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Gold Stevie Award Winner 2021, Click to Enter The 2022 StevieĀ® Awards for Great Employers

Name of Organization/Company: Upwork, San Francisco, CA USA
Category: Chief Human Resources Officer of the Year

Entry Title: Zoe Harte, Chief People Officer


Zoë Harte is the Chief People Officer at Upwork, a work marketplace that helps companies of all sizes connect with highly skilled independent talent. Since joining Upwork in the spring of 2014, Zoë has guided the growth of the company’s team by more than 75% and supported the overall success of the company by recruiting and retaining top talent.

Zoë not only provides Upwork’s 500+ corporate employees with the culture and tools they need to be successful, but her work also extends to the more than 1500 independent professionals from around the world that partner with Upwork throughout the year.

Her team includes HR business partnerships, learning and development, workplace management, recruitment, compliance and onboarding, talent innovation and HR operations.

Zoë was recently named to Silicon Valley Business Journal’s Women of Influence list and SIA's Global Power 150 Women in Staffing List.

Prior to joining Upwork, Zoë was Director of Global Initiatives and Senior HR Business Partner at Yahoo!, Director of HRBPs and Director of Recruitment at Rovi, and also led International Customer Care for Yahoo! Zoë holds an MA in Theology from University of Exeter and a BA in Religion and Women’s Studies from Earlham College.

When COVID-19 accelerated the shift to remote work, Zoë immediately recognized the monumental responsibility to help team members adapt, as well as to provide insights to businesses just beginning their remote journey. While Upwork has pioneered the remote work infrastructure for the past 20 years, Zoë has been a driving force in understanding the seismic shift in workforce dynamics and reimagining how we work. From embracing hybrid teams, democratizing economic opportunities, expanding social impact programs, to innovating resources for employees and customers, Zoë’s empathetic leadership has proven that a people-first philosophy creates tangible business value.

In 2020, Zoë oversaw the team that created the ‘Back to Better’ plan -- an initiative to help employees navigate through the challenges of COVID-19 and support the company’s permanent transition to a remote-first workforce model. The plan was developed based on the findings from employee surveys and focus groups, allowing Upworkers to voice what they needed to truly set them up for success. Through ‘Back to Better’, Upwork established the new hire ‘Ramp Up’ remote onboarding experience and has since seen positivity ratings increase from 84% to 91% on new hire surveys.

Zoë is passionate about achieving business success through people-driven initiatives and building programs that enable more just and equitable workplaces. She has helped establish a mission-driven culture at Upwork that includes a robust Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging program and in 2020, she and her team implemented a multipronged plan to tackle Black DIBs at the employee, line leader, and organizational levels.

As Upwork’s Chief of People, Zoë looks after all the people who work for the company and that includes their freelance workforce. Upwork has over 2,000 team members in 800 cities globally. Three-fourths of their workforce is made up of talent sourced through Upwork’s platform. Putting independent talent at the heart of their business has been the key to their success.

As an empathetic leader, Zoë has embraced her role as the ‘heart’ of HR but her unique programs paired with her influence across Upwork position her as the ‘head’ of HR as well. Zoë works by the mantra, "HR Goes First,” which means for every hard thing that company has to go through, Zoë will personally do it first, followed by her team. Zoë wants to ensure that she and her team have been through the changes first-hand, so they can thoughtfully help each employee as needed.

Zoë inspires her team to think beyond reactionary and administrative HR tasks, and focus more toward how they can provide a positive impact on the business, from a cost-savings perspective, to driving greater efficiency, to upleveling the organization, and beyond.

Zoë and her team played a critical role in the company’s aggressive execution during the pandemic to enable Upwork customers with a better way to work. As a result of the company’s efforts, Upwork’s fourth quarter revenue grew 32% year over year to reach $106 million. That is the company’s best year-over-year growth performance since going public.

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