How Cisco Is Getting to Know Each of Its 70,000 Employees

Boston’s Fenway Park seats an average of 37,000 people. Sell Fenway Park out twice and that’s roughly the number of employees at Cisco Systems. Imagine, looking around two packed ball parks and knowing the skills, strengths and passions of every individual in those seats. Try to understand the immense benefit – the outcomes – of that transparency. There is someone in that crowd who can handle any project or any job, if you utilize their talents in an agile way. At Cisco, we are trying to do just that – harness the power of every member of the talent ecosystem to realize greater revenue, productivity and engagement.

To achieve this at scale, we had to disrupt – and reimagine – our approach to talent management. Doing so meant that we had to face some realities of being a 30-year-old technology company: our employee demographics evolved, but our processes haven’t. And our employees made it clear that they wanted the ability to take the on-demand experience they have in their personal lives and bring it into their work environment. Employees want a choice in when and how they work, how they are rewarded and where they work. This created a vision for us of what the future of work could be at Cisco. We had to give our employees the same flexibility and decision-making that they have in their personal lives within Cisco.

Cisco’s talent cloud

Cisco’s talent transformation was driven by two objectives: give employees the tools and insights to create their own work experiences, and create transparency into our employee’s skills and experience so our leaders can do agile talent planning and our employees can take the initiative they need with their careers. The question was how to accomplish this in an organization of Cisco’s size?

The solution came in the form of the Talent Cloud, an agile talent ecosystem that enables employees and leaders to match skills and strengths to work by leveraging data and reputation. For us, the Talent Cloud delivers on two key promises in our People Strategy – “one size fits one” and “one company, many careers.” Both allow our employees to have an experience at Cisco that is differentiated and personalized.

The core of the Talent Cloud is generated by the insights and reputation of our employees. It is our internal CRM, where employees import a personal profile, highlight strengths and assess their skills against roles. Managers can also assess their employee’s skills and identify development opportunities for the employee to explore. When a role or project becomes available, leaders and managers can search the network to see if someone within Cisco’s employee population is a match. The system will automatically notify those matches.

We’re also exploring creating a reputational index, whereby a peer or team member can ‘rate’ and provide feedback on their experience with an employee on projects. This creates a social talent network at Cisco and generates a broader snapshot of an employee’s potential. In a landscape that is constantly changing, employees love this idea because it means that they’re getting real-time feedback on their impact. It also allows many perspectives on an employee’s performance and impact.

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Cisco’s ability to index its current skills against future needs also allows us to invest in the next gen technologies and learning strategies needed to transform our workforce and accelerate our digital and cloud transformation.

Individual goals – “one size fits one”

The Talent Cloud helps employees create individualized roadmaps for their Cisco career. We don’t all aim to be CEOs or people managers; we have individual motivators, personal growth goals and long-term visions for our careers. And there are some who want to figure it out via a variety of talent experiences. In the Talent Cloud, employees are able to bring their whole selves to work which gives leaders the chance to match someone to a learning opportunity or find a project that helps meet a personal goal. We’re working to digitize these recommendations so that employees can have a ‘one stop shop’ for finding a mentor, training course, talent community, or stretch assignment that will further their career at Cisco. It creates a personalized experience that meets people where they are in their career journey.

The future of talent management creates choice and freedom using an on-demand model. This will create better retention, by providing a talent marketplace with the insights, visibility and transparency that employees and leaders need. The companies, like Cisco, that are able to create one-size-fits-one experiences will benefit in every way; from increased employee satisfaction to greater productivity, stronger work output, intelligent people planning and improved transparency between employees and the business.

Jill oversees human resources and workplace resources functions at Medidata. She has more than 20 years of experience establishing and transforming human resources processes at global, high-tech companies.

Jill spent the past five years in a blended SVP role at Cisco, as both a global HR business partner and leader of talent acquisition. Jill drove a complete digital transformation of Cisco’s TA function, with a focus on candidate experience, talent brand, predictive analytics, and next-generation tools. Her efforts resulted in Cisco winning 41 awards for social media and brand engagement. Additionally, Jill led HR for Cisco’s Services organization, supporting 14,000 employees and $13B in revenues. Prior to joining Cisco, she spent five years at EMC as the CHRO of RSA Security and head of HR operations.

Jill holds a bachelor's degree in communications and english from Boston College, and a master’s degree in HR management from Emmanuel College. She also earned a PHR designation and a certificate in HR management from Bentley University. Jill is a two-time finalist for HRO Today’s TA Leader of the Year Award, a winner of the YWCA Women’s Leadership Award, and a winner of the Bob Gatti HR Leader of Distinction Award. She is an active public speaker and board member for Montage, Envoy and Prezentium privately funded technology startups.