Think computers are too impersonal? Stephen Finch and David Morrison look at how total digitisation keeps Cisco's people happy
We can't live without our computers. But our systems seldom give us the warm internal glow that many see as the hallmark of enlightened HR management. Yet Cisco Systems, a corporation that admits to depending more on its ever-growing workforce than anything else, has put all its HR operations into an overall digital business model that is proving fundamental to its remarkable success.
If "remarkable success" seems the usual bland term for a business that is doing fairly well, how about increasing sales 15-fold in six years to a record $18bn É and still rising? Perhaps more impressive, how about hiring an average of a thousand new employees every month? If that rate of recruitment makes you wonder how good Cisco is at keeping people, be reassured: against an information technology industry average attrition rate of 16%, theirs stands steady at around 8%.
Much of Cisco's success has been due to the early lead it took in enabling the linking up of corporate computer networks, which has culminated in the ever-widening use of the Internet throughout the business world. To keep that lead has meant continuously recruiting the most talented people to drive a constant flow of new products. That is no easy task in an industry where unemployment is low, competition is fierce and you have a publicly declared policy of employing the top 15% of the best talent.
Cisco's success in meeting its target owes a lot to its digitisation strategy. Eighty per cent of the firm's incoming resum‚s are managed electronically, and the "profiler" on its Web site pulls in thousands of job-search hits every month; over 100,000 electronic profiles were received last year. As a result, Cisco's cost-per-hire is $6,000 compared with an industry average of $10,000. Just as important, the cycle time for recruiting candidates is minimised.
A key factor in this is the large number of employees who volunteer to join the "[email protected]" programme. This links potential employees with people working in th