Last year, I was pleased but not surprised when networking giant Cisco received top honors on the 25 World's Best Workplaces list, curated by workplace culture authority Great Place to Work Inc. and Fortune Magazine. As an analyst who covers all things tech, I've seen firsthand how seriously Cisco takes its social responsibility, both externally, through its world-class CSR program, and internally, with initiatives such as the company's "People Deal." If I wasn't surprised when Cisco took the prize last year, then I was even less surprised when I heard the company had secured the spot again. Nevertheless, this year's award should dispel any wrongheaded notions that may exist that last year's award was a fluke. Quite the opposite, in fact—I've never seen a company more intentional about taking care of its employees and fostering a positive work culture. It's good to see CEO Chuck Robbins' work in these areas receive its due recognition. Let's take a closer look at the award.
A track record worth being proud of
While this is just the second time in the number one spot, Cisco is no stranger to these workplace rankings. The company has landed a spot on the World's Best Workplace list for ten years and counting (since the list's origin), as well as Fortune's 100 Best Places to Work for 23 years and counting. Fortune and Great Places To Work, Inc. compiled 2020 World's Best Workplace list from surveys of over 8,000 organizations worldwide. All said and told, these surveys account for the voices of approximately 12 million employees across the globe.
To even be considered for a place on the top 25 World's Best Workplaces list, a company must appear on at least five national Best Workplaces lists (in this case, ones published in 2019 and 2020). Cisco's global footprint helps a lot here—it enters itself into the rankings of more than 40 different countries. This year, Cisco was recognized on Best Workplace lists in 21 different countries, across six continents. For that matter, in 12 of those countries, Cisco fell within the top 5. Other parameters for inclusion on the list include having at least 5,000 employees worldwide, with at least 40% of those employees in the country where the company is headquartered.
The numbers that cropped up in the surveys for the list are telling. 93% of Cisco employees worldwide consider Cisco "a great place to work." 96% said they were proud to tell other people they work at Cisco. 94% said they felt welcome when they initially were brought on by the company. These percentages are remarkably high, especially considering the fact that complaining about work is essentially a universal human pastime.
A people-first philosophy
As I wrote last year, I believe a big part of Cisco's success in keeping its employees happy is an initiative called the "People Deal"—the promises Cisco makes to its workforce and what it asks from them in return. The company breaks it down into three directives:
- Connect everything- Cisco pledges to connect employees with all of the opportunities, information and personnel they need to be successful. Cisco asks employees to connect and work as a team to deliver positive results.
- Innovate everywhere- Cisco pledges to provide an open workplace culture where employees are encouraged to explore ideas and challenge the status quo. Employees are asked, in turn, to "relentlessly pursue" innovation.
- Benefit everyone- Cisco pledges to support its employees' professional development, celebrate individual contributions, and leverage its collective ability to create positive change in the world. In turn, Cisco asks its employees to live and embody these societal values in their everyday lives.
The "benefit everyone" mission is where Cisco's unparalleled CSR programs come into play. I've written extensively on these programs, including its Networking Academy, which provides IT job training to around 2 million a year, its TacOps disaster response team, which offers mission-critical emergency network infrastructure to disaster-stricken areas and its VC-esque CSR partner program, in which it provides tech, expertise, volunteers and capital to a vast swath of NGOs, non-profits and community-based organizations. I believe it's a lot easier to get up and go to work in the morning if you believe in your company's mission and can see the ways your work is giving back to the global community. No wonder Cisco employees are so proud to tell other people where they work—I would be too.
I've watched Cisco for a long time and have always been impressed with how it treats its people and the communities in which it operates. When Chuck Robbins took over as CEO in 2015, the company doubled down even further on these priorities. I believe it's no coincidence that Cisco's two top honors on the World's Best Workplaces list have occurred since then. To me, it looks like a direct reflection of Robbins' leadership and emphasis, always, on taking care of people—both inside and outside of his organization.
Don't be surprised if next year Cisco goes for the hat trick.