Layoff Program Turns into Leadership Program

Layoff Program Turns into Leadership Program

In the summer of 2001, Cisco’s business dramatically declined, prompting the company to reduce its workis force. The Community Fellowship Program was developed in order to maintain the company’s commitment to its employees through this period while at the same time benefiting the community.

Rather than take a separation package, 81 employees agreed to accept one-third of their salaries, plus benefits, to work for nonprof its for one year. Employees were selected for this program following interviews with both Cisco and the 21 participating nonprofits, based on the skills they would bring to the organizations.

A number of the original community fellows returned to Cisco after working at nonprofits, and the company realized that this was an effective personal growth tool. “Before the Cisco fellowship program,” said Richard KeIley, “my working experience had been perhaps 90 percent technical and 10 percent personal interaction…. A tangible benefit for me has been the experience working for a year in an intensely interactive environment with extremely dedicated NGO professionals.” Kelley returned to Cisco and now works in its program management office, where he manages relations with major customers, Cisco’s account teams, and the various business units. “The Cisco fellowship experience,” said Kelley, “has increased my ability to communicate and resolve differences between these groups that have very different views and goals.”

Instead of being discontinued after Cisco ceased using layoffs to reduce its workforce, the program evolved into the Community Leadership Fellows program, which now loans high-potential Cisco employees to strategic nonprofits for three to six month projects at full pay. “If managed well, corporate philanthropy can be an integral part of a company’s strategy, regardless of the state of the economy,” said Chairman and CEO John Morgridge.

Copyright Stanford University, Center for Social Innovation Summer 2003

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