Guest: Kelly Jones & Patrick Romzek Guest Title: Talent Acquisition Leader, LifeChanger Executive Consultant
Date: September 27, 2017 Guest Company: Cisco
Debra Ruh: Hello everyone, welcome to Human Potential at Work. I’m Debbie Ruh, your host and I’m really excited about having the guests today. We have Patrick Romzek from Cisco and Kelly Jones. I’m going to let Pat introduced himself and then also let Kelly introduce himself. Before I do that I want … Some of you already heard me talking about Cisco. I’m really, really fascinated with what Cisco is accomplishing and they are not just accomplishing it in the United States. They’re looking at this from a global perspective and so I’m talking about this quite a bit in my keynote sessions and training and things like that and so I was really stoked that Pat and Kelly agreed to come on and really tell us what they’re doing.
Another thing to let you know is that we’re going to have some slides during the presentation and if you’re listening to this, what we’re going to do is we’re going to put those slides up available on the website by the podcast, so depending upon how you’re listing, whether it’s a Facebook Live or one of the many other channels we’re on, we’ll make sure that you have access to these slides as well. But we believe that putting up the slides a little is going to really sort of help tell the story a little better, why? Because this is a very different story that we’re hearing.
We’re also going to spend a little bit of time talking about Cisco. I have been a technologist my whole life and so Cisco, I just assume everybody knows about Cisco, but in case you don’t because I’ve actually had some people in my speeches say, “Are you talking about the food company?” and I said, “No, I’m talking about the technology company, Cisco.” Excuse me if I say some things you already know, but we want to make sure everybody understands we are talking about Cisco, C-I-S-C-O. Pat and Kelly, welcome to the program.
Patrick Romzek: Thank you.
Debra Ruh: Pat, you wanted to start giving an introduction and then we’ll turn it over to Kelly.
Patrick Romzek: Sure, thank you, Debra. Thank you for having us on. We’re looking forward to talking further about what we’re doing. My name is Pat Romzek, as Debra said. My job at Cisco actually up until recently is I was the vice president of cloud strategy, so you might be wondering, “Why are you on this call if you’re talking about …”
Well, I’m not going to talk about cloud strategy, but Kelly and I a couple of years ago started this project as volunteers, as a passion project, a stretch assignment, if you will, outside our day jobs because we really believed it and it’s sort of taking on a life of its own. Subsequently, I retired from Cisco in March, but I’m still at Cisco now as program lead for this project. I moved out of my day job. I retired from my day job, but I didn’t retire from working and I didn’t retire from this passion project, which I care a lot about. Kelly, you want to introduce yourself as well?
Kelly Jones: Yeah, great, thank you, so my name is Kelly Jones and I work in the talent acquisition organization at Cisco. I lead the hiring for Cisco and so that includes a variety of areas around early and career, as well as experience, talent base. Pat, we weren’t going to let you go. You were to instrumental. You had to stay engaged. Yeah, so we’ve been working together on this for the last couple years, really focused on ensuring we embed all this into our hiring areas. We’re very happy to be here, Debra, thank you so much for inviting us.
Debra Ruh: Yeah, I’m really excited and I had the pleasure to hear Pat talk several times about this and I’m really stoked that you’re here, Kelly. Of course, I’m very excited about Pat, but I’m really excited that you’re here because of the role that you play at Cisco. You have a global role and this is what you do all over the world and so I think it’s very, very excited to see somebody in the position you’re in really taking such a leadership role. Let’s talk more about this and Patrick, let me take it back to you for a second. I know you have a personal reason why this was important to you and I was just wondering if you wouldn’t mind just telling us a little bit about your personal reason about why this is important to you?
Patrick Romzek: Oh, thank you, Debra. I’ve been blessed with a child with special needs. It’s my son, Andrew. This is a picture of Andrew. Andrew’s 30-years-old now and he was born with Down syndrome, but being a special needs parent really change the way I look at the world in a change the way I look at life in general and he’s my inspiration.
I realize based on my experience with my own son that people with disabilities are capable of far more than most people think and whatever they do they do with a great deal of passion, commitment and they’re driven to be successful. That inspired me really to sort of start this project at Cisco with Kelly and some other volunteers that also, while Kelly is focused on talent acquisition, she’s also passionate about this project. She started on this project as a sort of volunteer, not as part of her day job and it kind of evolved into her day job, right Kelly?
Kelly Jones: Right.
Patrick Romzek: We’re fortunate, Debra, have a lot of people at Cisco that care about giving back and making a difference in the world. It’s very much aligned to our vision as a company and Cisco, we are blessed because Cisco allows us to do things like this and start a project like this literally, that had nothing to do with our jobs and so we’re fortunate.
Debra Ruh: I think that’s a really good point. Why, why does Cisco care? Cisco is a huge global technology company that really is more business to business as opposed to business to consumer. I certainly understand brands that are selling to the community, but this is different. Why is Cisco taking a leadership on this?
Patrick Romzek: I think it goes back to our vision. 30 years ago when Cisco was started, division of Cisco was to change the world, change the way the world lives, works, plays and learns. That’s our vision. It’s been our vision for 30 years. Have a culture of giving back, has a lot of people that care about the world and making the world a better place. We like to use technology to do that, but we also like to do that through philanthropic efforts and other things. We have one of the most active corporate social responsibility organizations in the world. We’ve done some amazing things all over the world and so it fits very much with our culture. I don’t know if you have anything to add there, Kelly but that’s my view of anyway.
