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Happy Father’s Day to everyone celebrating!

While Mr. Bartender and I don’t have children, we respect parents and the responsibility they have to raise their children into adults. It’s tough and rewarding. But from my vantage point, parenting has evolved over the years. And organizations need to bring their leave policies into modern times. One company that’s doing just that is Cisco.

If you’re not familiar with Cisco, they are a worldwide technology leader focused on making the internet work. They’ve been in business since 1984 and most of us know them for their routers. But you might immediately recognize another of their product brands, Webex.

Cisco noticed that fathers were reluctant to use paternity leave benefits due to lingering stereotypes or unspoken pressure they may feel they face in the workforce. So last fall, Cisco implemented a gender-neutral benefits program for new parents to give both fathers – and mothers – adequate time to care for a new baby. Program highlights include:

  • Redefining parental leaves: Cisco eliminated the terms “maternity” and “paternity” from their policies and programs, replacing this language with “main caregiver” and “supporting caregiver” in the spirit of inclusivity.
  • Increasing support for new parents to 13 weeks: For employees who are welcoming a new child into their family, including parenthood via surrogacy, adoption, fertility treatments, etc., Cisco increased their time off from 4 weeks to 13 consecutive weeks of leave. This allows more time to bond and care for children, in addition to unlimited time off for all appointments.
  • Expanding emergency time off: Cisco is supporting people in the face of an emergency, such as a death in the family, a loved one’s illness, or a natural disaster, by expanding available time off in addition to their existing paid time off (PTO).

To find out more about Cisco’s new benefits, I spoke with Ted Kezios, senior director of global benefits at Cisco. He is responsible for the global benefits strategy and design of Cisco’s health, welfare, and retirement plans covering over 70,000 employees in 100 countries.

Ted, how did Cisco realize that they needed to address their leave policies?

Ted Kezios, Cisco, benefits, global benefits, family leave, leave programs[Kezios] Our senior leadership launched a bold initiative two years ago to make a meaningful difference in the moments that matter most to employees. We know that the best talent comes from an inclusive environment and culture where we celebrate diverse backgrounds and families.

Launching a new parental leave policy, globally, to establish minimum time away regardless of caregiver role, was one way we chose to celebrate and support our families. That’s why Cisco offers employees welcoming a new child into their family the opportunity to take time away, based on their caregiver role rather than their biological relationship. Enhancing the moments that matter is all part of “Our People Deal” — the culture we create together, every day.

(Editor’s Note: To learn more about Cisco’s People Deal, visit their careers site:

What process did the company use to develop new programs?

[Kezios] As part of our company-wide “Moments that Matter” initiative, cross-functional, global teams were created to accelerate the pace of change. All changes took into consideration “Our People Deal” — the culture we create together, every day. We listened to our employees through surveys and focus groups, and we got feedback from managers. We also did benchmarking, not merely to match what others are doing, but to be a leader in this space.

How did HR sell the change to senior management? And to your employees?

[Kezios] We didn’t have to sell this change to senior management because we already had their commitment through the support of “Moments that Matter”. These changes were very much driven from the top down.

During the implementation phase, did anything surprise you?

[Kezios] We knew from the start that implementing a change of this magnitude would be complex, and it has been. Within each country there is a significant amount of coordination to ensure integration with statutory leave requirements. Communicating the changes to employees has been the fun part and has been well received.

How is HR measuring the impact of this change?

[Kezios] We will measure the participation and employee sentiment of the new leaves. We look forward to seeing an uptick on employees taking advantage of the new flexibility these leaves afford. Success of these new leaves will not be exclusively tied to participation, because doing the right thing is part of who we are as a company.

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A huge thanks to Ted for sharing some insights about Cisco and their new benefits program. Like Ted mentioned, it’s always good to hear what others are doing and then decide how to create a program that aligns with your culture.

The way we live and work is changing all the time. If organizations want to remain competitive – both in terms of the products and services they provide and the talent they hire – they will have to change with the times.

Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby while exploring the streets of Austin, TX

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