Why No One Should Be Surprised Cisco Named ‘World’s Best Workplace’ For 2019

By Patrick Moorhead - November 15, 2019

Several weeks ago, the workplace culture authority Great Place to Work Inc., in conjunction with Fortune, released the latest iteration of its 25 World’s Best Workplaces list. Topping the list for the first time ever was Cisco, nudging out previous title holders Salesforce and Hilton. 

Cisco is a company that I watch very closely, and not just for its leading networking and security solutions. It is a leader in corporate social responsibility and puts a major emphasis on fostering a healthy company culture within its organization. With this in mind, the new distinction doesn’t surprise me one bit. Let’s take a closer look at the award, and how Cisco managed to land it. 

The World’s Best Workplaces list

To qualify for the World’s Best Workplaces list, companies must have a global workforce that numbers over 5,000, have at least 40% of their workforce outside the home country, and first earn a spot on at least five national Great Place to Work lists. Impressively, Cisco is on the national list in 22 different countries. According to the list’s press release, over 8,000 organizations participated in the survey.

down the results further, 93% of Cisco employees say it is a great place to work and 9 out 10 employees say that they look forward to coming to work. 98% say Cisco is a physically safe place to work. 97% say they are treated fairly regardless of their sexual orientation, and 96% say they are treated fairly regardless of their race. 95% reported that they were proud to tell others they work for Cisco. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, 87% of employees call Cisco a psychologically safe place to work. This feeling of safety and inclusion is crucial for enabling innovation and encouraging all employees to come to the table with ideas. This isn’t just feel-good—it drives earnings, folks. 

How Cisco does it

All of this begs the question: how does Cisco foster such a healthy corporate environment and keep its employees happy? The answer is multi-pronged, but a good place to start is the initiative Cisco calls “Our People Deal.” 

Essentially, Our People Deal is the promise Cisco makes to employees and what it asks from them in return—a magna carta of sorts. The deal is broken into three components: first, connect everything. Cisco promises to connect its employees with personnel, information, and opportunities, while it asks its employees to connect with each other to deliver positive outcomes for the company. Basically, all of this serves to

foster a team and customer culture rather than only an individual. The second component is innovate everywhere—Cisco guarantees employees an “open and agile” environment that encourages employees to explore ideas and challenge norms. In turn, Cisco asks its employees to “relentlessly pursue” innovation. Lastly, and perhaps most tied to Cisco’s position on the Best Workplaces list, is benefit everyone. The company promises to support its employees’ professional development, encourage and appreciate individuals’ contributions, and positively impact the world with the company’s collective ability. On the other side of things, Cisco asks employees to live and embody the company’s global values and believe in its collective ability to “win together.” If interested in reading more about Our People Deal, see my past coverage here.

This idea of “winning together,” brings us to Cisco’s highly successful and wide-reaching CSR program—through programs such as its Networking Academy(providing IT job training to ~2 million a year worldwide), its TacOps disaster response team, and other initiatives, Cisco dedicates immense resources towards giving back to the global community. I encourage you to read more about Cisco’s CSR efforts here, if interested. I believe these programs, and Cisco’s company culture of kindness and giving back play a big role in employee satisfaction—its easier to feel good and fulfilled about going to work when you know your employer is a responsible global citizen, doing actual good in the world and not just focused on the bottom line. 

Cisco’s “Conscious Culture” another key driver of employee happiness. This framework is also broken into three components, the first being environment. Cisco claims to encourage an atmosphere of dignity, respect, fairness, and equity, with an eye towards diversity and inclusion. The second aspect is Cisco’s characteristics, or how the company culture is shaped by its behaviors, beliefs, and principles. Again, this ties into Cisco’s CSR program and culture of giving back. The third and final component is experience—essentially, the direct experiences its employees have with the company, through management, their teams, and the work they do.

It’s worth mentioning that a positive company culture starts from the top down. CEO Chuck Robbins made all of these initiatives a cornerstone of his tenure, since taking over in July 2015. Cisco holds an annual Leader Day event to bring together its global leadership and align it with the company’s business goals and beliefs. I got a sneak peak last year and was quite impressed – read my key takeaway here. 2019’s Leader Day was the biggest yet, with ~8,500 Cisco leaders (approximately 82% of Cisco’s overall leadership, up two points from 2018) coming together at the beginning of October—coincidentally on the very day Cisco was named the #1 place to work. It’s noteworthy that 89% of the returning leaders to the event noted a focus on fulfilling leader expectations—11 percentage points more than last year. Events like this help guarantee Cisco’s cultural values trickle down across the entire organization.

Wrapping up

Cisco should be proud of itself for pulling down the top honors on this year’s World’s Best Workplaces list. It has certainly put in the work to earn it, through its People Deal, conscious culture, CSR program, and more. Nobody does any of this better than Cisco according to this list and any company wishing to boost its employee retention rate should consider taking a page out of Cisco’s playbook.

Patrick Moorhead
+ posts

Patrick founded the firm based on his real-world world technology experiences with the understanding of what he wasn’t getting from analysts and consultants. Ten years later, Patrick is ranked #1 among technology industry analysts in terms of “power” (ARInsights)  in “press citations” (Apollo Research). Moorhead is a contributor at Forbes and frequently appears on CNBC. He is a broad-based analyst covering a wide variety of topics including the cloud, enterprise SaaS, collaboration, client computing, and semiconductors. He has 30 years of experience including 15 years of executive experience at high tech companies (NCR, AT&T, Compaq, now HP, and AMD) leading strategy, product management, product marketing, and corporate marketing, including three industry board appointments.