Cos Must Dif­fer­en­ti­ate Them­selves to Com­pete for Ta­lent: Kat­soudas

The Economic Times - - Career & Business Life -

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

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