A Customer Success Story

Cisco: Connect People and Transform Culture

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To create a better experience for employees, Cisco set out to create a global, peer-to- peer recognition and reward program based on its core values. The result was Connected Recognition, a Cisco-branded employee recognition and reward program based on core values and funded at 1% of payroll. This level of investment enabled Cisco to drive engagement with more frequent, smaller awards given throughout the year.

Recognition is an investment in people. It’s going to retain talent. If you’ve got the right talent, you’re going to drive revenue growth. It’s an initial investment with a future payoff.

Gabrielle Thompson
Senior Vice President, Acquisitions & Totals Rewards, Cisco

Co-founded in 1982 by Leonard Bosack and Sandy Lerner, Cisco
Systems is a worldwide IT leader that designs, manufactures, and
sells networking equipment. While its headquarters is in San Jose,
Calif., Cisco employs more than 70,000 people in nearly 400 sites
globally. Its mission is to shape the future of the Internet by creating
unprecedented value and opportunity for customers, employees,
investors, and ecosystem partners.

The People Deal is Cisco’s vision for the kind of experience it hopes to create
for employees. Embedded within the People Deal are Cisco’s values of Connect Everything, Innovate Everywhere, and Benefit Everyone.

Keys to success

1. Frequency: 600+ awards given per day for a total of 1.2M awards given over 5 years

2. Range of award values: from $25 to $500

The challenge

As part of a broader culture refresh to improve “moments that matter” in the employee experience, Cisco was looking to modernize its reward program – a traditional spot bonus program for employees who completed big projects. “Recognition is really at the center of the employee experience,” says Gabrielle Thompson, senior vice president, acquisitions & total rewards at Cisco.

The challenge was around publicity of the program – only people on the team would know if someone received a reward. And only managers were able to give rewards to their team members.

Cisco’s ambition was to better align employees’ recognition and reward experience around these moments that matter – and with the cultural experience that the People Deal promises employees.

3. Peer-to-peer giving: 48% of Connected Recognition awards are between team members

4. Strong manager participation: 90%+ of people leaders gave nominations in 2018

The solution

To create a better experience for employees, Cisco set out to create a global, peer-to-peer recognition and reward program based on its core values. Some of the goals of the program were to:
• Increase participation and frequency
• Create positive employee interactions and connections
• Improve productivity of teams and individuals
• Increase employee engagement and satisfaction

Ultimately, Cisco chose to partner with Workhuman® to bring this vision to life. Claire Gray, senior director of global compensation at Cisco, explains why the partnership works so well: “What we came to really appreciate and partner on is the innovation and co-design. Workhuman brought a lot of other ideas as part of our partnership, like video and mobile capability.”

The result was Connected Recognition, a Cisco-branded employee recognition and reward program based on core values and funded at 1% of payroll. This level of investment enabled Cisco to create the best possible recognition experience for all employees, as well as reap quantifiable results.

“Recognition is an investment in people. It’s going to retain talent. If you’ve got the right talent, you’re going to drive revenue growth. It’s an initial investment with a future payoff,” says Gabrielle.

5. Executive participation and modeling: 92% of executive leaders gave nominations in 2018

6. A broad base of givers: the most engaged Cisco employees receive 10+ awards per year from 10+ unique nominators

The result

In the first year alone, 85% of Cisco employees gave or received Connected Recognition awards. “Getting 85% of a 70,000-person company to do anything that they don’t have to is impressive. This is all optional,” says Claire.

What’s more, nearly half (48%) of awards given are from individual contributors, demonstrating a profound shift from manager-only nominations to more peer-to-peer nominations. Participation and momentum remain strong after 5 years of the program, with more than 1.2 million awards given.

From Portugal to Peru, Canada, and Chile, Cisco has been recognized globally for its enviable culture and amazing employee experience. “Our Connected Recognition program is one element of many things that are important to caring for our people and their families,” says Gabrielle. Several employees have blogged about how Connected Recognition has impacted their lives, from using rewards to take a vacation in Thailand, to giving back to charities. In 2018 alone, $32,000 were redeemed in global charities through Connected Recognition.

Connected Recognition also has a proven impact on employee engagement. The team recently analyzed data from nearly 60,000 employees who received Connected Recognition awards. They found a strong positive correlation between engagement and more frequent, smaller awards received throughout the year.

In fact, the most engaged Cisco employees receive an award every 30 to 40 days and from at least 10 unique nominators throughout the year. The data also shows Connected Recognition awards valued at $25, given by peers and redeemable in Workhuman’s robust reward network, are much more powerful drivers of engagement than larger cash awards.

How exactly does Connected Recognition boost engagement? When a Cisco employee receives a Connected Recognition award, they’re much more likely to agree with the following two statements on Cisco’s engagement survey:
• “I have a chance to use my strengths every day at work.”
• “I know I will be recognized for excellent work.”

As Ashley Goodall, senior vice president of leadership and team intelligence at Cisco, explains, “Recognition acknowledges [people’s] strengths, which is the number one secret of high-performing teams.” Even better, as the number of unique nominators increases, so does the employee’s engagement level. “Once you hit that sixth nominator, meaning that sixth person giving you recognition, your engagement goes up significantly. And then it goes up from there even further,” says Gabrielle.

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