The week when Cisco exposed it’s soft centre
Last week, as the UK & Ireland lead for Inclusion & Diversity, I had the honour of sponsoring a week of activities to celebrate Cisco’s culture of inclusion. Under the banner of ‘More Together Week’, groups from across UK & Ireland, and more widely across EMEAR, organised guest speakers, various training sessions, a hackathon, a cultural quiz and many networking opportunities. All designed to encourage employees to understand and embrace the wide diversity of our workforce from a functional perspective but also cultural, disability, gender, age, sexuality and all other minority groups.
What was most striking during the week was the openness of the Cisco people I met – openness to learn, to be enlightened, to be proven wrong, to share their personal stories and to listen to others.
Where was the steel-capped, tough-talking and macho Cisco that I joined over 18 years ago?
I suppose what I witnessed last week was a more grown up and considered Cisco. A 30 year old Cisco! A Cisco that values its employees as individuals. A Cisco that knows having a mentally and physically healthy workforce, which embraces talent in all its different guises, will create more innovation and productivity for ourselves, our customers and partners, and have a wider impact on the UK and Ireland.
Moving forward as this more conscious organisation, it is clear that whilst we have made tremendous progress, there is still much work to do before we can reach the ultimate goal that every employee is welcomed, respected, valued and heard. Specifically, I see that we need to do more to attract and retain diverse talent by talking about our culture and how Cisco is adaptable to the different needs of our employees. For example, how our flexible working culture enables people to work where they want and when they want. This allows employees to balance other responsibilities with their work whilst managing their own wellbeing. Those coping with physical or emotional challenges for example, can still be productive and bring their value to the organisation with the support of management and leveraging technology.
I started the week wanting to drive awareness of our inclusive culture at Cisco. It was incredibly uplifting (and that was not only the helium balloons which festooned the Cisco buildings!).
I ended the week experiencing the overwhelming support of the Cisco team in the light of the tragic loss of a team member. Sharing this awful news with co-workers was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do in my career and yet the waves of sympathy and support rippled through Cisco at wire speed. The fragility of those touched by this sudden and unexpected loss, has been scaffolded by the moral and physical support of the team. The shared grief that we are experiencing, bonds us together stronger than ever before.
A week of emotional highs and lows, which brought into sharp focus how empowering employees to be their authentic self, articulate clearly what they need to be more effective at work and respecting their personal needs builds stronger teams and ultimately makes Cisco a great place to work.