People are our single greatest asset at Cisco. Creating a world-class employee experience is crucial because it helps us attract and retain exceptional people and give them what they need to do their best work. In fact, employee experience is so important at Cisco that it’s a pillar of our COO’s charter – right up there with leading Cisco’s digital transformation and accelerating value for our partners and customers.

What is employee experience? It’s not just one thing – it’s the sum of many things: physical, cultural, and digital. Does your manager welcome you on your first day? Does the meeting room you reserved have the right number of seats and the right equipment? How easy is it to change your retirement contribution – or get help if your laptop acts up?

Our Employee Services, IT, and People & Communities (HR’s new name!) organizations make the employee experience a priority. But until recently, we didn’t have one team that looked at the “big picture” of experience. That’s the job of our new Employee Experience Engagement team. We work to continually discover opportunities to improve the employee experience by bringing different teams together.

The first experiences this team is working on are the new employee onboarding experience, the meeting and collaboration experience, and the employee support experience.

Better onboarding: “yes” to first-day welcome from manager; “no” to duplicate data capture

Cisco makes huge investments to identify, interview, and hire the right candidates – on average, 3,400 each quarter. Making sure our new hires have a great experience between the offer letter and the first weeks at work is critical to make sure they don’t accept another offer – and that they thrive at Cisco.

To find out what works and what doesn’t during onboarding, we started with the data. It comes from new hire surveys, focus groups, and sentiment analysis in online forums. While this is just getting underway, a finding that immediately popped out was the importance of a welcoming culture. Notably, new hires are disappointed when their hiring manager doesn’t reach out to them between the time the offer letter is sent and on the first day of work. We’ve shared this finding with hiring managers, so they can make these first day experiences a priority.

Physical must-haves for a positive onboarding experience include a laptop that arrives on time – and immediately connects to Cisco Wi-Fi. In case it doesn’t, we make sure to provide onsite support (or excellent remote support) – to help new hires get right to work.

To improve the digital onboarding processes, we’re rethinking new hire data capture through the lens of the employee. In particular, new hires shouldn’t have provide the same information (like their address) on multiple forms for different departments.

I’ll add that standardizing the onboarding experience at Cisco is complicated because our employees work in 94 countries with different compliance requirements and cultural norms. For instance, while remote onboarding is accepted in the US, it is not in Japan, China, and Latin America. That’s why we’re starting with changes that will help new hires in any country – and whether they work at a large campus, a branch office, or a home office.

Better meetings: the right space, right equipment – and an on-time start

We’re always collaborating at Cisco, and more than 50% of most employees’ workday is spent in online or in-person meetings. The easier it is to schedule and attend in-person and online meetings – and the more efficient those meetings are – the better we can do our jobs.

The chief pain points the data reveals are equipment woes and finding the right-sized meeting rooms. These days, the vast majority of meeting rooms are scheduled for groups of 1-4 people – but a quarter or less of our rooms are designed for groups that size. And even if a small room is available, people tend to book rooms built for 10+ people because these have Telepresence systems. As a result of this analysis, Workplace Resources and IT are working together to build more huddle rooms with the right capabilities.

A small change with a big impact on the meeting experience in India was replacing legacy overhead projectors with digital displays and collaborative technology. That put an end to burned-out light bulbs, complicated controllers and bespoke cable connections, which sometimes wasted 5-10 minutes at the beginning of meetings.

Culturally, we expect meetings to be effective and efficient. Preparation and role clarity – such as sharing an agenda and materials beforehand and assigning a note-taker and timekeeper – are key. Another best practice is to be mindful to include in person and virtual attendees equally in the discussion.

Support: making it easy to find – and ideally unnecessary

Every support case represents an employee who needs help – and we never want to become numb to that fact. Looking at support through the eyes of the employee is helping this team see the pain points and come up with innovative solutions.

Cisco has great support resources, but they have historically been organized by function, instead of from a user point of view. This can cause employees to become confused and frustrated, dragging down productivity. For example, what if an employee is having an issue with an online HR tool. Should they go to IT for help or to HR? We’re mitigating this issue by providing a one stop shop for employee issues, even when the support is ultimately delivered by different functions. Furthermore, we’re digitizing our solutions to ensure that support is multimodal and embedded directly into workstreams. This is a space we’ll continue to evolve throughout FY20.

Ultimately, our goal is to eliminate the issues that require support wherever possible. The data tells the story. For example, case data shows that 90% of all new hire support cases in FY19 were requests to set up two-factor authentication, which required agent assistance. We’ve eliminated those cases by switching to Cisco Duo Security, which enables employees to set up dual-factor authentication without opening a case.

Experience transformation is a journey

Will a time come when our work is done? No, because the target keeps moving. New applications, capabilities and ways of working mean that change is constant – and that new glitches are inevitable. Our team’s goal is to ensure we’re designing for experience and proactively working to reduce complexity in our work environment.

Our plan is to look at new kinds of experiences, including experiences specific to sellers and engineers. For every initiative, we’ll start with the data to make sure it’s not just the squeaky wheel that gets the grease – and that we’re investing effort where it will have the biggest impact on employee experience.

Hear what we we’ve learned so far by listening to the Beyond the Network podcast episode, Transforming the Employee Experience.

What’s on your wish list for a world-class employee experience? Please share in the comment box.