIOs are going to have to understand that this new hybrid workforce requires radical flexibility.

Second thing is, they’ve been running a lot different. For instance, at Zoom, maybe I get a 27-inch monitor, but I’m home so I bought two 36-inch curves. I’m learning to work in a much different way.

When I go back, CIOs and tech groups are going to have to learn how to support the way I want to work, especially if I decide to go back to work in the office. Now, I’m using technology, and I’m using hardware and software differently. People have different kinds of lighting. They’ve made themselves comfortable at home.

The technology is a commodity. I think CIOs and tech groups need to go back with a different attitude and way of thinking. You’re going to see more of your users wanting to work from home because they work better and are more productive.

Quartz Network: You mention the concept of concept building forward with confidence. Can you explain that?

Gary Sorrentino: We’ve heard of working from work, living at work, evolving at work, the future of work, the new next normal, the great reset. I can’t even remember all the names. So we sat back and figured out a go forward message. The go forward messages is “Let’s build forward with confidence.”

Then we said, “What are the three guideposts in there?” One is talent. Happy people can stay connected and collaborative from anywhere now.

The second thing is, we learned we needed to transform. That’s our second guidepost. People consume products and services so much different than before. I was just reading this morning an article online, one of the fast foods restaurants is facetiming their users in their cars in the parking lots to take the order and then having a runner bring it out. They’re transforming their services, because the drive-thru was overcrowded. Companies today have to figure out, how do I transform the services and how do I transform the products? People want to buy online, but they want to see it too.

The last part is trust. Organizations have to take a thoughtful approach. They must start thinking about trusting their employees. Let’s stop managing hours and let’s start managing productivity. Let’s start figuring out results, but we also must take a safety and security approach.

People want to come back to work safe, but they don’t want to be the person to manage their own safety. In other words, if we have a rule that only four people can be in this conference room, and the CEO comes in and sits down, who tells him to leave?

They want to make sure that their safety is guaranteed by the company. We had another group that we identified, and they said, “I don’t want to use the phone. How do I know who’s used that phone before I came to work today?”

Imagine this, in our old office, if someone said, “Hey, there’s a call on line seven,” you pick up anybody’s phone and start talking. Now they want the phone shrink wrapped. They want a little sticker on them that they’ve been sanitized. Companies have to figure out how to make that employee safe at work. How do I make them feel safe at work going forward?

Those are our three guideposts. It’s all about talent, it’s all about transformation, and it’s all about trust. We know that the new workforce wants radical flexibility, and we know that most management and leaderships is all about everybody coming to one big office building and working together. It’s gonna be great to see how they meet.

Quartz Network: How do you see video playing a part in the new hybrid workforce?

Gary Sorrentino: Video is the new voice. I actually have Zoom phone, but I use Zoom video almost all day long. I’m on some sort of Zoom video call, even if just a quick call to catch up or a scheduled meeting. We were moving towards a more gig worker, a more work from anywhere model. The pandemic just kickstarted what was already in place.

I’ve worked in global businesses. In theory, I get on the phone or I get on a call. My staff is not local to me, so whether they’re home or in another country, didn’t really matter. I think the pandemic sort of took this movement in a very quick amount of time and moved it completely forward.

Companies like Zoom—the last year has probably been the most rewarding part of my career, helping companies and helping people. Think about this, we have kept employees collaborating and effective. We have kept companies servicing their clients in a new way.

We also kept friends and family connected—all on the same product. Video products will keep people connected going forward. I think we just have to figure out when the new employee goes back to work, are you going to work at your desk on a dedicated video and a Zoom call or you’re going to go to conference rooms?

Now we have to figure out, well, wait a second, where do you get the better experience? If I go to a conference room, and there’s me and you in a conference room, and there are five people on a Zoom call working from home, we have to make sure that we have a positive, collaborative, productive experience with them and they have a positive, collaborative experience with us. That means we both have to be on meeting chat. The greatest thing about Zoom is everybody stays the same size. You kind of get used to that because how many times would you walk into a conference room, you look at the attendees, and you decide if you take the end of the table seat or not? You don’t do that on a Zoom call. Everything has changed. I think video is going to play a key role. It is going to be the way people communicate going forward.

Zoom is coming out with so many great things. Our Zoom rooms are going to actually be able to split up. For example, if you and I are in an office, and there’s five people at home, they’re going to see us in two boxes, like we’re not in the same room.

Are you really going to want to pick up that marker and go to that whiteboard or are you going to want to pick up your iPhone and say, “Hey, wait a second, I can control the room, the text, and the whiteboard on a device that I brought in.”

I think the last thing we’re going to do is have fun with things like smart gallery. Why can’t we take it and show a boardroom table with all the little thumbnails around it? Why can’t we show a teacher a classroom, and there’s rows of students. She can put the students all in a row, rather than have them moving around on a normal video. I really think that video collaboration is going to be a key factor in keeping us productive and effective when we get to this next stage.

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