Cisco Ireland has sites in Dublin, Galway and Limerick. Audrey Bleach, who is based in Galway, is its engagement manager, focusing on people and culture.

“Cisco has been involved with GPTW for many years because we are focused and intentional about creating a positive, inclusive culture,” says Bleach.

She describes an inclusive workplace as one where all employees across the full spectrum of diversity feel equally seen, involved and supported.

“When we strive to create this kind of culture it has profound impact on our organisation,” she explains. “Not only does it have real business impact on outcomes such as revenue and market performance, but it also means that we attract and retain top talent.”

As well as being a Laureate this year, Cisco has ranked No 1 in Great Place to Work Ireland for the past three years, a “tremendous source of pride” for the team, Bleach says. And being named a Great Place to Work shines a light on the organisation’s culture externally too.

“That has a real impact on our ability to attract top talent in the market, ensuring that we can continue to innovate and win in the market. The GPTW ranking is a validation of our people practices that leads other organisations to want to learn more about how we operate and that allows us to share what we’ve learned.”

Great Place to Work has helped Cisco Ireland track its performance over the years, including during the pandemic.

We know that a successful hybrid model is one that integrates people practices, technology and physical spaces to provide a seamless experience for our people no matter where they work— Audrey Bleach

“As a leader in collaboration technology, Cisco has long been a hybrid organisation but the pandemic accelerated a transformation of our workplace to fully hybrid. We know that a successful hybrid model is one that integrates people practices, technology and physical spaces to provide a seamless experience for our people no matter where they work,” Bleach explains.

“Taking this approach means that we offer our people flexibility, choice and agency in how and where they get their work done. We empowered team leaders to make decisions at the team level and put greater emphasis on building the relationship between team leaders and their team members to ensure we can address individual needs – a foundation built on flexible, empathetic leadership.”

From its internal research, the company understood that the challenges of the past few years led to increased burnout and lower rates of personal wellbeing, particularly for care givers and people leaders.

“We responded by offering more access to tools and services that support wellbeing, offering self-help resources, additional critical time off, increasing paid time off to volunteer outside of work and implementing companywide ‘Days for Me’, where we all step away to take a break,” says Bleach.

“As we look ahead, we’re considering what it means to create community in a hybrid world because we know that building and maintaining relationships and networks will require more intentional planning than in the past.”

Leading with empathy and listening to the needs of its people are fundamental to building a positive culture and successful organisation, Bleach points out. Cisco has many tools and practices in place to listen and gather feedback, including weekly check-ins, regular one-to-one meetings and pulse surveys.

“Gathering this kind of data and feedback allows us to see where we need to improve and how we’re succeeding,” she explains. “The GPTW survey allows us to dig deeper into the experience of our people. Taking these surveys year after year also allowed us to benchmark, iterate and see clearly where our changes are making the impact we intend and where they are not.

“We truly believe Cisco is a great place to work and we will continue to focus on flexibility, understanding and getting the work done together while we understand the importance of wellbeing, work-life balance and social connections in this new era.”

Putting trust at the centre
Staff at Global, a market leader in outdoor advertising in Ireland, are “still buzzing” about winning a European Best Workplace award last year, says Grainne Quinn, its business resource manager.

If you travel on public transport, visit shopping centres and football stadiums, you’ll be familiar with the company’s work. Global has a team of 48 people in Ireland, split between its offices on Dublin’s Adelaide Road and its depot in Kingswood. It also has 13 staff in Belfast.

It saw Great Place to Work as a way to deliver just that – a great place to work – for its staff.

Grainne Quinn: A great employer cares for its people but ‘it has to be genuine care that comes from the top down’

“It gives us an opportunity for our employees to be heard, through confidential surveys, from which we could benchmark against the best. It gives us access to Great Place to Work companies, giving us ways to make those improvements and to see best practice,” Quinn explains. “It also helps us to retain and recruit the best people, so the investment (in GPTW) benefits the bottom line.”

As a result of the Great Place to Work surveys over time Quinn and the team at Global know exactly what a good workplace looks like. “It’s when you trust in the people you work for, have pride in what you do and enjoy the people you work with,” she says.

A great employer cares for its people. “It has to be genuine care that comes from the top down and goes out across our teams. It must be real – it can’t be lip service,” she adds.

During Covid, when its staff were working remotely, managing director Colin Leahy made a point of calling everyone in the organisation, not to talk about work but to find out how they were getting on personally. Care and trust are all about “consistent and predictable interactions over time”, says Quinn.

“We could see this culture of trust and care grow through our surveys. Between 2014 and 2021 our trust score grew from 50 per cent to more than 80 per cent now. We saw that trust evidenced in the work, in the way our people, during Covid, just got on with things and worked from home.”

Over time, Global saw a similarly upward trajectory in staff responses to the question ‘Is this a great place to work?’ to 95 per cent.

Quinn regularly asks team members what a great place to work means to them personally. The response from one sums it up best, she believes. The respondent said Global provides them with “a sense of belonging, a feeling they can make a difference and an environment in which they can grow and learn more every day”.

“It makes us very proud to get feedback like that,” says Quinn.

So how do you create a great workplace?

“It’s in your practices, it’s in how you behave, how you communicate, your brand; it’s in everything you do,” says Quinn.

She credits Leahy’s leadership with having “facilitated and maintained our great place to work”.

Winning Europe’s Best Small Workplace last year was certainly a milestone for Leahy. “A great company is only as good, as strong, and as successful as its people,” he explained at the time. “This award recognises the trust we have in each other and our commitment to continue to deliver excellence.”

Continuous engagement
AbbVie, the global biopharmaceutical company, has been listed as one of the best places to work in Ireland for the 10th consecutive year. It is also the second time since the company acquired Allergan in 2020 that all its Irish sites took part in the Great Place to Work Institute workplace experience survey.

AbbVie recently celebrated 10 years in business, during which time Ireland has contributed significantly to the evolution of its business and culture. The Chicago-headquartered firm now has eight plants and offices across Ireland in Dublin, Cork, Sligo and Mayo and has increased its workforce from about 500 at inception in 2013 to more than 2,600 today.

Gary O’Mahoney, a Mayo native and recently appointed Ireland HR director, is full of praise for the talent and capability of AbbVie’s employees in creating a dynamic company culture.

“I am incredibly proud that AbbVie Ireland has been named a Best Workplace laureate,” he says. “When AbbVie was founded in 2013 we set out to develop a people-focused and diverse culture that would make AbbVie a great place to work. Ten years on, our culture remains a differentiator for AbbVie and we continually engage with our employees to ensure the high-trust culture that we have developed over the last 10 years continues to evolve.”

Gary O’Mahoney: ‘Crucially, our culture guides how we work, innovate, collaborate and treat each other’

O’Mahoney says AbbVie’s culture “guides how we work, innovate, collaborate and treat each other”. That means realising the need to continuously engage with its employees “to build trust, to listen to their voices, understand our strengths as a company and identify areas where we need additional focus in order to provide us with a clear picture of where we need to challenge ourselves as an organisation in Ireland to remain a great workplace for all employees”.Supporting local communities is at the heart of AbbVie’s culture, including its annual Week of Possibilities, recently awarded Best CSR Programme at the 2022 Irish Pharma Industry Awards.

Embracing equity, equality, diversity and inclusion is also fundamental at AbbVie; the company aims to offer an environment that allows employees to achieve their full potential.

Such activities, along with the Great Place to Work surveys, are all examples of its efforts “to attract, support, develop and reward the dedicated people who come to work with us and why AbbVie remains one of the best places to work in Ireland”, says O’Mahoney.