Strategy Showcase: Cox Communications’ California System’s Award-Winning Integration of Markets & Campuses


Discovery Communications Deep Dive into Employee Engagement

CTHRA at the Cable Show: Join Us for Affordable Care Act Session, Hiring Our Heroes Job Fair & Networking Reception

Four HR Trends in Our Industry

Survey Participants Sought for NAMIC/WICT Workplace Diversity Assessment

Consider Your Employees for Industry’s Women’s TechConnect Initiative

A Round of Applause: Honors, Promotions

CTHRA Weclomes Our 58 Newest Members

Integration of Markets and Campuses Nets the People Services Team at Cox Communications California System the 2013 Team Innovator of the Year Award

Faced with the Herculean task of uniting the cultures and employee experience of four diverse markets on five campuses, Cox Communications’ California operation turned to its People Services team for help. Led by Vice President of People Sharon Smith, the team spent two years integrating these disparate parts to create a consistent employee experience and a single dynamic statewide enterprise.  For its outstanding work on this effort, CTHRA honored the People Services team (pictured at left) with its 2013 Team Innovator of the Year Award.

To accomplish this task and ensure that Cox Communications’ California system aligned its initiatives with local and national business strategies, Smith’s 30-member HR and management training team took a four-pronged approach: ignite frontline leadership, enhance communications channels, unite diversity councils and develop a peer-to-peer rewards and recognition program.   

Ignite Frontline Leadership
To understand what leaders needed, the team conducted surveys and focus groups and identified five areas of importance: clarity of role, coaching, tools and resources, training and communication. Surveys uncovered leader concern regarding the time spent on administrative tasks such as time and labor, escalated customer issues, accident investigation and others, explained Smith (pictured at left).

“To reduce this administrative burden, we are investigating the ‘right sizing’ of span-of-control and seeking a good model for the ratio of employees to frontline leader,” Smith said. The company also offered new training on time and labor with flexible scheduling and investigated ways to reduce time spent on accident investigation.

On the coaching front, the People Services team hired a consultant to present a “Coaching Essentials” workshop, facilitated multiple offerings of the Leadership Development Team’s “Courageous Conversations, Unleashing Talent and Influencing for Results” and named on-the-job coaches for Care, Sales and Retention to support ongoing coaching efforts.

To provide leaders with easily accessible tools, the company launched a new Leadership Hub, a web-based portal built in Sharepoint, and introduced more than a dozen single-topic roundtables. Subjects include accident reporting, time and labor, mileage and expense, etc. The communications and HR team post announcements to the hub on important leader-related topics, including upcoming training, policy changes, contests, reminders, etc. Each week, the system compiles the announcements and sends an automated alert to all California leaders with that week’s contents. In addition, the hub, which is accessible by leaders only, has a quick links section, planning calendar and shared file drive.

The leader surveys also uncovered a desire for more flexible training schedules. In response, the California system adjusted the timing and length of its training programs. It hired a leadership-training manager who works with the new on-the-job coaches to train frontline leaders. New product and technical trainers also support ongoing skills development. The People Services team also launched a Smart Bytes webinar series on topics that include dealing with difficult people, communicating non-defensively and email management tips, etc.

Enhance Communication
To improve communication with leaders, the People Services team spearheaded several new initiatives, including the Leadership Hub, Leadership Digest, Leadership Roundtables and The Cascade. However, communication wasn’t just important to leaders. It was critical to providing consistent messaging to every employee during the company’s transformation.

The People Services team took an innovative approach — tailoring the communication media to job function. For example, for field techs, the team created a five-minute newscast every two weeks that techs watch during their team meetings. In its call centers, the California system launched an e-poster system that rotates messages on monitors placed throughout the buildings. It also developed a weekly email newsletter for all employees. The new communication methods are proving popular. About 40% of employees view the video newscast, and 30% open the weekly newsletter.

To ensure that leaders share the same messages with all employees, People Services spearheaded a new communication process called The Cascade, which lists 10 to 15 ideas that every employee should understand. Typical monthly Cascade topics include: product launches, financial standing, customer retention, benefits, training opportunities and technology updates. The Cascade helps leaders concisely deliver the same concepts and verbiage to employees face-to-face.

“With these new tools, leaders improved their leadership skills, were held accountable for meeting personally with their direct reports and developed a deeper understanding of the company’s business vision and goals,” Smith said.

Unite Diversity Councils
With the geographic, cultural and generational diversity inherent to California, integrating the company’s diversity councils was imperative. The People Services team helped the system’s previously two separate councils unite and develop a new focus based on the community, customer, people and supplier and that also aligns with Cox’s Corporate Diversity Council.

“Local initiatives set forth by the council compliment our business approach in ensuring inclusion in hiring and retaining people, supplier relationships, community outreach and the products and services we offer across Cox California,” noted Smith.

