February 1, 2017 in My thoughts

Breaking HR: How Cisco is reimagining its approach to HR

Jill Larsen (Cisco) – @ChicTalentDiva


Digital disruption, and the rise of the sharing and gig economy are driving change. Organisations are either  disrupting or being disrupted. A quick show of hands in the audience shows that approximately 75% of people in the room are currently undergoing some kind of transformational change in HR. Cisco HR has 906 employees across 49 countries and their HR has centres of excellent (e.g. talent) along with business partners (who they call consultants).

At the start of their HR transformation, Cisco focused on their people deal:

Our people deal + what we offer = what we ask in return


Cisco experience: Their transformation started by changing the Diversity & Inclusion centre of expertise and adopted a more data-driven approach to inclusion, making sure that they could really recruit talent. Next, they started to focus on giving employees a voice, and formed a small employee voice team with skills in marketing in social media. Cisco are making great use of Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram, and LinkedIn as a result of their talent brand strategy and this has really changed the way that HR is viewed within Cisco.


Future of work: With lots of people working remotely and a massive impact of the gig economy, engagement becomes more challenging and Cisco believed they were well-placed to leverage their products to help with this.


Digitising HR: Cisco used to have a very out of date HR platform, but have invested heavily in creating a talent cloud which gives each employee a ‘my development space’ which gives them a space for assessing their skills, finding customised training courses, as well as looking for new opportunities (both new roles and short-term opportunities). The development space lets people focus on their strengths and has some recommendation features such as ‘people with these strengths also watched…. ‘.


Lessons learned: Have a multi-year vision and make sure that you anchor on a value proposition (and make sure that it resonates/people can connect with it), create hybrid roles and rotate talent, focus on the experience (making sure that you give people something that looks like the great user interfaces they see in other parts of their life online), go vertical (and re-asses whether you are doing the right work, and work hard doing change management well).


Cisco are now 18 months into their HR transformation and – despite minimal incremental investments – are seeing many benefits already.


This was live-blogged during a session at the HR Directors Business Summit 2017 – I’ve tried to capture a faithful summary of the highlights for me but my own bias, views – and the odd typo – might well creep in. I’ve also curated the story of the session as told through the tweets of the attendees (you might need to tap ‘load more tweets’ to see the full story):


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