Cos Must Differentiate Themselves to Compete for Talent: Katsoudas
Francine Katsoudas, senior VP and chief people officer, Cisco Global, says that the company is gearing up for major transformations in talent acquisition and leadership development. In an interview with ET’s Brinda Dasgupta, she spoke on Cisco’s move towards a team-focused approach, building customised experiences for employees, and efforts to attract more women in technology roles. Edited excerpts…
India is the largest centre for Cisco outside of San Jose. How does the India team form an essential part of the company’s ecosystem? HR is undergoing a massive change — today, companies must differentiate themselves in order to effectively compete for talent. Cisco India is one of our leading centres, where innovation forms the basis of everything that is done. There are moments that matter for every employee, and we focus on some of those moments and changing their experience. Our India centre is one among those leading when it comes to patent filing — Cisco was issued 1,100 patents globally, of which 100 were from India in 2015 — this is a very compelling number. Our global ‘Time To Give’ programme, under which employees donate 40 hours of their work-time annually to charity, has seen the highest participation from India. This shows that the team at the India centre is passionate about giving back to the community. Amid globally dwindling numbers of women in technology roles, how does Cisco India make an effort to hire and retain more female talent? It is an unfortunate industry trend that many women end up leaving the workforce midway through their careers. Under its initiative ‘Project Athena’, Cisco India has been very proactive in following up with female employees who take breaks for various reasons, helping them with their return to work and prioritising them for different roles. We are looking to add more momentum to this programme in the next few months. Recently, we also made changes to our maternity benefits, doubling the allowance of 12 weeks to 24 weeks, besides making available surrogacy leave of the same duration. We also have programmes available for early-career women to accelerate their path to promotion. Besides this, we are constantly on the lookout to identify, hire, nurture and retain more women in technology roles — especially data scientists and analysts. Employees of the future must have multiple skillsets in order to function optimally within a company. How does Cisco India drive this? Globally, we launched the concept of ‘Job Swap’ and ‘Time Swap’ a few years back, where an employee can swap roles, or 20% of his/her time, with someone in another department. This has been shown to be a safe and innovative way to learn new skills. Employees can learn to be successful in projects that are quite different from their area of expertise. In fact, it is partly through a job swap that I found myself in this role.
How is Cisco India building a more inclusive and inspiring workplace for employees? While millennials form a really large part of our demographics, it is also important to understand that opportunities must be available for all employees. We constantly look back to our benefits and people practices, study their relevance, and change them as and how we see fit. Our move away from performance ratings was a conscious step back from an old-world approach, instead moving towards a focus on teams.
Francine Katsoudas, senior VP and chief people officer, Cisco Global