[Skip to Content]

Gold Stevie Award Winner 2020, Click to Enter The 2021 Stevie Awards for Great Employers

Company: Cisco
Category:Human Resources Executive of the Year

Nomination Title: HR Executive of the Year - Cisco HR SVP Charlie Johnston



Charlie is a model for “walking the talk.” If he’s not thinking about being a better leader, and building teams that people want to be a part of, then he thinks he’s not doing his job. As the SVP of Global Sales/Marketing and Country, he has driven significant HR change for the Chief Sales and Marketing Officer and her team in both their business models and compensation models. He also emphasizes followership, which he presented for a Bloomberg Leadership In The Future conference, serves in an executive sponsorship role for Cisco’s PRIDE organization, and is passionate about giving back, as a sponsor and participant of Covenant House’s sleep outs and also role modeling volunteerism with a global month of giving back with his team (where they logged 1400 volunteer hours in 2019.)

Charlie’s 2019 included innovating an operating model that would become a blueprint for a larger HR shift to more dynamic teams, less siloed resources and more innovation. With that came a focus on the nearly 100 countries that fall under his remit, partnering with Talent Brand to drive the Great Place to Work rankings in these geos.

His focus on culture and people was reinforced during the 2019 Cisco Sales conference – Impact! (the event had 18,000 attendees from over 98 countries) – adding these topics to the agenda and having them be some of the highest- scoring sessions of the event.

He also took an innovative approach to leadership development with the Sales and Marketing high- potential VPs – by organizing an event to learn how to be better leaders by interacting horses! Horses mirror you, so if you’re nervous or scared, they’re the same. What the leaders learned is where they are most comfortable leading may not be where they’re needed by their team.

Charlie also sponsored a PRIDE event and participated, while also writing a LinkedIn post about his person experiences (to rave reviews) that highlighted the inclusion and diversity at Cisco and the individuality of each employee.

Cisco was ranked the #1 World’s Best Workplace in October of 2019, which is the result of achievements throughout the world in countries where Cisco has offices. Charlie’s commitment to the country experience contributed to that recognition, and in the EMEAR region (for work and submissions that happened in 2019) there were three countries who earned the #1 spot, three countries that were #2 and two other countries in the top 10. For the #1 winners, Italy got the honor for the 5th year running, Poland got the trifecta in 2019 with three years at the top, and Ireland moved up to #1 from #2 last year.

This speaks directly to Charlie’s commitment to the people- first model, and his efforts to build- up a global team – through personalized country communications and a focus on what makes each country special.

His commitment to People and Culture content at the yearly sales conference paid off in big ways as well. The session scores for the three people- focused options were 4.63, 4.78 and 4.86 (out of 5) – allowing Charlie’s “walk the talk” mantra to have some hard data to back up its importance.

Also, in regard to his leadership “retreat” – it’s even more exceptional when you consider that the Sales and Marketing executive leader was scared of horses! But Charlie helped her, and everyone realize that you can overcome the things that block your innovation.

Please refer to Charlie's summary slide, and enjoy a PDF of photos of the countries in EMEAR celebrating their Great Places to Work win! Plus, we've included his talk at the Bloomberg Sustainable Business Summit in 2019 and his LinkedIn Publisher post on his journey as a PRIDE advocate.


https://vimeopro.com/user92501250/bloomberg- sustainable- business- summit- new- york- day- 2/video/368851547

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/three- little- words- charlie- johnston/