In 2001, Cisco developed the fellowship program as a way to handle the layoffs of 8,500 workers. The company offered the fellowship program to some of those workers, who were forced to go through a rigorous screening process, according to a company spokesperson.
Cisco benefited from reduced severance pay and hiring costs. The workers were able to help non-profits using their skills, receive one-third of their pay, keep their benefits and get a chance at returning to the company, the Mercury News reports. The program was initially slated to run for one year, but the company extended it six months longer when the economy didn’t rebound quickly.
“It turned a difficult time for most into a very rewarding experience – a satisfying and life-changing experience,” says Dipak Basu, a senior manager in Cisco’s European customer office.
Basu worked with Save the Children before returning to Cisco in August, the Mercury News reports. Workers tell the newspaper that they gained valuable insight into the world of non-profits, where some remain today, but for some it was also a culture shock.
The program has ended, but Cisco aims to continue to encourage philanthropy, the Mercury News reports. In order to promote a form of leadership training, Cisco will allow “high-potential” employees to take temporary positions with non-profits.
“We feel that to be a leader, you must give back to the community in some form,” says Tae Yoo, director of corporate philanthropy.
rty-four of the 81 Cisco “fellows,” laid-off employees who worked at non-profits for one-third of their pay while maintaining their benefits, have returned to the networking giant now that the program is over, the San Jose Mercury News reports. Nine others are with non-profits, and the rest are in school, other jobs or retirement.