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Embedding Empathy Into Employee Well-Being Practices

Fran Katsoudas, executive vice president and chief people, policy, & purpose officer at Cisco, shares how employers can take a people-first approach to the modern workplace.


Fran Katsoudas

Executive Vice President and Chief People, Policy and Purpose Officer, Cisco

Why is it so important for employers to promote employee engagement and well-being? 

It’s no secret that the pandemic has had a significant impact on mental health and well-being, and many companies have responded by expanding resources and providing additional time off for people to rest and recharge. But many of these issues were present even before the pandemic as our people worked to balance the demands of work and personal life. 

At this moment, I do think the focus has to shift away from just providing resources and days off to asking the question of why these are needed in the first place. What is it about the systems and structures currently in place that are contributing to a culture of burnout and reduced well-being

While it’s important to provide the resources and time for our people to take care of themselves, true change will only come when we address the root causes and make the cultural changes necessary to prevent burnout from being an issue in the first place. 

An example that we’re doing here at Cisco is embedding well-being and empathy principles into both our new leadership training modules and our well-being suite of resources for all employees, focused on micro-steps that will ultimately result in behavior change that will increase empathy and well-being across the company.

How has technology helped empower employers to find and retain top talent?  

An incredible benefit of hybrid work powered by collaboration technology is how it can democratize opportunity. By expanding access and inclusion, employers can go seek out the best talent no matter where in the world they are. This same technology also allows for greater flexibility and choice in where and how people work, which we know is increasingly a priority for talent

Beyond just flexibility, technology can also contribute to enabling increased well-being for our people. Features like Webex’s People Insights help employees understand and balance their most valuable asset; their time. Providing data on how much of a day is spent in meetings and how often someone works beyond their preferred working hours is just one example of how technology can play a critical role in ensuring talent feels supported in creating boundaries, establishing a healthy work/life balance, and avoiding burnout

What is the largest challenge you’ve faced as an expert in this industry?

I think a misconception many companies had at the beginning of the pandemic was that talent would stay put. We’ve seen the opposite. Talent mobility has skyrocketed as people are searching for greater choice, flexibility, and purpose in their work. This presents a challenge around both talent retention and attraction, but also a great opportunity. 

Companies that adapt to the new hybrid world of work and prioritize choice, empathy, and flexibility will attract and retain the best talent. Companies can also invest in internal talent mobility, identifying new opportunities for their people to grow and take on new challenges. Both will require a commitment to new leadership focus areas and a people-first mentality, but the best companies who view this era as one of great opportunity will reap the benefits and get the most of their people.

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