Cisco is training employees to be LinkedIn influencers to help recruit top talent for competitive tech jobs

Cisco’s chief people officer Kelly Jones likes to say, “hiring is a team sport.” And she takes it literally. The communications tech giant is training its over 84,000 employees to serve as talent influencers for the company, with the thought that every person can be a recruiter of top talent for the organization. 

Cisco’s intense focus on hiring stems from a need to fill highly technical and specialized roles, which are hard to fill even as the tech industry experiences ongoing layoffs. Cisco is no exception. Though the company reportedly laid off about 4,000 employees last month, Jones says it expects to end the year around the same headcount it started with at the beginning of the year. She spoke with Fortune about how and why the company trains its workforce to serve as LinkedIn influencers.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Fortune: Cisco has been vocal about its ambitious hiring goals. Have any of your hiring goals changed amid uncertainty about the economy?

No, we expect to end the year at about the same headcount we started. Our overall number of what we see as our hiring goal hasn’t changed, but what has changed, specifically in the product space, is the makeup of that number and the type of skills we’re hiring for. That also affects how we think about upskilling, reskilling, and using our internal talent marketplaces.

How are you inspiring a hiring culture among employees?

We say at Cisco that we have 84,000 brand ambassadors. We recognize that it’s not just the recruiting organization’s responsibility to bring talent here. 

Last year, we rolled out a series of training sessions around interviewing and becoming a talent influencer for the organization by galvanizing their own social media pages. 

LinkedIn is a great example because it’s the most common place people hire from nowadays. It’s largely become a recruiting tool. What we find is more effective on LinkedIn is when we have our leaders be the voice of the role they’re hiring for; it’s more effective. So we’ve taught our leaders how to better use the platform. And in some areas, they do it intuitively. If you think about sales, they’re typically high extroverts. They’re used to networking. But if you think about engineering, it’s a little bit different. They tend not to be as prolific on LinkedIn. So we’ve specifically focused on training our technical leaders how to run their LinkedIn page, so they’re also an extension of the recruiting organization. And that’s everything from how you talk about your job to how you talk about your team. 

More recently, we’ve pushed our team to blog about what they’re doing in the organization at a technical level. That’s going to attract top talent because they want to understand the cool work that you’re doing. So we really put a focus on enabling our leaders to own the narrative.

How do you convince a group that might not naturally want to speak out online?

Our recruiting organization does this training with teams. It’s popular, particularly in emerging functions like security, the cloud, and areas where our engineers know how difficult it is to find, attract, and retain top talent. The growing teams tend to utilize this training a bit more. We don’t go at this from the standpoint that everyone must do it. This is about working with the willing, and the willing are definitely there.

What have been the results?

It’s reduced time-to-fill for positions by about five days. Our data also shows that when our leaders are involved in recruiting like this, it increases employee retention rates. Everyone worries about attrition and attracting and retaining that top 20% of tech talent. We find that they stay longer when they come in through our leaders.

We also noticed that when leaders are engaged early on, they create more affinity with the candidate throughout the hiring process because they feel like they’re going right to the source.

Also, CHRO Daily will be on a winter hiatus over the next few weeks, returning on Jan. 4, 2023. See you in the New Year!

Amber Burton

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