Kelly Jones: Yeah, I would absolutely agree and I would just say in addition to being a core value, it is something that everyone you meet across Cisco seems to have this as part of who they are and it’s an interesting question, Debra because when I heard the question I thought, “Well, why not?” Because I’ve been at Cisco about 10 years and it’s so normal to be that the way that we tend to approach our work is a bit about giving back and making sure that everyone participates in the upside.
When I heard your question, I thought, “Well, that’s a strange question. Of course, we all feel that way.” Then when I heard your follow-up I realized, “I guess not.” I would agree, Pat. It’s just a huge part of our culture and we’re fortunate to work with a lot of really passionate people that believe in giving back and believe in doing the right thing.
Debra Ruh: Kelly, before we leave you, we talked a little bit about Pat, about his personal passion and his mentor, Andrew, but tell us more about why this speaks so much to you, Kelly?
Kelly Jones: Yeah, I would say there’s two main reasons. First of all, similar to Pat, I also have a child with special needs, with a physical disability and so it does very much change your perspective of the world in terms of how people see you and see your children and preparing your children for the world that they’re going to enter. My daughter is a little younger, so she’s entering an economy where most of the jobs have not yet been defined yet. It challenges you a bit as a parent to think about that.
But I would also say that in general, I’m a strong believer in a culture of inclusiveness and that spans a lot of things. Oftentimes when we think about inclusion, we think about more along the diversity spectrum in terms of gender or females, males, but actually it’s quite a broader spectrum than that. That’s something that I’ve always found myself drawn to in my career: how I can participate in areas that just create a more inclusive environment because it’s good business and because everybody wins when you do it.
Debra Ruh: You know Kelly, your answer really touched my heart. I also as a lot of the viewers know have an adult child with Down syndrome. She’s also 30 and it’s interesting. I was in the banking industry in technology for many years and I felt the same way that both you and Pat did. It’s like how can I take what I know as working at the time in corporate America and really maybe have an impact on this audience, this community that I’m part of? We are very grateful to both you and Pat for your work and your leadership and I think our children are lucky to have you as parents as well.
Patrick Romzek: Thank you.
Debra Ruh: Let’s go into it. Let’s talk about wealth and I will let y’all decide how you want to answer it. Let’s talk a little bit about the problem. We talk about this all the time on Human Potential at Work. That’s certainly a play on words. We talk about employment of individuals with disabilities, but really, we’re talking about the human potential. Tell us more about the problem from the perspective of how Cisco decided to start this?
Patrick Romzek: Yeah, I’ll take this, Kelly and feel free to add anything. A couple years ago, as I said, this is an area of interest and passion for me and Kelly and others, but I guess I didn’t fully understand … I certainly understood having an adult special-needs child, how terrible employment challenges were for people with disabilities. I really didn’t understand how awful they really were. As special-needs parents, we all are worried about how is our child going to develop their self-esteem and self-sufficiency and economic self-sufficiency and a job makes a huge difference in a person’s life as we all know, right? Your self-steam and your ability to grow your life and your family is dependent on your ability to earn an income in a lot of cases.
I became aware of really how awful employment was for people with disabilities and at the same time, we had a special children’s group and some other things that we were working on at Cisco and I thought to myself, “Why couldn’t we make a difference?” Honestly, what started … I did a little bit of research and I’ll share with you some of the research that I found, but the idea was that we’re a technology company. At that time, I worked in our collaboration group. We used this technology every day. We’re using WebEx right now. I’m working from my home office, as you can probably tell. Kelly is in her home office. We work this way every single day.
Well, when you see these employment statistics and how absolutely terrible they are, what you realize is there’s got to be a way for us to do something about this? That was what really what inspired us from the very beginning was our culture enabled us to do it, but we were inspired by there’s got to be a way to fix this. These are employment statistics in the US and they haven’t changed materially in 30 years.
Now, this is a global problem. We know it’s a global problem. We know of countries, many, many countries that have initiatives around people with disabilities, but I show this slide sometimes, Deborah, people say to me, “Wow, that’s really awful. The unemployment rate for people with disabilities is 35%.” I say, “No, that’s not the unemployment rate. That’s the employment rate in the US.”
Oh, by the way, that’s the best in the world. If you’re working age in the US, two thirds of working age people in the US have a job, except if you have any disability whatsoever and then only a third of the people have a job and frankly, only 1 in 5, 1 in 5, have a full-time job. Even people that have gone back and got a four-year college degree, only half of them work in the US and that’s the best in the world. Most other places, is actually lower than that. Most are underemployed. They are paid less. They work part-time.
Senator Harkin and I was at … I was fortunate. Deborah, you were at the Harkin Summit, right? Senator Harkin is a huge advocate of disability employment and he speaks of this all the time. He says, “We’ve spent millions of dollars over 30 years and have had no impact.” This was a problem that we sought, Kelly and I and a group of volunteers, sought to change with a project that we named, Project Life Change.
Debra Ruh: Kelly, do you want to add anymore?
Kelly Jones: Yeah, I was just going to say, adding on to what Pat said, we are well-positioned with our collaboration technologies and in my mind, it’s why wouldn’t you do it? It’s a little bit about that. It’s a supply and it’s a being able to empower everyone. If you have the ability to do it, why wouldn’t you do it? It’s a big problem. You can see from the problem statement and I think we’re all aware of that. If you’re positioned to where you can do something, then you do something and I think that was my philosophy around it.
