This post was co-authored by Gonzalo Albaladejo.
Cisco is a BIG workplace. With about 70,000 employees worldwide – we are the most connected company and, yet, at the same time we often don’t know who the other employee is sitting directly next to us in the office. We’re all busy, and often work in siloes – confined to our own teams and projects. This isn’t necessarily done on purpose, but it’s “just the way it is” with large companies and human beings.
Sometimes the hardest word to say is, “Hello.”
At Cisco, local grass root efforts and informal programs are encouraged when employees identify an opportunity to improve the business or culture.
This is exactly what happened when I (Derek) joined the Cisco family in 2014. I realized that many people in my local New York City office were missing that feeling of community. Employees were regularly passing one another in the halls, but they didn’t have a name to put with the faces they would so often see. After witnessing this same behavior month after month, I decided to do something about it, and launched an informal initiative called “Cisco Link.”
Community and Inclusion is, really, at the heart of Cisco – but we needed something to help us get out of our boxes and start to engage with our fellow Cisconians. Cisco Link is designed to do just that. Participation is voluntary and open to anyone that is interested. At the beginning of each month, Cisco employees that participate are randomly matched to meet 1:1 during the course of that next month. They are encouraged to grab a cup of coffee, take a walk outside to get a break from the office, or even have a quick introductory video call using our Cisco technology if meeting in person doesn’t work with often busy schedules.
The initiative was originally aimed at making new connections and fostering a sense of community in our local New York City office – however, the direct impact has proven to be much more.
Across the pond, in Spain, Cisconian Gonzalo Albaladejo was experiencing a similar situation. “I started my career at Cisco in Krakow, Poland,” Gonzalo says, “And in this office it was very easy to get to know everyone else no matter what department we were in. The office in Krakow was simply designed to make employees interact and build relationships. When I got to Cisco Spain, this same bond seemed more difficult to achieve. That’s when I attended an Inclusion & Diversity call last September, and I came across this man, Derek, who had an idea to solve the very problem I was already seeing for many months at Cisco Spain. Not only that, but he had also implemented this idea at his office in New York City and was obtaining very good results and great feedback from it!”
Gonzalo knew he had to try bringing Cisco Link to Spain.
Gonzalo continues, “I decided to set Cisco Link up in Spain and, after four rounds, we now have over 160 participants! About half of them are members of the Early in Career Network, who were automatically signed up for Cisco Link here due to its importance in their career stage. The seniors happily joined stimulated by the idea of meeting all the juniors that keep entering the company, and even our local Executive Leadership Team and managers were happy to join and encouraged other employees to participate as well! Link was and is the solution for Cisco employees in Spain!”
Gonzalo has also been hard at work expanding the Cisco Link program to our global offices. He’s automated the process of creating lists and sending individual emails to each participant, while also contacting Early Career Network leaders around the world to provide them with this automated Excel file so that they can start Link in their countries as well!
From our initial days with Cisco Link in New York City to its adoption in Spain, the stories that I hear on a monthly basis make it clear to me that this initiative is worth the effort. Our employees are meeting people that they connect with on a personal level, and who can help to support them in their current role or even help them find their next role within the company.
We are breaking down the walls of hierarchy and promoting inclusivity in the most natural way possible while enabling an easy way for our employees to expand their professional network. The Cisco Link initiative is now being adopted at Cisco offices around the world aimed at tackling the same opportunity that employees are seeing in their local communities.
Office spaces have the potential to be more than just a place you go. It can be a hub to drive people together and makes lasting connections. The next time you’re in the office and see an unfamiliar face in the break room or walking the hall – smile and say, “Hello.”
You never know where a new connection can take you.
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