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Cisco’s Workforce Plan Focuses on Transparency, Opportunity

The tech company’s supply chain and manufacturing employees know the score and have the opportunity for training and reskilling.

Cisco has been focused on supply chain and manufacturing workforce strategy for the past several years, and has found that being open with employees and providing them with plenty of opportunities for training and reskilling has resulted in a more engaged and productive team.

Interestingly, 100% of Cisco’s manufacturing is outsourced, which is somewhat unique given the technology and the complexity of its products. That outsourcing model has highlighted the need for highly skilled workers within Cisco and within its larger ecosystem, says Lori Osterback-Boettner, senior director of Global Business Operations at Cisco.

Over the past several years, Cisco has conducted a deep dive on its workforce, examining such areas as physical footprints, partner network locations and ensuring that the company has the right jobs with the right people at the right skill level.

“We actually started our workforce strategy with a workforce plan that incorporated a very deliberate global site strategy for all Supply Chain employees,” Osterback-Boettner says. “We then leveraged our global site strategy for all of our physical Cisco locations and evaluated the employees—not assessing them on their current skills but evaluating their roles. Is this the right supply chain role in the right location, do we have the right employee experience, do we have critical mass across the supply chain and across disciplines, or do we have remote workers who feel isolated?”

“Everyone has the opportunity to learn new skills and be part of reskilling.”

It took about a year for Cisco to get alignment across its global supply chain leaders, but once everyone was on the same page, the leadership team made its priorities clear to employees at all levels. Cisco values transparency in this area and openly declares the status of its facilities to its workforce.

“Every site is designated as either an invest and grow, optimize, or remote,” Osterback-Boettner says. “So, our employees know exactly where they stand relative to their careers.”

For those employees in locations that are designated as remote, Cisco provides them with clear options, including reskilling.

“Everyone has the opportunity to learn new skills and be part of reskilling. Because they’re in a remote location or a site that we are not going to continue to invest in over time, that does not mean an employee is not eligible for training or reskilling,” Osterback-Boettner says. “We absolutely make it available for all employees. For us, that’s a very big message.”

Many Cisco supply chain and manufacturing workers are taking the company up on its offer of additional training and the opportunity to learn new skills.

“There are a high percentage of employees that opt in, and our attrition over the last three years has remained very consistent relative to our prior decision to come out and say we have a deliberate workforce plan, a site strategy and a regional location strategy,” Osterback-Boettner says.


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