Debra Ruh: Which is exciting. Tell us more about the Life Changer Program.
Patrick Romzek: The Life Changer Program is we have this vision of work is something you do, not a place that you go. The idea originally was using collaboration technology, like we are using right now, voice, video, live video, high definition video, allows you to be barrier free. You take collaboration capabilities and you marry it with accommodations, accessible technology and you can do anything from anywhere. I do meetings all the time. I had a meeting last night with India. I had a meeting the night before with China.
This is the way we work at Cisco. Why couldn’t a person with a disability work this way, using collaboration technology and the right assistive technology to work in a way that works for them? That’s how it started and the idea was very simple: let’s just see if we can make a difference here. Using collaboration technology, let’s try to target and focus on this disability population, people with disabilities and see if we can make a difference at Cisco and beyond? That’s really how it started.
Debra Ruh: Yeah, which is very exciting. I know that when I created my technology company, Tech Access, if we didn’t have collaboration tools, and that was a long time ago, that was in 2000, I wouldn’t have been able to hire the talented people that were working for me and they were working for me from all kind of locations, including nursing homes and rehab centers because I didn’t really care if … I think the way it should be, and Cisco has obviously figured this out, is I just really need you to do your work and to get your work and your projects done. The days of clock in, if I see you over there working, etc., those days I think are gone. The collaboration tools like WebEx is really change the world and the opportunities for people with disabilities.
Patrick Romzek: Yeah and you know Kelly, you might want to speak? We’ve come a long way since then, so that was our original premise was really focusing primarily using technology as an enabler, but we found, we’ve learned a lot along the way. This has become programmatized now at Cisco and honestly, we see it as bigger than that. Kelly, you may want to speak to sort of how we’re driving this across the company now?
Kelly Jones: Sure, Pat mentioned that collaboration technology as kind of being the starting point for us, but one of the things we realize very early is it was going to become critical that we really embed some of these processes into the way that we work from a talent acquisition standpoint, from a how do we onboard employees standpoint and we made that decision because what we realized was anything that stands alone and feels like a separate process is just harder to get done.
We had the discussion and we were lucky in that we had a lot of really strong executive support around this program, so we were able to look at ourselves and look at each other and say, “This is going to become a part of the fabric in which how we work.” We really focused on embedding these processes into some of the current existing flow that we had, which I think is critical. From a tools standpoint, from a process standpoint, from a how do we measure success standpoint, all of those things are really embedded now in terms of how we are hiring people with disabilities.
The other thing I would say is the supply piece of it, and Pat, I don’t know if you’re okay going into this now, but I feel like we noticed early on one of the early lessons we saw was we saw a lot of candidates that had the right character traits, the right attitudes, the right interests, the right ability to do the roles we had, but maybe didn’t have the right level of experience or training? A lot of our roles at Cisco are technical and so we decided that they would go at this problem from a couple different angles and add to that our ability to build our own talent supply. That’s really through our Life Changer Talent Incubation Program, which partners very closely with Network Academy.
For listeners who might be familiar with Cisco, we have a very successful training program at Cisco through CSR called Network Academy that trains people to work in networking technology skills. We partner very closely with them to leverage both their curriculum and their process and in an accessible way to also work on the supply side of the challenge that we had and create readiness and readiness for employment with people with disabilities. It’s really evolved from where we started.
We started with this one problem statement about how can we use our technology to really innovate in this space? Being a technology company, we tend to lead with technology in terms of what solutions are, but it’s really expanded quite beyond that to include how we systematize all these pieces and also, how we work on helping to create supply, both for Cisco and for others in the world.
Debra Ruh: I know I think you brought up so many good points that it’s hard to address them all. What’s really so innovative about this and innovative is the right word, but at the same time, it’s a shame that it’s the right word. But the reason why it’s the right word is because often what we do when we’re trying to include people with disabilities is we do try to create something separate.
Then what happens is it’s not part of the core company and as soon as there’s some kind of, “Well, we need to reduce our excess spending,” those programs go away. You see this, some innovation happening and then it goes away. I think that’s a very powerful part of it. I think another part that’s powerful is that you’re actually helping make sure that these individuals with disabilities have a very, very powerful skill that works for Cisco, but is also going to be helpful for a lot of other companies, too.
Kelly Jones: That’s right.
Patrick Romzek: In fact, just to add to what Kelly said. She talked about those Life Changer Talent Incubator Programs. This was a necessity is the mother of invention scenario.” We were hiring a lot of people. We started out by hiring people and we started in San Jose in a pilot in our headquarters in the Bay area in California. Then we evolved and did some prototypes in four major markets: California, Brazil, in Europe, specifically in Brussels and in Bangalore, India. We hired quite a number of people.
What we found is exactly what Kelly said. We could not find enough people that had the skills we were looking for, so while we knew there was 1 billion people in the world with a disability and 80% of them worked working, we saw lots and lots of candidates in California and in all these other locations that were very capable and had tremendous character traits, but just didn’t have the right schooling or experience. They would never make the the cut in the normal recruiting process because there would be somebody else that has the perfect background.
