The World’s Best Multinational Workplaces List: raceAhead

October 15, 2019, 6:18 PM UTC

This is the web version of raceAhead, Fortune’s daily newsletter on race, culture, and inclusive leadership. To get it delivered daily to your inbox, sign up here.

Fortune’s The World’s Best Multinational Workplaces list is now live, the annual in-depth survey of employees working for companies with a global footprint. Compiled each year by workplace research titan, Great Place To Work, it’s an excellent companion to the annual 100 Best Companies to Work For list. They both do an unusually good job exploring how employees feel about the companies they work for, including diversity and inclusion.

While there are many goodies to dig into on the list, I want to take a moment to acknowledge Cisco, who came in at number one on the Multinational list.

While this might feel like just another company on just another list, it’s really a ground-breaking achievement: The hardware giant has earned a place on every 100 Best Companies to Work For list since it was established in 1998. Sometimes it was a bit of a squeaker, but they’ve been there for the duration.

To appreciate the accomplishment, let’s look at context. 

Cisco arrived on the list the year the sudden devaluation of Thailand’s currency triggered a two-yearlong Asian financial crisis, putting their supply chain and customers at immediate risk. That was followed shortly by the bursting of the U.S. tech bubble, which former CEO John Chambers once described to me as a “near-death experience” for the company. The attacks on 9/11. Endless war. The 2008 global financial crisis—which Cisco had buttressed for, but their customers were less secure. The rise of social media. The decline of democracy. A potentially fraught CEO transition. Not to mention the terrifying state of the world, including conflict, migration, and climate change. Through it all, Cisco’s employees remained engaged and productive. 

This engagement translated into many benefits to the world, including one of particular interest to investors: a boatload of cash on hand.

I sat down with some members of the Cisco executive team at the Great Place to Work conference last year to find out what made for a happy, inclusive workplace.

It turned out to be a master class on how to create an open, transparent culture that embraces change and makes people a priority. It’s well worth your time.

Irving Tan, the company’s operations chief, began by saying that Cisco has gone through as much change in the last three years as it has over the last three decades. Adding recurring-revenue software into their core businesses has meant re-tooling how the whole business works. “And as we go through that, it’s not only about technology. A big piece of that is how do we transform our people as well? Both in terms of not only skills and capabilities, but also mindset as well.”

That’s where radical transparency comes in.

The company tracks employee complaints and issues very closely and has created a process to investigate and often publicly address major problems—including bias or discrimination. They also use a prompt they call “Love or Loathe” to encourage team members to have candid conversations with their managers about how they experienced work in the past week. Chief People Officer Fran Katsoudas says it’s a way to build trust and identify core strengths.  

“‘What did you loathe last week?'” is a powerful question, she says. “There has to be trust for you to tell your manager what you loathe,” she says, noting that her manager is CEO Chuck Robbins. “There are times where my ‘Loathe’ is light and funny and probably more of an annoyance, and then there’s sometimes it’s heavy and I need to talk to him.” While this has become an essential tool for managing teams, it’s really about “the understanding of every individual around the table,” she says.

If you don’t have time to watch the whole video, the GPTW team has helpfully provided a transcript.

I’ll be catching up with Katsoudas next week at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women summit to get an update on her work. (I can comfortably predict that I will “love” the conversation.)

Until then, be sure to spend some time searching the list. (And congratulations to Hilton, Salesforce, DHL Express, and Mars Incorporated who round out the top five.) 

If your global corporation isn’t on it, maybe it’s time to ask why. Tell them raceAhead sent you.

On Point

Marc Benioff in conversation with Fortune If it feels like the charismatic Salesforce CEO is everywhere at the moment, it’s because he is. On the heels of his new book and in advance of the company’s annual Dreamforce convening in San Francisco, Benioff is making his thoughts about business and the failures of capitalism known. In this exclusive interview with Fortune editor-in-chief Clifton Leaf, Benioff holds nothing back. "I would say that capitalism, as we know it, is dead," he begins. And he lays bare the tech sector for failing to get the message. "If trust is not your highest value, your employees will walk out. You can see we have examples in our industry where that’s happening." What about Facebook? "It’s not good for you; it’s addictive. They’re after your kids. They need to be regulated." Click through for an excerpt from Benioff’s latest book, Trailblazer: The Power of Business as the Greatest Platform for Change.

