Best Place to Work Before and During the Pandemic

best place to work

Multinational technology company Cisco was not only the best place to work in 2019 but also the best in 2020 during the pandemic. That’s the conclusion of Great Place to Work, a firm that ranks and recognizes leading companies and offers a platform and counsel to firms wishing to improve their culture and workplace environment.

With its more than 79,000 employees, San Jose-based Cisco headed a list of 24 other winning firms in this global competition, which required entrants to have at least 5,000 employees and have been listed in a minimum of five other national Best Workplaces lists to be even eligible for consideration.

Also, a minimum of 40% of employees had to be outside the country where the firm is based.

What Made Cisco Stand Out?

Like many other companies, the pandemic also threw a lot more pressure on Cisco. The company quickly and successfully responded to an unexpected spike for more technology and applications as companies sent workers home due to the pandemic.

Volume on their Webex platform alone tripled in April. And as more people began meeting online instead of in person, some Cisco employees worked 24 x 7 for about a month, building out the Webex collaboration software to satisfy demand.

Before the pandemic, Cisco had already established a culture of trust and psychological safety. Last year, even before COVID-19, 87% of its employees had classified their employer as a psychologically and emotionally healthy workplace. They, too, were relegated to working remotely, and many expressed appreciation for how management handled the COVID-19 crisis.

As soon as the pandemic hit, CEO Chuck Robbins and his senior team began weekly 75-minute check-ins with employees to listen to their concerns and address any questions they had. One employee said he felt “connected mentally even though we’re confined at home.” As further evidence of its concern, Cisco also surveyed employees to discover even more about how they were doing and to identify other anxieties they might address.

Cisco quickly discovered that many of their customers were financially hard hit by the pandemic and experiencing cash flow challenges at the customer level. The firm placed the same trust it had in its employees in its clients by allowing many to finance their purchases.

This extension of trust represents Cisco’s corporate culture and explains why the firm was also #1 in 2019 and 2020 on Fortune World’s Best Workplace.

In January, before the George Floyd incident, Robbins initiated efforts to learn more about Cisco’s racial disparities. He and his senior staff gathered and talked with 18 Black leaders to get their candid feedback.

The result was what they referred to as a “100-day sprint” to address racial inequity within Cisco. Efforts to improve equality continue, and employee feedback has been positive and supportive.

Other Top Companies

Other top companies for Best Place to Work 2020 included DHL Express based in Bonn, Germany, in second place. The shipping and courier delivery service has more than 220 countries and territories and 104,000 employees. 93% said it’s a great place to work, and 94% said they’re proud to tell people they work there.

Rounding out the rest of the top five were Hilton, SalesForce, and medical technology firm Stryker.

All three are based in the U.S.

The consistent findings from all these winners are that employees loved their employers, trusted them, and had faith that they would do what’s right for them and their communities.

Ronn Torossian

Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5WPR and one of the most well-respected Public Relations professionals in the United States. Ronn is the author of "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results with Game-Changing Public Relations."

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