What we decided to do was to use our own Networking Academy curriculum to build the talent pool, give the experience to the people that had the character traits and capabilities to enable them to work at Cisco. That’s been really, really successful for us. It’s now a cornerstone of our strategy, but we didn’t start there. We learned as we went along because we were driven to make this really successful.
The other thing I would add about the Networking Academy, just a little bit of more information. Kelly mentioned a little bit about it. There are 9000 Network Academies in the world. There’s 1 million students right now enrolled in a Network Academy somewhere in the world. There’s 160,000 people in the US enrolled in a Network Academy today.
Those Network Academies are sort of traditional delivery models, typically through a community college and university. What we’re doing with our Life Changer Talent Incubation Program and we are now seeing other academies to the same thing, is take that curriculum, deliver it online, make it accessible and target people with disabilities for a career, whether it’s at Cisco or another company. We think there’s broad appeal. There is pilots, we’re seeing all over the world, using our Network Academy curriculum to enable people … We call it “Innovating employability.”
We think we innovated employment with Life Changer. What we’re now trying to do is innovate employability, create employability amongst this huge pool of talent, very capable and talented people, give them the right levels of experience, give them an opportunity and they’ll prove themselves. That’s what we’ve seen.
Debra Ruh: Yeah, that’s a very powerful statement. When I wrote my book on employment Tapping into Hidden Human Capital, it was edited multiple times because of who it was aligned with and the editors kept saying every time I would get a different editor, “You don’t need to say,’ Hiring qualified people with disabilities. That’s redundant. Debra, take it out.'”
I said, “Well no, actually we need to say this because often what we’re hearing is that people with disabilities are applying for jobs that they’re not qualified for and we can get parents very excited, corporate brands, about including people with disabilities, but the supply chain, getting really access to qualified candidates with disabilities has been a real problem, not just in the US but all over the world,” and that’s what I think is really, really exciting about what you’re doing at Cisco.
I also think that some of … I was telling your story when I’m speaking in St. Louis the other day, but there was a story, Pat, you talk about some of the surprises and when I say surprises, delights that Cisco has found because of these really talented employees that you are making sure are trained and qualified to do your jobs. For example, Pat, one of the things I’m thinking of is the empathy that you were seeing from the people in India.
Patrick Romzek: Yeah, that’s a great point. There’s a couple things I think we’re doing that are unique from what I’ve heard, from what people tell us, customers, partners, folks like you that are industry experts. That’s what we’re on the supply side with innovating employability I think is unique. But the other thing that’s unique is we measure and we have a very clear view of the productivity and impact of these individuals. Being a technology company, we measure everything, right? We have a very clear of the sort of what our folks are doing.
Well, a number of the people that we hired into roles at Cisco, using under the Life Changer Program, a large group, one of our pilot centers was in Bangalore, India. We have a large technical center there. The people in the technical center are the people that answer the phone. When you have a Cisco problem and you’re in Asia or you’re in Europe, you get routed to Bangalore, India and one of these folks answers the phone.
Well, we hired a number of people with disabilities into that center in Bangalore. They were visually impaired. Most of them were blind, I mean blind. You think about how difficult is it to be a technical assistant’s analyst at Cisco when you’re blind and you can’t look at a computer and that sort of thing? We provided accessible technology for them. We created a flexible work environment just like we talked about under the Life Changer model and what we found because we do measure everything is their productivity was more than double the productivity of their co-workers.
It’s not a case, and I say this all the time and you’ve heard me say this Debra, this is not just a CSR project. A lot of times these programs get pushed under corporate social responsible, “Oh, it’s the right thing to do.” “We want to give back.” “We want to be viewed as a tiering company,” and all those sort of things and that’s all true. But what’s really important for people to understand, it’s good for our business. It’s not just good for the people and good for society. It’s actually good for our business.
The productivity of the people we hired was more than double the productivity of their co-workers who had no disabilities. They had lower error rates. Remember, we measure all these things in our technical service center, right? We know how many cases they open, how many they close, how long they’re open, what the customer satisfaction is and what we found is their productivity was actually much higher than their coworkers, who didn’t have disabilities. They worked harder. They had lower error rates. They had lower turnover. They had a lower absenteeism. They were very committed and dedicated to their job.
But the point you raised is a point on the right-hand side. This is a direct quote from the director of our global technical center who said, “It’s not just one of these things that’s of the right thing to do.” He said, “People don’t realize the benefits to Cisco are far greater than most people realize.” These are some of our best employees. They have a tremendous amount of customer empathy and it makes sense when you think about it. People with disabilities have great character traits because they’ve been overcoming challenges their entire life, so they’re fearless, they’re dedicated, they’re committed and they’re empathetic.
We’ve had customers call us and tell us how empathetic one of these customer service people are. They didn’t even know the person was blind. They’re telling us that they have tremendous customer empathy, so we think it’s an asset for us. It’s not just the right thing to do. It’s good for our business and is an asset for us in a customer service type of role. We think the business potential for us is tremendous, both in terms of material financial benefits, as well as the brand equity, which we really even having explored as you know Debra very much. We haven’t spent a lot of time on that, but we think the potential for positioning Cisco as one of the great companies of the world and for the world has tremendous benefit to us.
Debra Ruh: Yeah and you know one thing that I heard, you spoke at the International Labor Organization, the Global Business Disability Network and somebody said to me afterwards, “You know, I think it’s amazing the successes they’re having, but I think we need to be careful about implying that people with disabilities are two times as productive as the others.” What I thought was so interesting about that was you’re not implying it. You have actually tracked the analytics and the metrics. You’re not making this up. You have the data because you track all of your employees. That’s what you do at Cisco.