The new council was extremely effective, achieving numerous wins in 2012, including:

  • Developing a communications campaign promoting diversity through social media, newsletter and PSA production
  • Running 6,000 PSA spots for some 75 organizations
  • Recommending improvements to Customer Service Operations targeted to Hispanic customers
  • Launching a translation tool for Field Service Operations
  • Identifying Affirmative Action Plan gaps and enhancing awareness and accountability with sourcing partners
  • Holding second annual joint MSO Supplier Diversity event with doubled attendance
  • Extending partnerships with Women’s Business Enterprise Council (WBEC), ELITE (disabled veterans), and San Diego Minority Supplier Development Council.

Diversity council members won recognition for these efforts in 2012. Two members received awards — Advocate of the Year and Supplier Diversity Achievement — from the San Diego Regional Minority Supplier Diversity Council.

Reward and Recognize Employees

Terri Wilson accepting the award on behalf of the People Services Team at CTHRA's Awards Luncheon on May 2 in Silver Spring, Maryland.

The People Services team also helped the company launch a new, statewide employee recognition program — dubbed Surfing4Success — that provides the added benefit of helping employees connect with each other.  The new program provides recognition in two categories. The first, A Wave of Thanks!, enables all California employees to send email thank you recognitions to each other. “We encouraged all employees to make frequent use of ‘A Wave of Thanks!’ to help create a culture of appreciation,” Smith explained. The second initiative, Epic Effort, is a points-based program that allows leaders to award points, which employees can redeem for prizes.

“Our recognition program is a success. We currently enjoy a 93 percent activation rate just one year into the program, and more than 34,000 recognitions have been given out so far,” Smith said. “Our management team has a participation rate of 88 percent, and just under 1,500 items have been redeemed for reward prizes.”

Business Impacts
It’s not just the new recognition programs that are a success. All of the initiatives are paying dividends and positively impacting the business as illustrated by the following successes:

  • Safety administration reporting time fell by more than 50%.
  • Turnover fell by 20%.
  • Human capital ROI increased by 10%.
  • Customer satisfaction increased, with the California operation finishing 2012 in a virtual tie for the best CSAT scores in the company.
  • Employees received business gain-share payout for 2012 and 2011.

In spite of these successes, the People Services Team isn’t resting on its laurels. “HR continues to evolve as the business evolves in a very competitive environment. We find ourselves operating now in a highly matrixed environment that requires us to be comfortable spanning across layers and reporting structures to make the employee experience a positive one, regardless of whether the employee reports locally or is based in our local market but reports to our corporate office in Atlanta,” noted Smith. “We in HR see ourselves as business partners and are closely aligned with the needs of our business partners. We will continue to work on constant improvement of communication and collaboration and transform HR as the business transforms.”   

CTHRA Showcase:  NBCU’s Pat Langer and Bright House Networks’ Angie Mazeres Honored for Leadership
By Abby Pfeiffer, CTHRA Awards Chair and SVP of HR for Charter Communications

CTHRA’s Leadership Excellence Award serves to recognize an HR executive who has demonstrated extraordinary and visionary leadership in addressing a critical business issue, challenge or opportunity, exhibiting job excellence and a dedication to the cable and satellite industry.  The 2013 Leadership Excellence Award recipient is Pat Langer, EVP of HR for NBCUniversal (shown at left). 

When Pat Langer took the helm of NBCUniversal’s HR organization in January 2011, the company was experiencing the most significant and far-reaching evolution in its history.  Pat faced the challenge of creating a world-class HR organization in the midst of changing ownership, leadership and strategic direction. Pat spearheaded the migration of NBCUniversal’s HR function away from GE and integrated it with the company’s new parent, Comcast. During this two-year transformation, she seized the opportunity to improve HR’s existing systems, processes and policies.  First, Pat spent time connecting with the HR teams so she could better understand their challenges, identify their strengths and weaknesses and uncover the untapped opportunities.   Then Pat brought together the senior HR leaders from each of the businesses to collectively establish a new, cohesive HR mission and vision.  Soon thereafter, she implemented a multi-prong communication strategy to ensure the global HR team understood the new HR roadmap, remained updated on the business and received the tools they needed to manage the ongoing changes.  She also actively engaged the HR team with in-person meetings to encourage networking and best practices sharing. 

While the NBCUniversal HR team achieved an incredible number of milestones during the first two years of Pat’s leadership, there were several particularly notable accomplishments, including: rebuilding the corporate HR specialty teams, including benefits, compensation, learning and organizational development, talent acquisition, and HR operations; transitioning HR systems from Oracle to SAP; harmonizing retirement benefit options with Comcast; rebuilding the talent life cycle by centralizing talent acquisition, creating a dedicated executive search team and building a new learning and organizational development group;  establishing new policies around compensation, severance, employee benefits and travel, which reflected the company’s new culture and alignment with Comcast; and supporting the acquisition of and the creation of the NBCUniversal News Group, Cable Entertainment Group and Ad Sales organizations.

