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Taking Care of People Gives Cisco Systems a Strategic Advantage
Strategic thinking about human resource management and other services has helped Cisco Systems take care of its people and even people beyond the organization. At the same time, it has helped the company, which sells computer networking hardware and services, maintain consistent growth and profitability.
During the recent recession, sales slowed, and Cisco’s executives sought more efficient ways to operate. Out of that effort came a plan for restructuring HRM and other services such as purchasing and customer support. Management determined that these services would be delivered on a global scale as part of a Global Business Services unit. That unit, in turn, was divided into groups focused on delivering day-to-day services and others focused on strategic planning. HRM employees were divided, with some assigned to tactics and others to strategy.
The head of tactical HRM is Don McLaughlin, Cisco’s vice president of employee experience. Applying his background in manufacturing, McLaughlin took a business-like approach. He set measurable goals for hiring, training, rewards, communication, and work design, treating Cisco’s employees as customers of those services. He measures the time to deliver each service and his customers’ satisfaction. While driving down the cost of each service by at least 10%, McLaughlin has maintained or raised customer satisfaction scores. He works closely with the human resource partners assigned to support strategy for each Cisco group around the world. Those HR managers get to know their businesses and create plans for improving the company’s talent, leadership, organization, and culture.
One of the regional HR managers is Danielle Monaghan, human resource partner in Cisco’s Technical Services Division in San Jose, California. Born in South Africa, Monaghan worked for other technology companies before joining Cisco to manage human resources in Asia. In the Asian assignment, she saw first-hand some of the challenges of recruiting and developing talent in the continent’s distinctive cultures. In Japan, for example, she needed to build networks to locate talent, because it is inappropriate to make a job search public. In China, the issues are developing leadership skills and learning to manage the rise of unions. Monaghan’s global perspective is now helping Monaghan tackle strategic issues such as workforce planning.
Perhaps one of the company’s most distinctive efforts is the Cisco Learning Network, which grew out of the training efforts of Cisco’s education services division. The division trains customers and partners, and it saw an online network as a way to reach people around the world with information about how to use the technology Cisco sells. People from high school students through experienced professionals join the network to take classes, study together, and share ideas. As participation has ballooned from 600,000 in the fi rst year to more than 2 million recently, the company added information about careers, job openings, and industry trends. The data created through social networking and the connections to a worldwide community have given Cisco an edge in building its reputation and understanding its labor market.
1. How has Cisco Systems prepared itself for responding to trends in the labor force?
2. How have Cisco’s HR managers balanced concerns for cost and quality?