Patrick Romzek: Right, exactly, we have a very clear picture. In fact, to that point, let me just share with you real quick. This is the team of people that they hired and these are the specific metrics of some of the things that we measure. 20 of the 34 people in this group are visually impaired. One was hearing impaired. Some folks with autism. Service closure rate increased from 60% to 80%. Number of cases managed increased. You can see these are very specific metrics.
This is not just a sort of theoretical argument it honestly Debra, the other thing that’s important about this, and I know there are some employers out there, I’m sure there’s folks with disabilities that are interested in roles and obviously, we’re very interested in creating opportunities for them because they can be graded employees, but even from the employer’s side the business case is important. While you might do it or I might do it or Kelly might do it because we believe in this.
We have experienced what it’s like with our own families and people with disabilities and what they’re capable of. A lot of people don’t know. If you have a business case and you could go to a business executive and say, “This is not only good for the world and good for the people, it’s really good for our business and look at, oh by the way, your productivity should go up not down.” Whether it’s double or not double, the point is that the productivity is at least as good as what you’re going to get with another employee.
You’re not doing this out of social justice, driven by social justice. Do it because it’s good for our business. If the personal passion doesn’t drive you to do this, do it because it’s good for our business because it is. Kelly, I don’t know if you have anything to add? We’ve had a lot of these conversations internally. You can tell I have a little passion about this.
Kelly Jones: No, I would agree and what was interesting in what Pat just shared, that’s what we measure for all of our employees. We didn’t carve out any special measurements to create a business case around this. That’s just how we measure for people who work in that area of the tact. It was really fascinating when it came up and you actually saw that data behind it. I would actually say that there is a ton of information about having a more inclusive and diverse workforce does help the bottom line and I agree with you. I think that’s one of the things that people tend to overlook the most. They tend to feel like it’s more of a corporate push rather than really understanding the impact of their bottom line.
The other thing I would add is as someone who works in the talent acquisitions space and is constantly looking at the labor market and the labor trends over the next 10, 15 years, do not discount the impact of what’s happening with our population right now. We look at having readiness, work readiness in our population, you really have to have a focus everywhere because if you look at the volume of people exiting the workforce over the next 10 to 15 years versus those coming in and what skills they’re coming in with, it creates quite a challenge and an interesting vortex for those of us that work in talent acquisition. So it’s good business on multiple fronts.
Debra Ruh: Wow, that’s a very powerful statement, Kelly, very, very powerful statements that you made. You know something that also fascinates me about there’s so much that fascinates me about what you’re doing that the outcomes, the employment outcomes that you’re presenting … There’s a lot of very big brands that are getting a lot of good marketing and media attention for hiring 35 people over four years, but your numbers are the most impressive by a long shot than any of the others.
I was blessed to get to speak before the United Nations I guess it was two years ago and one thing I was saying to the countries that were in the session was that you should stop funding projects that don’t have employment outcomes. If we can’t help people with disabilities become employed so they can be part of society, they can be taxpayers, they can feed their families, they can do things, you are doing a disservice.
When I first started hearing about what Cisco … First of all, when I first started hearing about Cisco, I heard about all the amazing work you had done to support our veterans and our wounded warriors and that’s what I knew about Cisco and that impressed me a lot. But the Life Changer Program, I’m just blown away by it. I have a question for you Kelly and I have a feeling Pat will want to comment on this, too, and I’m going to tell the audience we talked about this a little bit before we started.
One of the things that we started before we started the show today was talking about pulling out specific jobs that are going to work for the program. I will say before I turn the mic over to you Kelly, one thing that I’ve seen and I’ve actually counseled a lot of global corporations added they’ll say, “What we want to do is be want to carve out these jobs and then people with disabilities can just apply for them.” I said, “Well, be careful about narrowing the focus too much. I think you’re going to miss the opportunity of real innovation.”
Then I’m going to make one more comment and then I’m going to let you go with it because I know you have a lot to say. I went to this, and I’m not going to mention who, a very, very large financial institution and they were so proud of employing a small group of individuals with intellectual disabilities, like Down syndrome and autism. They’re like, “Let us show you the job,” and I’m like, “Oh, I’m so excited.”
We went and there was this very, very big room. It was just a really big room and he said, “Most of the employees,” I don’t know what the employees normally did, but I think it was making sure bills and stuff were getting out to customers. There was nobody in the room because they worked at night and they said, “Okay, well what they do is … See how big the room is?” “Yes.” “They walk around the room and they pick up the staplers out of the carpet and the rubber bands,” and they were so excited about this and I thought, “Oh my goodness, you got to be kidding me. That is your reach bar for these very talented individuals?”
Because just because somebody has an intellectual or cognitive disability does not mean they can’t add value to the workforce? Of course, we’re talking about the biggest … We’re talking about the biggest definition of disabilities, everybody being included. But I just wanted to get you to talk a little bit about it from that perspective.
Kelly Jones: Yeah, I think the way in which I would answer that when we think about how we employ at Cisco, first of all, all of our jobs are open to people with disabilities, so we don’t carveout necessarily and say, “We are looking only in this area or in that area.” The Cisco.com website has a listing of all of our jobs. What we found was we get a lot of applications on that website, so sometimes it’s hard to filter through all of those applications and make sure you’re reaching everyone.
