Microsoft and Cisco Get Serious about Employee Care – But Could Do Even More

For much of the last decade, Microsoft and Cisco seemed to be on different planets when it comes to corporate social responsibility and employee care. Cisco set out to be a leader in these areas, and Microsoft’s interests, while they shifted from operating systems (Windows) to the cloud (Azure), did not seem to be, at least publicly, on the same page. Granted, Bill Gates, Microsoft’s founder, outperformed everyone in philanthropy, but this stuff did not seem a Microsoft priority.

Then Microsoft launched Viva, an even more aggressive tool than Cisco was presenting within their WebEx product, and we had a race. But I wonder if this should be a race. Automotive companies often license technology free of charge related to driver safety, arguing that keeping drivers alive isn’t a competitive issue; it is an industry issue and thus should be more of a cooperative effort. Just so, I think that technology companies should be sharing data and best practices in this employee care space so that all employees, regardless of sex, race, or age, have a better chance of reaching their potential.

Together, Cisco and Microsoft could have a far more significant impact on overall employee health, happiness, and loyalty than either can do separately. Let us explore that this week.

Cisco and Microsoft: The Power Couple?

Cisco and Microsoft aren’t natural competitors, given Cisco is essentially a networking company and Microsoft is more into tools, operating systems, and cloud services. Both are leaders of their segments, which means their related competitors watch them closely and emulate them when they can. So efforts by either company to do things differently can spread from company to company as a standard practice that improves their segment. Still, together they’d have the power to transcend their segments.

Both companies are approaching this problem of employee happiness and loyalty a bit differently. Cisco is embedding the technology in their WebEx product, which competes with Microsoft Teams, while Microsoft is developing an offering called Viva, which is more comprehensive than Cisco’s effort but not as tightly coupled with Teams. It is more of a peer offering as opposed to a Teams enhancement.

Both approaches have common employee reporting elements that allow the employees to gauge their performance and managers to gain better insights into group dynamics while avoiding violating employee privacy. Cisco relies heavily on their unique head of HR and dedicated experts to define their product; Microsoft appears to instead depend more on just dedicated experts for their effort.

Microsoft’s Viva has four components, one of connecting employees to company events and news called Viva Connections, another on employee and management growth and support called Insights, yet another on providing a map to employee expertise called Topics, and finally one on employee growth and learning called, well, Learning.

Cisco’s effort is most similar to Microsoft’s Insights effort. While they likely have internal analogs to the other Viva components, I haven’t seen those analogs presented as an external offering yet. There are differences in how these capabilities are surfaced. Both company’s efforts integrate best with products originating from them. Still, Cisco and Microsoft technologies often co-reside and, I believe, if the efforts could interoperate, the result for employees could be vastly better.

Further reading: How to Keep Your Overburdened IT Staff from Burning Out

Needed: ‘A Tide of Best Practices’

I can think of no more noble endeavor than finding ways to help the technology employee who is too often facing burnout and feeling abandoned and unloved by the companies that employ them. Worse, many of these companies have reputations surfaced by books like “Brotopia” and “Technically Wrong” that suggest abusive environments, particularly to women and minorities. Efforts like those from Cisco and Microsoft can correct these problems and turn companies from hell holes to genuinely unique places to work.

I believe efforts like this should again be cooperative and not competitive so that a tide of best practices can raise all boats, and we can again be proud of how tech companies, and frankly all companies, treat their most important asset, their employees.

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