Today, more than ever, we hear about issues related to the workforce and the age of a digital economy: from talent shortages and immigration to skills gaps and economic inequality to job creation and inclusion. On their own, these are big issues to solve for, but together they represent both opportunities and challenges for Cisco, our customers, and our partners.

But as I think about these issues and how they impact our increasingly digital economy, one thing is clear: people are the heart of it all. And there are three key areas where we can help people that I believe will continue to drive economic opportunity and growth.

Enabling New Skills Development

How do we ensure we align the right people with the right skills focused on the right work and in the right locations to capitalize on the changing workforce of today and tomorrow? It starts with creating consistent definitions across industries around job roles, skills, and capabilities that are indicative of future abilities rather than past achievements. This sounds basic, but the shared lexicon between industries and countries when it comes to the workforce hardly exists today which slows hiring, allows for unfairness in practices, and in turn, lost economic opportunity.

We also need to think how we can create career talent opportunities that better prepares students, either from a standard university approach or targeted technical paths. In particular, a much more robust apprenticeship-like approach that gives student earlier visibility into the workforce and career pathways. We are testing this approach with a three-year program in engineering which recruits from Duke’s Fuqua School of Business; Berkeley Haas; Kellogg School of Management; USC Marshall School of Business; and MIT Management Sloan School.

Embracing Talent from Everywhere

Today, our CEO Chuck Robbins and the Business Roundtable released a study on the impact a reduction in visas for high-skilled international students who graduate from U.S. universities would have on the U.S. economy. The findings alone make clear the importance of embracing talent from home and abroad to continuing economic growth:

  • A decrease in real U.S. gross domestic product by about a quarter of a percentage point by 2028. The slowdown in economic growth is caused by a decline in immigrant consumers and workers who would otherwise reduce hiring shortages and fill skills gaps.
  • A loss of 443,000 jobs over the next decade — including 255,000 jobs held by native-born workers. This result reinforces the findings of prior studies that show that foreign-born workers actually create jobs for native-born workers on aggregate, rather than displace them.

Protecting & Advocating for People

In the face of economic and social uncertainty it’s our responsibility to protect and advocate for people. How is this related to economic growth? Because people make up the workforces and economies that are often looked at in an abstract manner. If we want to see continued economic growth, encourage hiring, and create highly-skilled workforces, we must create an environment where people feel they are supported and can thrive despite the uncertainty that is out there. It’s no coincidence that you see so many companies and NGOs publicly taking stands around discriminatory policies, practices, and laws. They simply create barriers that impede economic growth.

The economic and workforce shifts we face today are no doubt daunting, but I believe that viewing them through the lens of people-first rather than individual economic, job creation, or education challenges will open up a world of opportunity. I look forward to sharing more about our progress as we continue on our journey to address what people need in these times.


Francine Katsoudas

Executive Vice President

Chief People, Policy & Purpose Officer