Teleworking is on the rise, with organisations such as IT giant Cisco increasingly embracing a flexible work-from-home approach.
For Cisco’s foreign workforce, the idea of flexible working has an added appeal. The US-centric working hours mean that staff would have to opt for a late-night or early-morning commute to make an essential teleconference, if it were held in the office. “You can’t say to someone in India, ‘we want you sitting in the office at 10/11/12 o’clock at night every evening because that’s when we do business’ – that’s also driving the flexibility and makes it not a privilege but a right,” she says.
In fact, Cisco’s work-profile study found that in its emerging countries – India, China, and Russia – the majority (60 to 70 per cent) view workplace flexibility as a right. Dudeck undertakes once-a-year visits to Cisco’s overseas offices to meet staff and knows that the reality on the ground belies the often uni-dimensional view we have of work/life in China. “I think we look at China as this monolithic, hierarchical society that’s all about saving face, but it’s much more dynamic and multi-dimensional than that. Their new workers have families and don’t want to be stuck making long commutes and that’s why I think the Chinese government is creating cities in the more rural areas because people don’t want to have to go and live in the city away from their families.”
As well as global travel, Dudeck visits colleagues on the San Jose campus once a quarter and nips into the Raleigh office regularly for “teleprescence” meetings. She was a remote pioneer 10 years ago when she made the request to move out of the office. “Early on it was absolutely a trust thing. I had a boss who wanted me on her team [but] I had just had a child and I certainly wasn’t moving to San Jose, so my boss didn’t work in my location, but she trusted me. She wasn’t there and wouldn’t have been there to see what I did regardless. That’s just continued.”
Dudeck says Cisco has become more comfortable with the concept over the years, but there are still reservations over who they allow to go ‘fully remote’. “That requires the right work and the right kind of relationship with a manager. We are much more open to people who give up a hard space or work at least a day or two from home.”
What makes a good manager?
After years of capitialising on its ability to attract high-calibre staff, particularly engineers, Cisco is setting in motion a strategy to grow its own people managers – and it’s going about it by redefining the managerial role. “We haven’t looked at people management distinctly as a role and I think many companies are in the same position”, says Jennifer Dudeck. “What we’ve traditionally done is say, ‘if you are a really good sales person, we will reward you by giving you the job of people manager.’ Many sales people are wired a certain way and end up being competitive with their employees – so forcing them into a different role is not going to work.”
One of the criteria is the ability to manage a diverse set of people (or personas – see main body). “If you can’t do that – you don’t have the manager capability. We are at an early stage and first we have to define what we are looking for and then we will probably be doing some capability assessments, looking for people who not only want to do it but are capable of doing it.”
“It’s about creating different communities of people that work for you in different ways. As a company we are looking to foster collaboration and innovation – which are huge drivers – so we have to look at working differently.”
Leads Cisco’s employee engagement solutions team, with responsibility for enterprise-wide employee assessment and development, employee listening practices, flexible work practices, manager excellence and engagement programs. “That’s why I get to play in all of these fun spaces. It’s the new frontier, there are four hot topics in my space, and a lot of change.”
Dudeck joined Cisco in 2001. Prior to her current role, she held strategic and operational leadership roles within HR. She has been a change leader within the function for major initiatives, such as evolving Cisco’s compensation programs and transforming the HR organisation model.
Held several business-aligned HR leadership roles at the Honeywell Corporation within the aerospace and performance materials business units.
Holds a Bachelor of Science in economics and English, Albion College, and a Master of human resources and labor relations, Michigan State University.