Speaker Spotlight: Jill Larsen, SVP of HR & Talent Acquisition, Cisco

This week's HR Management Institute Speaker Spotlight is highlighting Ms. Jill Larsen, SVP of HR & Talent Acquisition at Cisco Systems and a presenter at the February 2018 HR Management Institute, speaking to “Competing to Win: How to Attract and Retain Top Talent for Continued Competitive Advantage." We had the chance to catch up with Jill this week to ask her a few more personal questions about her work at Cisco and the role of a leading HR professional today.

This is what she shared with us:

What is the biggest obstacle you’ve faced along your career path?   

When I first joined Cisco in 2013, “we’ve already tried that” was one of the most common phrases I heard. At that time, the Talent Acquisition organization was plagued by low morale and high attrition. In order to attract the next-gen talent needed to support Cisco’s shift to the Cloud, IoT, Security and SaaS, I knew something needed to change. Risking further fallout in pushing my ideas was intimidating, but it was the only way we could truly inspire today’s talent for tomorrow’s Cisco. Leading the overhaul of this function was a complex – yet exciting – challenge.

One way we re-shaped the TA team was by creating a Talent Brand that utilized real employees – not stock photographs – as ambassadors, the face of Cisco. We were ahead of the business in this vision, and senior leadership wasn’t easily swayed. In one presentation, I explained SEO to our ELT & Board and showed them the Google search results that Cisco’s talent brand generated (not glowing). After seeing these insights, they knew we were onto something. Our award-winning #WeAreCisco talent brand has earned us a spot on LinkedIn’s lists of Top Companies and Top Attractors for the first time.

What attributes or personal characteristics do you believe are integral to your role? 

Adaptability is one of the most important traits HR and TA professionals can possess as HR continues to be disrupted by technology and changing employee and business needs. To that end, collaboration and perseverance are also necessary characteristics, as not everyone in the business will be as willing to accept the reality of the future of work, and the need to make HR and Talent Acquisition a partner in embracing it. These qualities will become especially important in embracing and accepting new technologies such as A.I. and machine learning and being open to how they will change the way we work.

What is your advice to someone who is moving up the ranks in the field and wants to pursue a similar career path?

Don’t be afraid to be uncomfortable and take career risks.  I took a lot of left turns in my career, trying out roles that would challenge me and allow me to learn key aspects of HR. There were also times that I chose my family over my career and had to take a job that wasn’t as demanding or leave a job that was taking too much of a toll on my family.  It’s important to know what’s important to you and life gives you these signposts if you pay attention to them. The only way you will grow in your career is through change and change requires risk.  It’s good if you have a career goal or something you are working toward.  For me it has been CHRO and Innovation through technology and that has influenced many of my choices.  I always encourage people to take the role / job that scares you because that means you will need to learn and adapt to be successful.  If you believe you can do it, others will too.  Confidence is contagious.  Lastly, use your network and continue to build it.  Many of my career moves came that way where someone recommended me or knew of me through my network.  You have to put yourself out there and continue to learn and be curious.

Be sure not to miss Jill’s presentation at the HR Management Institute, taking place February 25th -27th, 2018 at the Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort in Amelia Island, FL.