When we look at this and decided where the opportunity was, we tried to take it from the standpoint of what are the roles that we mostly hire for at Cisco? What are the areas we hire in bulk? The example that Pat showed area, that’s a high volume area that we do a lot of hiring in, but it is an area that requires a technical background, hence the focus on also building a supply side.
I would say where we’re different is this with you to create a role. We have the roles that we have. We are a technology company. For 60% of what we hire is engineering and in the technology space. The other 40% is spread out through our other various functional areas. When we looked at this we tried to look at where were the largest areas of opportunity in terms of volume hiring that we did that we felt like we could introduce people to and then we also worked on training around that from a technical standpoint. I would say that there are no meaningless jobs created. We have no stapler or puller jobs. These are all real required skill set, Cisco roles that we are asking people to do for sure.
The other thing that I would say around that is I think that the technical pivot is an interesting one because again, if you come to work at Cisco or if you go to work at a Cisco competitor, the training you’re going to get through that is going to be valuable for you. We don’t change the hiring criteria for people with disabilities. We look for the same level of being able to come in and do the job. We don’t in any way lower a bar. We say, “This is our bar,” but through some of the training programs at enablement, we try to help them to get to the bar by being able to provide it because something that hadn’t been provided before and it’s good for us and it’s good for them. I’ll pause, Pat. I’m sure you have something you’d like to add to that.
Patrick Romzek: Yeah, great, great description on what we’re doing, but the other thing I would add is different is I think people that are out there may say, “We hear that from companies that you can apply for any job.” What we’re intentionally doing is, as Kelly said, we’re taking roles that we know fit. Anybody on this call can apply for any job at Cisco and we will consider you and we’ll hire the best talent. The other thing we did is we had outreach programs that Kelly and I have driven specifically targeting roles not to be exclusive, but targeting roles that we think are a great fit with people’s abilities, like these entry-level, technical assistance jobs in Bangalore and Brussels.
The other point I would make Debra is adding to your earlier comment about what we’ve done, what’s different about I think what we’re doing and what I’ve heard from other folks is we’re hiring across the whole disability spectrum. We’re not just targeting people with autism. They’re a lot of programs out there, Autism at Work or whatever, and they’re fantastic programs and they’re raising the bar. A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats, those are great programs, but what we’re doing is we’re focusing globally, not just US, not just one organization, but globally we’re focused on all disabilities and enabling employment for folks, talented folks, anywhere in the world in any kind of a role.
The other thing is that we’re hiring in multiple organizations. We hired the most people, keep me honest here Kelly, but we’ve hired a number of people in our technical services center, our advanced services team that provides services to customer, our employee services team that provides services to our internal employees, our IT department, our sales organization, our engineering organization. It’s across the company. It’s not a handful of jobs somewhere in the world, focused only on one set of disabilities. We’re focusing it much more broadly and Kelly said it earlier, we’re trying to drive this as a cornerstone of our talent strategy across the entire company, not just in a targeted area.
Debra Ruh: Gosh, it’s so exciting because we’ve never seen this and I’ll tell you one thing that I have seen a little bit of is sometimes corporate brands will put together a program to employ people with disabilities. Maybe they could support from a service provider, but they don’t really hire them, and I’m not going to name any brands, but it’s really the employees get hired by the voc-rehab something, but they’re not Cisco employees with the same-
Patrick Romzek: Subcontractors.
Debra Ruh: As everybody else right, they’re subcontractors and that’s okay, too, because subcontractors are great, but I think there’s something so powerful about Cisco… Let’s talk about that for a second. Are these Cisco employees or are these sub- contractors? By the way, once again, a lot of people are subcontractors. I have subcontractors, but there’s something really beneficial about also hiring employees.
Patrick Romzek: They’re direct employees. Kelly, you want to comment?
Kelly Jones: Yeah, no, I would agree. That was the intent of the program was to bring people into Cisco and so we’re hiring them as direct employees.
Patrick Romzek: They don’t have a job. They have a career. I had a call last week from someone, a call unrelated and they were telling me that one of … They call them our Life Changer Candidates, was hired into one of these technical service jobs in Bangalore is now moved into multiple different jobs doing really well. This person said to me, “Hey, one of the folks on my team is one of the people you guys hired through this program in Bangalore and he’s doing really, really well.” It’s not a job. It’s a career.
Now to your point on subcontractors that’s an important point, too, though. It’s an and for and we haven’t really fully explored this, but this is one of the things Kelly and I are focused on. We do want to drive this into our supplier community, so we do have a lot of subcontractors at Cisco and we really do want to influence them to do the same thing because there’s benefits to them as well and a lot of the people… There are a number of people at Cisco that work here that are subcontractors.
Kelly Jones: Close to 50,000 by the way. It’s not a small … Our business model is designed that way. We have full-time employees and we have contractors. It’s the way that we are designed.
Debra Ruh: It’s very common, right.
Patrick Romzek: We believe we can have more influence not just what we’re doing, but driving it through our suppliers, our partners and being a thought leader for our customers, sort of showing them of the way. That’s what we think we can do here.
Debra Ruh: I agree. I have a little bit of a cold, so I apologize. Tell us more about the supplier community, and before you do that, Kelly, how many employees does Cisco have around the world?
