Cisco leaders focus on measuring employee well-being

'Well-being helps explain engagement, which in turn helps explain retention'

Cisco leaders focus on measuring employee well-being

The world has been rocked by crisis after crisis over the past two years.

The COVID-19 pandemic, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, school shootings, the Buffalo supermarket massacre, the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, historic inflation, the list goes on and on. And now we’re on the precipice of another recession.

More than two-thirds (68%) of American workers say thinking about current global events has a negative impact on their mental health, according to a recent study by Blueboard. It’s all weighing on people’s minds, and that’s on top of the struggles they face at work. More than two-thirds (67%) of workers say they experience stress at work at least once a week, up from 62% pre-pandemic, according to recent data from ADP Research Institute.

In fact, 15% of workers feel stressed every day. Key sources of stress include length of the working day (28%), problems with technology (26%) and concerns over job security (25%).

Read more: Frito-Lay CHRO: ‘Everyone needs mental health support’

Cisco, the San Jose, CA-based tech giant, has been determined to monitor the mental health of its nearly 80,000 employees during all the turmoil. That’s why Chairman and CEO Chuck Robbins, as well as head of HR Francine Katsoudas, ordered a team of company researchers to create and validate a measure of employee well-being. Representatives of the team shared their process and findings in a presentation at the Workhuman Live conference in Atlanta.

“Well-being helps explain engagement, which in turn helps explain retention,” said Madison Beard, senior leader of applied research, people research and intelligence at Cisco. “If people aren’t well, they can’t be engaged in your company.”

Understanding how well-being impacts the employee experience has allowed Cisco to better serve its people by reshaping strategy, policies and benefits. After all, its employees power the company’s purpose of creating an inclusive future for all, and the only way to achieve that vision is to care for its people in a holistic way.   

“Our intention is to create a culture of well-being,” said Roxanne Bisby Davis, senior director of people research and intelligence at Cisco. “Have conversations with individuals in your organization about how they’re doing. There’s no work/life separation anymore. Look for cues and listen. Ask for their cameras to be turned on and learn their body language.”

Of course, HR leaders have to look out for themselves, as well. As a result of the pandemic and everything that’s come along with it (transition to remote work, return to office, evolving laws and regulations, etc.), 98% of HR professionals are fatigued and under pressure, according to Ireland-based Workvivo, a workplace communication app, which surveyed more than 500 HR professionals in the United States and United Kingdom.

In the past six months alone, 94% of HR pros surveyed said they felt overwhelmed and 88% said they dreaded work. The magnitude of the Great Resignation, in which companies across the U.S. are experiencing historic turnover, and the transitioning of entire workplace structure and culture has left HR departments under-resourced and under immense pressure.

“You have a responsibility in how you advocate for yourself, understanding and enforcing your own barriers,” Davis said. “Regardless of your role, ask yourself if your current workload is sustainable. Do I have the support I need to succeed? Am I able to appropriately advocate for my needs? You shouldn’t have to stay someplace that you’re miserable. Ask for support when you need it, and if you don’t get it, move on.”

Davis can attest to the importance of asking for support. During the height of the pandemic, she struggled to juggle her work responsibilities with her caregiving duties outside the office, so she informed her team of what she was going through. She’s proud to say they leaned in, stepped up to the plate and helped out.

“Talk with your leader and team about how to leverage attention to enhance your well-being,” Davis said. “You have to verbalize that you need help.”

A recent survey HRD America commissioned from Blind, an anonymous professional social network, indicates that even some of the biggest companies in the U.S. aren’t doing enough for their employees. More than half (55%) say they haven’t used any mental health benefits offered by their employer, and 13% believe their employer doesn’t offer any mental health benefits.

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