How Cisco’s Cafes and Employee Resource Organizations Celebrate Diversity

How Cisco’s Cafes and Employee Resource Organizations Celebrate Diversity

By Jeffrey Buck, Service Delivery Manager, Workplace Resources

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Monday, July 8, 2019 - 3:10pm

CAMPAIGN: Cisco Impact Area | Our People

CONTENT: Blog

When it comes to embracing diversity, Cisco is in a class by itself. We not only have a diverse workforce – we continuously honor it. Through our Employee Resource Organizations (ERO) we support our employees as they establish deeper connections with one another while celebrating their cultures. These celebrations are also great opportunities to invite others to join in on the festivities and learn more about one another.

Better collaboration stems from different ideas and people with varied backgrounds, and that leads us to better perspectives and outcomes – diversity isn’t just a buzzword at Cisco, it’s a way of life. This sentiment was recently reaffirmed by our SVP of Operations Irving Tan during a breakfast that was hosted by his team in partnership with our Employee Resource Organization (ERO) leads at our Raleigh, NC (RTP) campus.

Everyone at the breakfast was in total agreement with Irving, and the conversation led to the idea that our incredible EROs should work together more often to learn from each other. This collaboration could only yield greater results for our global Cisco employees, greater RTP community, and our world. The group kept coming back to the “Power of One” – we are so much stronger in groups that work together, than those that work in isolation.

I left feeling more energized and enthusiastic about working at Cisco than ever before. But, how did a guy from our Workplace Resources team – who doesn’t even belong to an ERO – end up at this breakfast? Like most journeys, it didn’t happen overnight – but it did start just after I joined Cisco, four years ago.

As I was “drinking from the firehose” and learning all about Cisco and my new role here, it was clear very early on that they had a strong commitment to diversity and our EROs. At this time, I also found myself responsible for driving the employee experience to new levels of satisfaction. I quickly connected the dots and realized there was a huge opportunity to partner with our EROs to build a better employee experience.

But, my team and I still had to figure out how to make it all work…and then it hit us!

What if we connected our cafe programs and our EROs? Food has a unique way of bringing people together, and we serve thousands of people each day in our campus cafes throughout the United States and Canada. Why not give our EROs a chance to shine by celebrating them during lunch in the cafes?

To start, we simply bought cakes to celebrate cultural events like India’s Independence Day, Chinese New Year, Pride Month, and Black History Month, etc. The group members from each ERO would be serving free slices of cake to their fellow employees while telling them about their culture and their ERO.

But we didn’t stop there – we quickly realized we could take it a step further!

Why buy a few cakes when we could have our entire café celebrate the day? With that, we had our expert culinary team prepare special dishes, soups, appetizers, entrees, desserts, breakfasts, and beverages that honored authentic dishes from each culture. Sometimes, we even created an entire buffet and brought the food right into the dining room and a few EROs even started bringing in entertainment like singers, dancers, and special performers.

Wondering how we celebrate the culinary culture of our EROs like Pride, Connected Women, and Connected Black Professionals? Well, we figured that one out too by choosing famous women, LGBTQ+ individuals, African American history makers and researching their favorite foods. We’d then prepare those foods and present them alongside a story about those celebrated figures.

We are feeding, celebrating, and educating all at the same time, and our café customers love it! The feedback we’ve received has been universally positive as everyone loves these special café days and the added benefits they’ve brought to our teams in the form of education with lessons from each culture, and even new memberships within the EROs.

Last week, the Connected Italian Network (which is not yet an official ERO) had a wine and cheese social. I was speaking with the local lead, and he thanked me for reaching out to them a few years back when I saw a flyer about their first meeting. Since then, we have created several events to promote their group, and their membership has grown significantly. They are hoping to become an official ERO someday!

Last month, we did the same with the Connected Jewish Network. A team member and I both spotted a flyer advertising a meeting, we contacted them, and created a café day to celebrate Passover. In a few years, I look forward to being at one of their networking events and seeing how much they have grown too.

It is an absolute honor and privilege to work with our EROs and their dedicated members collectively as one collaborating force to ensure that Cisco remains one of the most diverse workforces in the world.

At Cisco, our differences unite us and really do lead us to better outcomes.

Interested in joining our diverse teams? We’re hiring. Apply now.