| 5 min read |
What does it take to be a talent-centric organization, and why should your business aspire to be one? If you asked leadership at Cisco, one of the world’s best known brands in cybersecurity and networking, they most likely will credit its people for the company’s high-performing results. Talent is also responsible for the company’s transformation in recent years from an equipment-focused business to a leading solutions provider encompassing products and services.
So how does one of the world’s most revered technology brands keep up in an industry where brilliant minds innovate daily, and talent is the key differentiator among competitors? Kelly Jones, a global leader and senior talent acquisition director with Cisco, recently discussed her company’s talent strategy in an online webinar with Randstad Sourceright’s chief people officer, Cindy Keaveney.
just ask employees what they want
Examining the key market trends affecting employers everywhere, Jones revealed how Cisco’s approach enhances talent attraction, delivers a positive talent experience, and leverages talent analytics and insights to power decision-making. By listening to and meeting the rising expectations of workers, Jones explained, Cisco stands out as an employer of choice in the technology industry.
“The most powerful thing we do is listen to our people. And if you think about some of the big things we have done over the last few years, it has all come from our employees,” Jones said, pointing out how the company has increasingly amplified the voice of its workforce. She added, Cisco has reached a turning point in its adoption of an employee-led culture, and many of the talent team’s strategies have originated simply from conversations with its workers.
“We have within Cisco something we call the People Deal. And the People Deal is essentially what we expect of our employees, and what they can expect in return,” Jones explained. She said the concept, which drives the company’s talent strategy framework, stemmed from associates in Europe who requested a more open dialogue with leadership. By encouraging employees to speak frankly, the company better understands what their expectations are – big and small – and addresses them accordingly.
For example, one of the company’s business leaders solicited input from a staff member about how to further motivate Cisco’s workforce. One suggestion was to give employees their birthdays off, and so the idea quickly took root. The company has also implemented a policy of giving employees five paid days to perform volunteer work as a way of giving back to their communities. Jones said these small measures all add up to fulfilling the expectations workers have of Cisco and support employee engagement.
“There is no shortage of feedback around what they would like to see. The future is a little bit about that, and also about understanding the generational differences, and making sure we have a multi-generational approach that never gets lazy or that never gets arrogant around what it is we are doing,” she continued.
building a talent pipeline that’s always ready
Talent engagement at Cisco isn’t limited to employees, Jones noted. Because of its high demand for engineering, networking, cybersecurity and other roles, the company’s talent acquisition team knows it needs to maintain relationships with all job applicants, even those who aren’t hired. The reason, she explained, is that these passed-over candidates may be ideal for different positions later on, or they may find roles at Cisco reseller organizations. With this in mind, the company invests in building talent communities that constantly nurture these relationships.
“The long-term engagement is really critical, and our data tells us that sometimes, when we engage with a candidate for the first time and look at them for a role, they might not be hired for the first role; they might be hired for the second role,” she said. “They might come on to our vendor program, so we don’t adhere to the concept of disposable candidates. We think it’s critical to nurture those talent communities.”
It’s this continuous engagement that helps Cisco build a talent pipeline that is ready to meet planned and unanticipated business needs, Jones added. Because there is an ongoing dialogue with talent, when there is an opportunity, the candidates are already familiar with Cisco’s culture and are ready to apply.
engineering talent retention strategies with data science
Employee engagement strategies alone can’t help Cisco’s people to succeed. Jones said the company is investing in talent analytics processes and HR data tools to better understand how its workforce collaborates and networks with each other.
One initiative the company has embraced is called “human network analysis,” which examines how members of different teams interact with each other to accomplish their tasks. By mapping how a role touches others within and outside of its function, the company is able to document how employees can be more successful, Jones said.
“We’re mapping how the organization interacts and networks with each other to be able to come back and give that level of insights [to leadership],” she commented.
This is just one example of how the company uses an internal talent trends division to provide greater insights about talent utilization. Talent leaders have the insights they need to understand where employees go when they leave the organization, where new talent is coming from and many other important revelations.
Ultimately, this kind of discipline ensures Cisco has access to the skills it needs to innovate and stay ahead of its competition. It’s the reason the company is so well-known for its outstanding employer brand. In an industry where start-ups constantly rise to challenges established market leaders, meeting the rising expectations of talent is how Cisco maintains its lead in the race for talent.
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