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Cisco has designed a comprehensive leadership development system aimed at developing key capabilities, competencies, and expectations for individual contributors, managers, directors, and executives. We seek to strengthen and deepen leadership qualities at every level of the organization. The ultimate goal is to prepare employees to manage for sustained business growth and profitability in a complex and global business environment, and to establish Cisco as the employer of choice for the world's best leaders.


Education, Exposure, and Experience

An important concept at Cisco is that employees build skills and enhance their careers through the “Three E’s”: education, exposure, and experience. We anticipate that employees will achieve about 10 percent of their career development through education, 20 percent through exposure to their fellow employees’ practices and expertise, and 70 percent through on-the-job experience:

  • Education: Cisco is continually developing new and innovative instruction delivered through executive forums, instructor-led classes, online learning, interactive video, virtual learning environments, and multimedia courses.
  • Exposure: Exposure involves learning through the experiences of others. Action Learning Forums, employee networks, cross-functional teams, coaching and mentoring programs, and communities of practice are some of the activities in this category.
  • Experience: Experience learning is considered the major development opportunity at Cisco. By viewing job assignments as learning activities, employees have an opportunity to fully integrate career development with close attention to business results.

The Three E’s concept is widely promoted at Cisco and built into the employee performance review process, through which employees and managers agree on specific steps that would be helpful in pursuing career goals. 

Intellectual capital is a prime source of innovation and growth at Cisco. To grow this capital, we offer developmental opportunities that include professional and technical certifications, professional skills training, and manager/leadership development. Our approach is to ensure that employees develop core capabilities that support transferable skills, and then build on these with additional functional learning with each new assignment. We also support our employees’ educational pursuits through a tuition reimbursement program.

We believe that one of the best ways to develop our employees is to place them in roles that continually challenge them to reach their full potential. To that end, Cisco looks to fill 60 percent of our new job openings with current employees. Furthermore, because strong companies are built by leaders who have experience in multiple disciplines, geographies, and business climates, we use rotational and international assignments to help broaden our employees’ experience, leadership abilities, and career opportunities.

In addition to development and training, Cisco’s teamwork leadership structure offers a number of hands-on learning opportunities, enabling our employees to continually augment their careers while meeting business objectives.

The Value of Rotational Assignments

Cisco believes that we grow the company and broaden our employees’ perspectives, skills, and opportunities by rotating job assignments across functions and geographies. Employees are given the opportunity to sample a range of assignments, matched to high-priority work. They typically spend two to three years on assignment, either local or in another country. Many groups hold development roles open to rotating assignments. It is not uncommon, for example, for a career finance person to try a rotation in marketing, or a manufacturing manager to take a leadership role in human resources. In fact, 20 to 30 percent of the Cisco leadership team has held a position in another business function.

Read more about Cisco’s multilevel leadership development initiatives: