Getting Hybrid Work Right with Cisco's Sr. Director, People Research & Intelligence

The Getting Hybrid Work Right call series has become a well-attended and wide-ranging discussion for HR leaders on all aspects of hybrid work. This week's call featured special guest Roxanne Bisby Davis, Senior Director, People Research & Intelligence at Cisco. She was interviewed by i4cp CEO Kevin Oakes and Senior Research Analyst Tom Stone, on a wide range of topics including how Cisco has and is responding to current retention challenges in business, the ever changing world of remote and hybrid work, their approach to handling vaccination and other COVID concerns, and more. Here are some highlights from the call:

  • We started with a poll question for call participants:
    Has your organization changed any policies due to the Omicron variant (e.g., return to office plans, vaccine requirements, etc.)?
    10% - Yes
    51% - No
    33% - Not yet, but I expect it will
    5%   - Not sure
  • Davis noted that due to the global nature of Cisco's large employee base, with regard to the vaccines and related issues, no one public statement or policy applies to all Cisco employees. Adjustments are constantly being made as new information emerges, and on a country-by-country basis.
  • Regarding hybrid work, Davis' focus has been on getting good data to support the business' leaders so they can make better decisions, rather than relying on hearsay and anecdotal information. She and her team released a Hybrid Work Index study in October, which compared people's work location preferences pre-pandemic and post-pandemic, filtered into three regions (Americas, APJC, and EMEAR). This is important because not all areas of the world have the same ability to work comfortably from home or otherwise remotely, and this can greatly impact people's preferences.
  • Davis noted that a key value she adopted from Brene Brown's work is "clarity is kindness," and that this informs her work on why data, insights, and communication are so important in supporting Cisco's employees.
  • In May of 2021, Cisco had a special event called Teams Week to focus on employee development and support. They had different topical tracks, external speakers (some varying based on popularity in different global regions), and more.
  • Cisco has done a lot of work on how teams work well as teams. Davis noted that two key concepts are the power of attention and the value of work rituals. Going beyond employee engagement as a construct, Davis has been focusing more lately on actual employee needs: what are they, how do they differ in roles and around the world, etc.
  • Cisco has an always-on listening system, and also does quarterly engagement surveys. Davis' team also does a quarterly survey on well-being called The Real Deal.
  • Davis said that leaders are struggling the most because they are trying to take care of themselves, take care of their teams, respond to questions that they often don't have answers for, deal with constant business change, and more. Clear communication is key to enabling leaders, but so is resolving technology or process issues that cause employees to constantly go to their leaders for support, thereby taking up a lot of their time.
  • Davis said that being a "talent exporter" as an organization is valuable, because good people can come back, they can become great customers at their new companies, they can give positive referrals, etc. That said, minimizing regrettable losses is important, and often just means giving key employees the individualized attention that they need.
  • Regarding retention, Oakes noted that the technique of "stay interviews" are being used more now than before the pandemic and current labor crunch. Davis noted that she doesn't favor HR conducting stay interviews, but rather the managers and especially the next level up leaders, as those conversations can often produce the most honest insights.