Teaching New Skills & Embracing Talent from Everywhere Fuels Growth in a Rapidly Changing Digital Economy

December 12, 2018 - 8 Comments

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.

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  1. To read more about the immigration study and practical impacts – look here: https://www.businessroundtable.org/policy-perspectives/immigration/economic-impact-curbing-optional-practical-training-program and https://s3.amazonaws.com/brt.org/BRT-OPTProgramReport_1.pdf

    I cannot imagine a Cisco without the cultural mix that has gotten us to where we are today. I hope we continue as a company to value our differences and diversity. Looking forward to seeing this play out over time in the laws we decide to implement and how we as a company continue to take care of our people no matter what comes.

  2. Thank you Fran!

    As an international working in Cisco, I can see this culture of embracing talent from everywhere everyday, and I am very proud to work in a company not only cares about diversity but also takes real action, through the culture, the EROs, the ELT, I can proudly say I belong and I believe that we will continue to embrace talent everywhere! Now, it's even more important that this diversity will fuel the rapidly changing digital economy. It's crucial that everyone of us understand this is a journey and each of us plays a role in living and breathing this culture and value.

  3. Very insightful summary of the workforce challenges and creative solutions needed to prepare for the future. Skills development of your existing workforce and improved internal talent sourcing would allow Cisco to shift the existing talent as the business needs evolve. Your leadership is needed in making sure that Diversity and Inclusion also applies to age. Retaining and re-skilling experienced talent should balanced with attracting new talent.

  4. Just love this blog a lot! We really need to reflect how leaders/HR should face these uncertainties/changes positively but think and do things differently in the forward-looking way to make the impact for today & tomorrow.

  5. Just like this blog a lot! Like the forward-looking thinking and very authentic sharing from Fran on how leaders/HR/ should always reflect ourselves to face all these uncertainties positively and do things differently to make the impact to the broader community.

  6. Sorry, Fran, but let's focus closer to home here…

    Ask how many of the November "restructured" workers feel embraced by Cisco. Interaction with our assigned Cisco HR advocate amounted to one 15-minute demo of the internal job posting site. (Really?) Internal job applications were mostly met by form letters turning impacted workers away. (Really?) My one hot job lead led me to 3 interviews and an 8-hour challenge project that seem to be very well received. After all this… I received a 2-sentence email from the recruiter telling me that the hiring manager had decided to look at other candidates. Never one word from the hiring manager. (Really?)

    Not exactly a shiny happy people story from where I sit. But then again, I'm on the other side of the "Cisco – Best Places to Work"argument at this point.

    Sorry for the anonymity. I would have used my real name if I thought I would not be blackballed by Cisco. (Really?) To paraphrase an old quote on trust… It's an awful feeling when you doubt something that you thought was unquestionable.

  7. Unfortunately, it is nothing but another article in a long chain of politically motivated articles.

    To remind everyone here an American astronaut landed on the moon before the H1B was invented.
    As the Department of Labor concluded that Cisco “secured visas for foreign workers instead of hiring U.S. citizens for certain jobs and paid the visa holders at a lower rate than their American counterparts,”
    HR keeps citing “diversity” but huge part part the company engineering is from a single ethnic group.
    If I may suggest, continue posting such articles just further undermines and destroys employees’ trust I the company. No one buys this propaganda. Let the elected Government to govern and let Cisco do business!

    (Please check your “facts” please there is no slowdown in the economy, in the contrary, there is a steep surge in company profits and near-record levels of optimism from consumers and businesses)

    Previous H1B holder

  8. What a thoughtfully-written article! So glad to be a part of a company that is striving to stay ahead of the skills gap rather than constantly fearing it. I especially love the work about improving higher education with a focus on gaining experience in the technical skills of tomorrow. Skilling and re-skilling are imperative priorities for human resources organizations to master in today's rapidly-changing economy.