“We’re not called HR. We’re called People and Communities”

For a fast-moving technology company like Cisco, digital transformation has come fast and furious. So has their HR transformation.
By: | February 10, 2020

For the first time ever Cisco has topped the list in the authoritative Great Place to Work survey. We spoke to Lekha George, Head, People & Communities, ASEAN and Korea for Cisco about its company culture and how it won the coveted award. Here’s the Final part of our feature interview.

Read Part 1 here: Cisco’s promise to its people

Read Part 2 here: It’s all about the “teams” culture at Cisco

As you’d expect from a fast-moving, forward-thinking tech firm like Cisco it is always looking at transforming itself. ‘’There’s a huge amount of change happening, in businesses and in the way we work. And what that translates to is that the workplace needs to evolve and how we do work’’,” Lekha said.

Whether it’s digitalisation, AI or robotics, technology is changing jobs, teams and organisations. Cisco is making sure its employees are ready for that change. To help make the future-proof, it focuses on four areas:

  • Talent agility – to move from where work is to where it will happen tomorrow
  • Continuous learning mindset – staying mentally agile
  • Teams and leadership – how teams work, how to make all teams like the best teams, play to strengths, build trust and have a shared sense of purpose
  • Fostering human networks – learning to leverage connections around me

Given its history, Cisco doesn’t want to just be part of the conversation about the future of work. It wants to lead the conversation.

‘’Cisco enabled the internet, we built the internet. All the technologies we create, we use ourselves’’, she added. When it talks about the future of work, it is talking about changing the way it captures information, workflows and introduces new technology. ‘’As we focus on Conscious Culture and pivoting to teams, we are also on that path of transformation digitally’’.

Part of that transformation involves HR itself. ‘’We are not called Human Resources any more. We are called People and Communities. That’s a reflection of the work we want to be doing going forward. Not just managing resources but how we can focus and pivot on internal teams and communities externally,” she said.

Leader day

Cisco holds an annual Leader Day event to bring together its global leadership and align it with the company’s business goals and beliefs. Events like this help guarantee Cisco’s cultural values trickle down the entire organization. The Leader Day is now in its third year.

‘’All of our leaders globally are taken offline. About 10,000 of them come together to take the time off to reflect on leadership, to learn, and to be inspired and to inspire. If you think about it, it’s a significant investment for Cisco in its leadership for them to be able to take a day off and listening to leaders and get a different perspective’’.

The theme for the 2019 event was Conscious Leadership – in line with Cisco’s ‘’Conscious Culture’’.  ‘’We put to them business challenges as well as people-related and community issues and see what they would do. We also gamify the whole process so they can see the big picture. The way we put forward different scenarios to them and then they come up with the best possible solution it’s fun and learning through that environment of fun’’.

Higher up the organisation, Cisco’s executive leadership talk about servant leadership. ‘’They discuss the impact leaders have on their teams and on the community. Our senior leaders are also very vocal about community issues, such as raising funds for homelessness in the U.S’’.