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Cisco: Supporting Employee Experience through IT

Cisco: Supporting Employee Experience through IT


I was recently on a Cisco analyst briefing where Fletcher Previn, Senior VP and CIO of Cisco discussed IT being a crucial part of a Cisco employee’s experience. Digital experience or user experience, or however you want to define an employee’s day to day interactions with the technologies needed to do their job, is an often overlooked part of the EX puzzle. It’s a less mature area in the overall scope of employee experience but has been growing in importance as IT staff work to support the hybrid work model and the challenges involved in creating a strong digital employee experience in multiple settings.

An employee’s day-to-day interactions with not just people, but also their supporting technologies, can make or break an employee journey and either result in dissatisfaction and low engagement or serve as an enabler, helping employees to smoothly get through what could be a point of frustration and friction. Of even more concern is data that shows employees may leave their organization because of poor digital employee experience.

This may seem dramatic, to leave a job because of poor digital work experience, but many are entering employment with high, consumer-grade level expectations of the technology they will be using, particularly in younger generation cohorts.

Cisco IT has done a lot of work to address this issue and it was refreshing to see the focus given to this area, particularly for the hybrid workforce.

Focus on User Experience

Previn outlined Cisco’s approach of making IT a critical part of the employee experience and outlined some of their best practices.

Cisco has three pillars to their IT strategy with a focus on being best in class:

  • User experience
  • Agile ways of working
  • AI and cloud (technology)

All three are important, but the focus on user experience particularly resonated with me, as did the approach Cisco is taking, which reflects some of the tenets needed for successful employee experience. Previn views IT as a servant function (if it’s being done the right way), and as a driver for cultural change, with its goal being to enable Cisco’s people to do the best work of their lives. The company places importance on making the experience for their employees as good as (or better) than what they might experience at home and operationalizes this by focusing on design and experience for anything employee facing.

Measuring Friction Points

Previn mentioned the importance of data and research so that a clear picture of a user’s experience can be seen and issues can be prioritized. One way Cisco does this is via an internally developed employee task friction index, which is a weighted metric that assesses the level of difficulty of a specific task, its importance, and its frequency for an overall score that reflects the extent of the challenges involved, and overall impact. This index has been applied to over 245 common tasks performed by Cisco employees, helping to evaluate their significance and in the workplace.

This measurement then turns to action. Cisco has an Employee Insights Center that combines that calculated index score with research that helps determine what the levers are – meaning if a particular point of dissatisfaction was addressed, by how much would friction be reduced? This type of analysis ferrets out the most important things to prioritize and work on.

IT Supporting EX, In Action

Previn gave some examples of IT projects that were both “small delighters” as well as larger initiatives:

  • One of the most frequent tasks Cisco employees perform on the intranet is look up other employees. The IT team updated the mobile app that was already in place, but that didn’t really meet the goals of superior design and experience. The updated directory app works offline, is faster and does Caller ID lookup. It’s now one of the most popular apps being used by employees.
  • Onboarding. This is actually a big one especially for hybrid workers. Onboarding is a really important part of the employee journey and many companies don’t do a good job, which has consequences. Recent research from Qualtrics shows faster new employee churn. Thirty nine percent of employees who have been with a company for less than 6 months plan to leave within the next 12 months, which is a 6 point increase from last year.

Cisco has gone through its portfolio and created a hybrid worker bundle that includes all the components an employee needs, neatly in one package. An employee gets everything from their badge, laptop, Cisco Meraki gear for firewall, a wireless access point, Cisco Webex collab device and all the tools they need to get started quickly and easily.

Cisco: Supporting Employee Experience through IT
Image Source: Cisco

Another pain point of hybrid work for some people is connectivity and Cisco can include a Cisco Meraki wireless cellular gateway as a backup. And of course, everything needed to securely work from a non-office location. Cisco also has a Hybrid Work Operations Center which can provide proactive monitoring to keep apprised of what the experience is like for hybrid workers at the application level.

IT also cut down the onboarding experience from a complex nine-step process to a simpler four-step process.

  • An app store on the intranet, which is the sole place to go to get tools and software on the Cisco intranet. This replaces a previous process of many multiple emails and approvals.
  • Kiosks as another option for help desk and in-person support. Employees enter a Cisco IT HelpZone Kiosk and remotely connect to a support person. If it’s not able to get fixed over the phone, employees can put their laptop in the smart locker and have a replacement laptop issued.

And have you ever just simply needed a new piece of equipment like a new mouse or power cord and had to go through a laborious and time consuming approval process? Cisco has introduced smart vending machines as part of these kiosks. The employee’s badge is swiped and they can get accessories like mice, trackpads, power adapters, etc. and their department is automatically billed. These kiosks are being built in all significant office locations.

Cisco: Supporting Employee Experience through IT
Image Source: Cisco

Key Takeaways

Really interesting take from Cisco on the tie between IT and employee experience, and the company is really hitting the mark in its efforts to provide best in class user experience. Employee sentiment has improved 14 points year-over-year with people agreeing or strongly agreeing with the statement that the technology Cisco provides them, helps them be productive in their work. IT is following the strategy of ensuring they are receiving signals about its employees IT experience, both directly and indirectly, but makes the leap that might be hard for other companies, either due to capabilities or lack of cultural support – the insights are put into action.

The employee journey is not just made of the large moments, but many micro-moments, and if these micro moments are friction points, which will add up to dissatisfaction, or worse, an employee departure. When employees struggle with an onboarding process, have trouble getting the equipment they need to do their job, feel unsupported as a hybrid worker or simply waste hours in their day maneuvering inefficient processes, these seemingly small moments will undermine overall morale and productivity.

Poor employee experience can be a result of many factors, but it is often the mismatched expectations of what a worker expects their experience to be like, and what it is in reality, which can lead to dissatisfaction. Providing a best in class technology user experience can be a differentiator as people seek employees who will give them the experience that will meet or surpass what they are used to in their lives as consumers.

Disclosure: The Futurum Group is a research and advisory firm that engages or has engaged in research, analysis, and advisory services with many technology companies, including those mentioned in this article. The author does not hold any equity positions with any company mentioned in this article.

Analysis and opinions expressed herein are specific to the analyst individually and data and other information that might have been provided for validation, not those of The Futurum Group as a whole.

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Author Information

As a detail-oriented researcher, Sherril is expert at discovering, gathering and compiling industry and market data to create clear, actionable market and competitive intelligence. With deep experience in market analysis and segmentation she is a consummate collaborator with strong communication skills adept at supporting and forming relationships with cross-functional teams in all levels of organizations.

She brings more than 20 years of experience in technology research and marketing; prior to her current role, she was a Research Analyst at Omdia, authoring market and ecosystem reports on Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, and User Interface technologies. Sherril was previously Manager of Market Research at Intrado Life and Safety, providing competitive analysis and intelligence, business development support, and analyst relations.

Sherril holds a Master of Business Administration in Marketing from University of Colorado, Boulder and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Rutgers University.


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