EXCLUSIVE: Cisco introduces regular check-ins during Covid-19 pandemic

Employee Benefits Reset 2020: Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, Cisco has introduced a weekly check-in meeting for all of its 70,000 global employees.

On the third day of the Employee Benefits Reset online series on 7 October, Shelia Champion-Smeeth, global head of wellbeing and people at Cisco, discussed what the organisation has introduced since its employees started working remotely in March 2020. 

Due to its technology, the organisation transferred its entire workforce to remote working within a week, and set up weekly video check-in meetings to answer any questions its employees might have. Chuck Robbins, chief executive officer (CEO) at Cisco, as well as the leadership team make regular appearances. along with experts such as doctors and specialists. 

Champion-Smeeth explained: “ It’s wonderful to really get to know people in a bit more light, and in personal circumstances as much as their professional circumstances, as well as what we’ve been doing.

“We’ve had a huge number of employees join us each and every week, with a huge number of questions which we’ve been able to answer for them. In fact, some people have been saying they’d much rather be part of our check-ins than be part of anything going on in the media and social media.”

Teams and managers regularly communicate using video conferencing platforms such as Webex and this has never been more important, said Champion-Smeeth. As well as managers having individual weekly catch-ups with their direct reports, more collective team get togethers are actively encouraged, not only to talk about work but also get to know their colleagues on a more personal level.

Champion-Smeeth also explained that Cisco’s ethos is that family comes first and employees should prioritise their home life before they even begin to think about work. “[Employees need to] understand that they have permission to put their family first and in our weekly check ins, our CEO has been saying that to our people. every single week, and not just saying to the individuals in Cisco, but saying it to the leaders and managers, they need to support their people too and make sure they put their families first before they get to professional work. We know if you do that then people will be able to be more productive and more resilient in their work.”