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Cisco Webex People Insights Will Boost Well-being, Inclusivity, Says Execs

‘So many of my peers are trying to work how to manage wellness in the workplace and insights to help people understand the way in which they are showing up. There’s a dialog right now for [partners] with HR and I think Insights will solve a lot of the challenges out there, especially in the hybrid world,’ Fran Katsoudas, Cisco’s EVP and chief people officer, tells CRN.

Cisco revealed enhancements to its People Insights feature at Cisco Live 2021 as Webex turns its attention to well-being and work/life balance, executives said.

Webex’s People Insights feature, first introduced in 2019, has been expanded to include three different vantage points: Personal, Team and Organizational. The latest insights will increase and promote employee well-being and help users build better connections with their colleagues, while building a more inclusive work experience, regardless of the employee’s location, said Jeetu Patel, Cisco’s senior vice president and general manager, security and applications Group, which houses the Webex division.

The pandemic overall has not contributed to a decline in employee productivity -- just the opposite, in fact. But that has come at the expense of well-being and mental health, Patel said. The updates to People Insights are aimed at battling video fatigue, burnout, and helping users make the most of their time, he said.

“It’s not about the number of minutes you spend on the platform or in meetings. It’s about the number of connections you create and nurture, and that’s just a very different way of looking at things,” Patel said. “It’s not that competitors can’t do it, it’s that they’ve chosen not to do it.”

[Related: Cisco As-A-Service Strategy Is Taking ‘A Giant Leap Forward’: Partners]

People Insights pulls data from Webex Graph and serves up the information to users via an integrated portal in the Webex app, Patel said.

New to People Insights is Personal Insights, which gives users a view into daily trends and their interactions so they can better tailor their collaboration with coworkers and focus their time. Personal Insights can show users how often they accept meetings and never attend and multi-tasking during meetings. The next feature is Team Insights, which gives each team member a view of patterns between connections, collaboration habits, and work-life integration for the entire team, while maintaining privacy. Team Insights can surface the percentage of meetings that are taking place outside of their team’s preferred working hours, for example. Lastly, Organizational Insights provides a bird‘s-eye view of the company’s collaboration trends and patterns to help identify silos or teams that may benefit from additional support or an increased focus on inclusivity, Cisco said.

Perhaps most importantly, the data provided by People Insights is available only to the user, Patel said. “We believe privacy is a basic human right. If we’re going to deliver People Insights, we will honor the privacy of that person and not have that data given to their boss or the organization,” he said.

The impetus for the enhanced People Insights feature came as Cisco began thinking through how employers can nurture relationships with their employees that are remote, Patel said. “I can’t see [a colleague] in the cafeteria or in the office to have a quick conversation, so what do we do in order to make sure those things can actually be done in a spontaneous way?”

To that end, Fran Katsoudas, executive vice president and chief people officer for Cisco and her team worked alongside the Webex team in the development of the enhanced People Insights feature, she told CRN. Since then, Cisco has been experimenting with use cases for People Insights internally. An interesting application was for employees stepping into a new role and using People Insights to understand how their predecessor spent their time. “That was a tremendous insight. You never get that gift of understanding,” Katsoudas said.

While privacy is top of mind, the feature can serve up information to users to point out different ways they may be spending their time compared to their close colleagues, Katsoudas said. “Those insights will only make me better, especially at a moment of hybrid work when everyone is working so differently,” she said.

A new buying center is opening up that will be critical for channel partners to put on their radars: the HR team, Katsoudas said. “So many of my peers are trying to work how to manage wellness in the workplace and insights to help people understand the way in which they are showing up,” she said. “There’s a dialog right now for [partners] with human resources and I think Insights will solve a lot of the challenges out there, especially in the hybrid world.”

Starting this summer, select Webex customers will have access to the expanded People Insights feature. The update will come at no additional cost to customers, Cisco said.

Cisco Webex has unveiled more than 400 new or upgraded features in the last six months. The San Jose, Calif.-based company went on a Webex innovation blitz in December in the wake of the global COVID-19 pandemic, revealing more than 35 new capabilities and features for Webex meetings, calling, and messaging, as well as three new Webex devices for workers.

Cisco also unveiled real-time language translation in more than 100 languages on its popular Webex platform earlier in March.

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