Kelly Jones: Yeah, we have a little over 70,000 around the world, a total of about 120 people if you count contractors.
Patrick Romzek: 120,000.
Debra Ruh: That’s very common these days with the sub- contractors and everything, but it’s so exciting and I want to dig a little into the supplier community. Like you said, having the ability at Cisco is real big. Everybody knows Cisco. My husband has Cisco certification because my husband was a technologist and so he wanted to advance his career, so he got Cisco-certified. Tell us more about the supply chain because I think that is a powerful, powerful comment. Not only should the community people with disabilities be so stoked that Cisco is doing this, but the ability to influence others to do it, especially your supply chain community.
Patrick Romzek: Yeah, I’ll comment and Kelly, you may have some things to add? We have a lot of subcontractors in all different areas. They may be administrative function. They may be human resources or administrative or functional groups or even technical groups. What we’re doing, and we’ve just started this because our focus up to now has been primarily internal and that’s why Deborah, you said to me many times, “Cisco is doing more and talking about it less than anyone else.” We’re talking about it because we’re internally focused because we want to make a difference and that’s been our focus up to now.
What we do see is the opportunity to influence others, so we’re just starting now to engage in dialogue with some of our top suppliers around what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, what it’s doing and what it means to us. We have thoughts, this hasn’t been done, of even establishing guidelines for our contractors. If you want to bring people into Cisco and work here, we expect to have an inclusive and diverse population of people, not just the people you want to bring in here. We haven’t done it yet, but that is one of the things that we’re talking about. Kelly, I don’t know if you want to add anything there?
Kelly Jones: Yeah, I think the only thing I would add to that is there is also the possibility if you look at the Cisco ecosystem, we also have large partner organizations that work with us, that are not subcontractors, but our partners in selling Cisco products and we have an ability I think also to help them with this because we have a large footprint in this space. We’ve proven out the model. We know what works. We have some of the trading in place and we deploy a lot of our solutions to help our partners. We’re very focused on, obviously, the success of our partners, so I think we have opportunity there as well.
The benefit, too, if we really take this and expand it into the sub-contractor community … And by the way, my team, I have a global team and it’s very blended. I have a lot of subcontractors on my recruitment team. The other benefit of that is you also get exposure to other organizations. If you’re working at Cisco through a subcontractor vendor, then you are inherently getting connected to jobs to be able to grow your career, either in Cisco or outside of it through whoever the vendor might be.
Debra Ruh: Once you get into the audience, this is so powerful. It’s just so powerful because not only is Cisco doing this all over the world … Think about being blind in Bangalore … Sorry, I missed up the name, but think about being blind there? It’s probably a little it more difficult than being blind in the United States. Think about the opportunity to work and it’s just so powerful, it’s very powerful. Then you have the ability to really support your customers that want to do it in the supply chain. It’s just really, really exciting.
We have not seen something like this for our community. We’re just so excited about it. I wonder, tell us how is this impacting your competitors or do you know if it is it? I’ll say before you start, if I have anything to do with it, I am going to make sure the world knows about what you’re doing here at Cisco because this is very powerful. A lot of times competitors when they see somebody get a whole lot more attention than them, they start paying even more attention, so let’s talk about it from that angle.
Patrick Romzek: Well, we are doing customer brief things on this topic. I did one last week for a bank in Korea, came to our customer experience center in San Jose, we have a world-class customer experience center in San Jose. We do multiple customer briefings every single day. It’s one of the most impactful in the world. We also have them all over the world, but I’ve been asked a number of times to actually provide briefings to customers about what we’re doing because today, customers not only, and this is sort of true with millennials, too. Millennials and many of our customers, they don’t want to just buy from a company that provides great technology. They want to buy from a company that is making a difference in the world. This is an important part of our brand and as we talked at the beginning of this Debra, is part of our culture, part of our brand.
While we haven’t done any specific benchmarking against competitors, what we hear from our customers is that this is meaningful to them and many of them have initiatives as well. I had a meeting a couple weeks ago with a major pharmaceutical company and it was two hours of them peppering me with questions about what are you doing? How are you doing? What did you do there? What did you do there? How did you figure this out? What did …? and we’re happy to share that. Cisco has a legacy of this.
If you think about, and some of you are probably too young to remember this, I’m not, but in the 80s and 90s when Cisco was started, late 80s and 90s when Cisco was started and the Internet was just sort of all the rage and was just really emerging, Cisco ran its company on the Internet. We leaned in and did some really innovative things and know what we did is we freely shared what we were doing with everyone else, whether it was e-commerce.
We were one of the first large e-commerce companies in the world. We were one of the first companies in the world to do all of our training on the Internet. We were one of the first companies in the world to run our company on the Internet at the time when people said you couldn’t do that. We have a legacy of this and we don’t view this as proprietary as all. We view it as an opportunity for impact, so we’re happy to share with people what we’re doing.
We’re happy to share it with our customers because it’s part of who we are and if the customers value us more because of that so be it. That’s a competitive advantage for sure. We’re not worried about our competitors. We’re worried about what we’re doing to make a difference in how we can help our customers make a difference and help them be successful also.
Debra Ruh: Wow, that’s a very, very powerful statement. You know I know that both you and Kelly sound one reason why you are so excited about this is because Cisco really does want to make a big difference in the world and this is changing lives. This is really big. I’ve featured a lot of brands and everybody’s trying to do it. It’s some really cool stuff. I’ve never seen anything like this. This is huge and this is a major game-changer.
