Home News Cisco and the Critical Rebirth of HR

Cisco and the Critical Rebirth of HR

Cisco and the Critical Rebirth of HR

I have been fascinated with HR since it was called Manpower Management and focused on employee enrichment and advancement. I wanted to do that with my life. I thought then and still do now that one of the most rewarding jobs would be to help people find and stay on the career path that would make them the most productive and most content with their lives. Sadly, by the time I was ready to run an HR organization, the rules had changed. HR was more about protecting bad executive behavior and compliance than helping employees find their best life path.

This background is why it is refreshing for me to talk to Francine Katsoudas, the Executive Vice President and Chief People Officer at Cisco. She believes managing employees requires empathy and care, not just compliance and covering up for lousy executive behavior.  In addition to the support she receives from Cisco’s CEO Chuck Robbins, Katsoudas is why Cisco is ranked #1 in best places to work for the last two years.

Cisco recently changed the name of its HR department to People and Communities. Once I understood why they did it, I thought it was brilliant and should set an example for managing a firm’s most valuable asset and its people.

Evolving Cisco’s HR Culture

Human Resource is a label placed on the organization that was initially created to prevent unionization.  It came after a period of massive employee revolt — we call them strikes — and events like the Borax Strike that made some wars look relatively mild in comparison. During the Borax strike, managers were, and I’m not kidding, buried up to their necks in ant hills, patrolling helicopters were shot out of the sky, and ex-military forces were brought in to protect water supplies. Few living today have any concept of how bad strikes often were and how damaging they were to both the employees’ and firms’ brands.

When we shifted from Manpower Management to HR, we seemed to collectively forget the entire purpose of these departments was to make work good enough so that the employees didn’t feel the need to organize. This result is because unions, when they become too powerful, are a second set of influential company leaders with agendas that are strategically anti-company. They can destroy both the critical collaborative relationships that should exist between managers and employees and replace them with managed distrust and conflict.

Katsoudas and her team recognized that by shifting the name to People And Communities, she focused the HR effort on people over compliance and communities over managed conflict. Some communities can form around race, sex, tenure, advancement, and skill in a company. Once identified and promoted, these communities can provide a foundation of support for their members. They can also provide the HR organization with insights into which groups are over and underperforming and allow for data collection to help identify and mitigate problems and identify and spread best practices.

This community support structure is particularly critical during the pandemic when many feel isolated, depressed, and alone.  Community members can share how they overcame similar difficulties and provide focused help to any employee struggling with their job, situation, or just feeling isolated and alone. Back at IBM, I was given a series of invaluable mentors to advancement and growth. Having a community I could have also called on would have likely helped me avoid mistakes and find a better career path quicker than I did.

Identifying people that are either advancing more rapidly, so you can learn from them or advancing very slowly so you can research and maybe mitigate that problem before they feel unloved and make a wrong decision makes for a better company.

Finally, this change focused on employee wellbeing and life/work balance. After all, the ugly truth during this Pandemic is that while productivity is up, it is often up because people have sacrificed their families and friends to overwork.  And that isn’t sustainable.

The Heroes of HR

One of the most heroic things I’ve seen in HR is changing the unit’s name to make it better reflect what it should do over what it, by policy, must do. The reason why Cisco is one of the best places to work is its HR department, which atypically focuses on things like empathy and understanding the needs of employees over just compliance. Cisco’s  efforts go beyond keeping the firm out of trouble to emphasize the work/life balance and taking care of the communities in and around the company.

Katsoudas’ effort to make HR into the People and Communities organization has not only turned Cisco into the best place to work, it also sets an example that others can use to make the world a better place.  As we approach the holiday season, making the world a better place is consistent with the holiday message of goodwill towards man. Particularly during this pandemic, we need other firms to follow Cisco’s example and remind people that employees and managers are in this together. Here is hoping you have a wonderful holiday season and that your employer treats you as well as Cisco treats its people.

 

Synonyms for “good”commodityexcellencevirtuewellhappyexcellentGet more synonyms with Premium Subscribe

 

Eskalera, a Startup Led by Goldman Sachs’ Former HR Head Has Launched a Diversity and Inclusion Index

Eskalera, a technology startup led by Goldman Sachs former human resources head Dane Holmes, has launched an index to measure corporate diversity and inclusiveness,...

HSBC to Remove 35,000 Jobs Amidst Covid-19 Crises

HSBC Holdings Plc has restarted cutting as many as 35,000 jobs, three months after the coronavirus outbreak forced it to pause a long-awaited overhaul...

Genpact Offers Its Internal Skill Training Program Globally for Everyone

Genpact has announced Adapt and Rise, a role-based online learning platform that leverages Genpact's expertise honed from delivering real-world change for hundreds of clients....

San-Francisco Based Learning Platform Degreed Has Raised $32 Million in New Funding

The upskilling platform, Degreed, has announced $32 million in new funding in direct response to overwhelming demand for better skill insights, talent mobility, and...

Research Shows the Implications of Workplace Layouts on Employee Productivity and Overall Performance

As some workplaces prepare for the gradual return of employees and overhaul office layouts and seating plans, research has shown this could also have...

Employee Concierge ‘Back Technologies’ Integrates Automation Into Internal HR and Other Support Tasks

Companies are under increasing pressure to automate workflows and digitally service their employees, particularly in light of trends toward remote work. It takes an...

HR Strategies to Help Your Business Navigate the New ‘Normal’

No business is immune to the massive changes resulting from the health crisis. Organizations have proven themselves to be agile, and employees have demonstrated...

The Importance Of Diversity And Inclusion In HR, Hiring, Talent Management: Thoughts From A Top Expert

Michael C. Hyter is one of today’s best-known experts on inclusion and diversity and the author of The Power of Choice: Embracing Efficacy to Drive Your Career and The...

HR Expert Highlights Actionable Steps to ‘Make Real Change’ Against Racism in Your Workplace

Kyra Leigh Sutton, Ph.D., is a faculty member at the Rutgers University School of Management and Labor Relations, where she teaches human resources courses...

Adidas Employees Want Company to Investigate HR Chief for Response to Racial Issues

A group of Adidas employees from around the globe is asking the company to investigate its chief human resources officer, as part of a...