For the second time in two years, Cisco was ranked the best place to work in the world by Fortune Magazine. This result ties them with Salesforce, who previously had a similar two-year run. Since I came to Silicon Valley to work for what was then the best place to work back in the 1980s and have a degree in HR (Manpower Management back then), let's chat about what makes this award important, particularly this year.
Fortune's Best Place To Work Award
Let's start with a quick overview of what this award is. This ranking looks at 8,000 organizations with at least 5,000 employees and have at least 40% of their workforce outside of the country where the firm is headquartered. Extra credit in the ranking is given to companies that go to extra trouble to create an excellent workplace culture across their worldwide locations. Candidates also must have been around for long enough to appear in the 2019 ranking as well as this one.
This ranking effort goes back to 2011 (a decade), and it will be formally published in Fortune's 100 Best Places to Work column in April 2021. It should be noted that Cisco has appeared on the list of 100 Best places to work for the full 23 years that Fortune has reported on this metric.
Cisco's ranking has gone from 6th in 2011 to number one in both 2019 and 2020.
Why This Ranking Is Important, Particularly Now
Working from home creates a ton of additional opportunities for employees who can self-motivate and for companies that can effectively manage a remote workforce. When you take physical proximity out of the required mix, you gain access to many previously geographically disadvantaged people. Maybe their spouse, kids, or parent dependencies make it so they can't relocate, maybe they are a single parent and have to stay close to their ex-spouse by court order, or (and this is common in places like Silicon Valley) maybe they can't afford to live where the company is.
Location issues are particularly problematic for qualified diverse employees who are in exceedingly high demand now as the industry attempts to deal aggressively with an ongoing diversity problem. But while this opens the employment door for these once geographically undesirable employees, it does that for every company, which then offsets the advantage substantially due to competition.
But people get a choice of where they want to work, and diverse employees don't like working for organizations that treat them poorly regardless of whether they are in the office or working remotely. When given a choice of firms to work for, the smart employees will tend to pick the firm that has the best reputation regarding employee care and feeding. This choice is particularly important when you are remote. Without that care, you may find yourself blindsided by poor treatment, and remote employees don't typically have the same protection and support level as those who work on-site.
This result means that a highly ranked firm in creating a safe and effective employment experience should have the inside lane when it comes to acquiring and retaining employees. When companies are competing heavily for what is expected to be a decline in IT budgets due to the pandemic, Cisco's ability to attract and retain a diverse selection of employees is increased by their ranking in this survey. That advantage should improve Cisco's competitiveness and operational competency because they can more successfully attract top employees who often, as I did, favor places with a good reputation regarding employee treatment.
When people are spread very thinly as they work from home and struggle with work/life balance, prioritizing places with an excellent reputation for employee treatment has never been more critical. Besides, there is a benefit even for customers because support and projects can often degrade if the firm has a high employee churn level and a reputation for employee abuse.
Cisco's #1 ranking in the Fortune study should allow the firm to attract and retain a more diverse group of highly qualified employees, better assuring not only your relationship with the firm but the products and projects you undertake with them.
In the end, though, when companies compete and win for treating employees better than their peers, we all benefit from the higher quality of the employees, the higher retention rate in the related firm, and in the example they may set for our own companies.