This is a major tipping point for us and to know that you are not just doing it in the United States or in the UK or Europe, but you’re doing it all over the world, including Bangalore, which I could say because of my cold. This is very exciting. I know that I promised to keep this to 30 minutes, which I didn’t do, but that’s okay because it’s just too exciting. Tell us more about how we can learn about what you’re doing and is there a website associated with it? How can people learn more about this?
Patrick Romzek: Yeah, I’ll share a couple things. First of all, a summary, if you would indulge care Kelly and I and then I’ll share how you can get more. As you can tell from this conversation and our passion, we’re on a mission. This is a company-wide, focus-driven, enabled through innovation to drive inclusiveness and employment acceleration across our company. We believe there’s a significant global opportunity for us to access talent, as Kelly talked about, to enable our workforce, to drive our business. We think that this is a very talented pool of people that a lot of companies, frankly, haven’t thought about and we believe that’s an advantage for us, but it’s also an advantage for them.
We’re trying to do something different. We’re not trying to do what everyone else has done. Hopefully, that came across here and really enabling employment, leveraging technology but making it part of our culture, part of our process. We believe we have the opportunity to not only employ people, but empower them and when you employ and empower people, you can transform their lives. That’s why we call this Project Life Changer at the very beginning. A lot of people at Cisco have said, “I can’t… I’ve never seen a more visible example of what the Cisco vision has been for 30 years: to change the way the world lives, works, plays and learns.”
I would add one of the comment and then I’ll share with you how you can find out more. We called this Project Life Changer when we started because our idea was we were going to transform lives and we said from the very beginning if we only affect one person’s life our entire effort was worth it. What we found is yes we did transform the lives of people with disabilities that we hired by enabling them to have economic self-sufficiency and the self-esteem associated with the job, but what we also found is we transformed the lives of people at Cisco. The people these folks have touched, whether it’s their co-op workers, their manager, their customers, their lives have been transformed, too, and I speak for myself, and Kelly, you may want to comment on this.
I think we started on this mission thinking we were going to help people with an opportunity and honestly, the people that maybe were most impacted were all of us because it’s really been a labor of love for us and something that we think, obviously, we have a great deal of passion and commitment to. Kelly, I don’t know if you have anything to add there?
Kelly Jones: No, I would agree and I’m trying to think of something robust to add to there That’s such a great summary about what our journey is and where we’re going.
Patrick Romzek: Yeah, there is ways to find out more as I said. We have done a lot, Debra you know this because you’ve been telling me this for a while that we’re not talking about this enough. We really have been internally focused, but if you do want to find out more we do have an email alias, LifeChangerandexternal.cisco.com, send an email to that alias and someone will reply back to you. You can find out more.
We are in the process of posting more on our external websites. We do have some stuff on our internal websites, but we’re posting more on our external websites. You’ll see more and more coming. If you want to connect with either Kelly or myself, both of us are on Twitter. I’m #Promzek, she’s at a … not intuitive, #Kelly8370. She’ll tell us someday what that means? Kelly Jones, it’s #Kelly8370. But feel free to reach out to us. Guys if we can help in any way, if you see an opportunity, if you think it’s something you may be interested in, if you’d like to learn more about what we’re doing, anything we can do to help advance the mission that we all have.
Debra Ruh: I’m also hoping that they’re going to let me tell part of this story in my book that’s coming up in October on inclusion branding, so I’m going to continue to brag about them because they are absolutely changing lives and they are changing global lives. As you can imagine, it’s so exciting for the three of us here who all actually have children also with disabilities, but it’s exciting for Cisco, too. Pat and Kelly, I applaud what you’re doing. I applaud-
Patrick Romzek: Thank you.
Debra Ruh: Your efforts, thank you, thank you, thank you and …
Patrick Romzek: Yeah and Debra, thanks for all you’re doing to get the word out because you’re making a huge difference by creating a platform like this for people to understand what’s being done because honestly, it’s hard to communicate. It’s difficult to create awareness and you’re making a huge difference, so we’re honored to be here and we’d be delighted to share more and we’d certainly be honored to be part of it any way that you want to reference us in one of your upcoming books.
Debra Ruh: Yes, it’s very exciting, it’s very exciting and one reason why I created this platform was because I saw these amazing efforts being made, even before I knew what y’all were doing and I thought, “Nobody knows what’s going on?” and so I am really excited about what Cisco’s doing, so I hope everybody that’s listening and watching will join me in really applauding Cisco for these efforts.
Get out on social media and tell them how much we appreciate what they’re doing, talk about it, write to the CEO of Cisco. This is really powerful and they’re doing it in a very smart, smart, innovative way that ties right into who they already are. It’s not a whole separate program. It’s just really growing it. Kelly and Pat, thank you so much for being on the program today and I look forward to continuing the conversation with you.
Patrick Romzek: Thank you, Debra.
Debra Ruh: Goodbye everyone.
Kelly Jones: Thank you.
Patrick Romzek: Thank you.
You’ve been listening to Human Potential at Work with Debra Ruh. To learn more about Debra and how she can help your organization, visit Ruhglobal.com. If you’ve enjoyed today’s episode and you want to make sure that you don’t this any future episodes, go to iTunes and subscribe to the podcast, Human Potential at Work. Thanks so much for listening and we’ll be back next week with a new episode.