The tech industry won’t fix the gender gap problem It’s partly because what they’re doing isn’t working says researcher Alison Wynn. Citing her own new research published in Gender & Society, she spent a year studying a large Silicon Valley company who had adopted a bias mitigation and mentorship approach. "I found that these programs tend to place blame for inequality, and responsibility for addressing it, on individuals," she says. Men, stop being biased. Women, you get more assertive. "But this thinking fails to do one important thing: hold the organization responsible for the role it plays in causing inequality." As a result, it lets organizations get away with advocating for change without giving up any power whatsoever.

The Fort Worth officer who shot and killed Atatiana Jefferson in her own home is arrested for murder The details of the story are tragic, made more shocking by the news that the officer is being held to account. Aaron Y. Dean, a white officer, was responding to a welfare check call when a neighbor noticed the front door open to Jefferson’s home; the young aspiring doctor was playing video games with her nephew when Dean opened fire through her bedroom window, killing her. Body camera footage clearly shows a problem. "Nobody looked at that video and said there was any doubt that this officer acted inappropriately," says the police chief. "I get it. We’re trying to train our officers better." Click through for a full tick-tock of events.
New York Times

Three economists win the Nobel Prize for their work studying poverty alleviation Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo, and Michael Kremer used randomized control trials and did extensive fieldwork to test which types of interventions might yield better health and education outcomes for people living in extreme poverty. The Nobel committee noted that the work has been paying dividends: Five million Indian children have benefited special classes in schools, and other countries have invested in certain types of preventive health care. Fieldwork is unusual for economists, but it’s ground-breaking. "It brings economists into direct engagement with the issues with which they’re working on, with the farmers or the schools, kids or with teachers," says Kremer. "We have to do much deeper work to understand the lives of the less fortunate in our societies in the face of all the disruption they face," says Duflo.
Wall Street Journal

On Background

How to add diversity choices into your binge-watching schedule Mediaversity is a site that reviews television and films based on how well they represent diverse gender, race, LGBTQ stories and characters. The site was created by Li Lai, a graphic designer from New York, who felt the need to respond to dismal awards seasons. "What really solidified this idea for me was [in 2016] when I was watching Oscar nominees and critically-acclaimed TV shows," Lai told Vice. "Right in a row I watched NarcosGame of Thrones, and The Revenant. All of them had awful portrayals of women." Lai relies on a diverse team of bloggers and grades shows from A+ to F. Russian Doll and Star Trek Discovery fans will be happy. Game of Thrones and Chernobyl fans, not so much.

Notes from an 'interchangeable Asian' Lisa Ko is a novelist, and as such, has a wonderful way of putting things into perspective. Her subject is the now famous case in which plaintiffs argued that Harvard discriminates against Asian-American applicants in favor of black and Latinx ones. She recalls a lifetime of being mistaken for other students and later colleagues, of being too American for some, not American enough for others. And yet, where she and others like her have benefitted from the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act, she recalls the toxic thread—the model minority myth—that has long pitted Asian Americans against the black and Latinx people in the imaginations of a white majority culture. And yet, there are many ways to be Asian, the model minority-tinged story is only one of many. "We have been driven from towns, banned and interned; and we continue to be incarcerated, profiled, murdered and deported at alarming rates," she says. "The touted success of the model minority has not resulted in true political or cultural power."
New York Times

The caste system of Silicon Valley Antonio García Martínez, an author, essayist, and former Facebooker, has an interesting take on tech’s role in stratifying Silicon Valley society. Because of tech’s oversized influence on the Bay Area ecosystem, residents are now divided into four broad classes or "castes," he says. At the top are the elite entrepreneurs and investors, followed by the skilled technicians and marketers who keep the elite vision on track, then the service or gig workers, and finally the "untouchables"—the homeless, addicted, and criminal. He goes into brutal detail on the how the divide plays out—a dystopian nightmare with no social mobility, and then draws this poignant comparison. "One of the most refreshing things about living in Europe (or small towns in the rural US) is knowing that the poor aren’t condemned to a completely separate, and inferior, life," he notes. "Your place in the world isn’t wholly defined by wealth."


Tamara El-Waylly helps write and produce raceAhead.

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“Well, Fortune is about to have its 'Most Powerful Women' Conference and those women know they’re getting paid less than their male peers. And my female employees knew, too, but the male employees didn’t necessarily know. That’s reality: Men don’t really realize it, but women do know… When I went to business school, which was from 1982 to 1986 at USC, I didn’t take any classes on equality. Or on sustainability. Or on stakeholderism. I took none of those classes. The classes I took were on accounting, marketing, organizational behavior, leadership. That’s what business was. Well, that’s not what leadership and business is today.”

Marc Benioff

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