Now in the third year of the new Comcast era, Pat continues to manage major organizational changes while remaining committed to developing internal HR talent. Congratulations to Pat on receiving this year’s Leadership Excellence honor!

Last year, CTHRA expanded its Excellence in HR Awards to recognize an emerging HR professional whose fresh perspective, inventive ideas and innovative approach has positively impacted the leadership and culture of the organization. This year, our recipient is Angie Mazeres, senior director of HR for Bright House Networks (left, shown with her nominator, Pamela Hagan, right, after accepting the award).

Angie joined Bright House Networks in 2004 as an HR generalist. Her can-do attitude and enthusiasm for new projects helped her to progress to the position of senior director of HR. Her achievements during this eight-year journey are impressive. She has been involved in all areas of human resources and became the resident benefits expert in the Florida market and championed more effective communications regarding benefits to Florida employees.  Bright House also tapped her to oversee HR in the markets outside of Florida (Detroit, Indianapolis, Bakersfield and Birmingham), where she helped transition them to a more standard approach in several HR practice areas.

Angie supported the creation of an HR SharePoint site, which provides a consolidated repository for policies, training modules and process documents. She also spearheaded the documentation of the company’s policies and processes and developed its “Bright Beginnings” new-employee orientation program.

Her creativity and knack for hospitality made Angie the natural choice to head Bright House’s annual Award of Excellence trip to Arizona, while her leadership potential earned her a spot in Class I of the company’s Women’s Leadership Circle, which is now in its eighth year. Angie now serves as one of the Women's Leadership Circle's co-leaders and is instrumental in determining the curriculum and coordinating activities.

Angie Mazeres is definitely an HR leader in the making, and we’re pleased to recognize her with CTHRA’s 2013 Aspiring Leader Award!

CTHRA applauds the 2013 Excellence in HR Awards recipients: Pat Langer (second from left), the People Services Team at Cox Communciations’ California system (represented by Terri Wilson in center), Angie Mazeres (second from right). The award winners are flanked by CTHRA President Chris Powell and CTHRA Awards Chair Abby Pfeiffer.

Discovery Communications Talks Employee Engagement at CTHRAs Symposium
A team of Discovery Communications panelists took a 360-degree look at employee engagement at CTHRA's Symposium on May 2. The scope of the session included sharing of their health and wellness programs, corporate social responsibility and employee surveys. CableFAX's Joyce Wang was there to cover it. Read her article.

The Discovery Communications' panel included moderator Eric Hawkins, Senior Vice President of HR; Wendy Lawson, Vice President of Learning & Leadership Development; Julie Neimat, Vice President of HR; Michelle Russo, Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs & Communications; Elizabeth Sequeira, M.D. at Discovery Wellness Center; and Evelyne Steward, Vice President of Global LifeWorks & Inclusion. Many thanks to all of them for a memorable session!

CTHRA at the Cable Show: Join Us for Affordable Care Act Session, Hiring Our Heroes Job Fair & Networking Reception
Industry HR pros have more reasons than ever to attend this year’s Cable Show. At this year’s event in June, CTHRA will host a session titled Impact Assessment: The Affordable Care Act.

Andrea Mitchell (pictured at left), NBC News’ chief foreign affairs correspondent and host of “Andrea Mitchell Reports” will moderate CTHRA’s session, which will feature Matthew Eurey, vice president of benefits for Time Warner Cable; E.J. Holland, Jr., assistant secretary for administration at the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services; Karen Salinaro, FSA, account director for Towers Watson, and Jeffrey E. Shapiro, vice president of enterprise benefits for The Walt Disney Company. The panel of experts will share insights on the overall business implications, budgeting, planning practices and compliance management.

CTHRA will continue its activity at the Cable Show the following day when it partners with the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to host a Hiring Our Heroes job fair for industry veterans and their spouses. Participation is free for qualified employers. Please contact [email protected] for eligibility requirements and registration information.

HR Trends in Our Industry
Ever wonder what non-HR folks think about HR? CableFAX editor Joyce Wang attended CTHRA’s Power of Perspective Symposium and identified four trends. What are they? Click here to find out!


Survey Participants Sought for NAMIC AIM/WICT PAR Initiative
Women in Cable Telecommunications (WICT) and the National Association for Multi-Ethnicity in Communications (NAMIC) are conducting a joint workplace diversity survey for the next editions of the WICT PAR Initiative and the NAMIC AIM (Advancement Investment Measurement).  The survey will be funded through a grant by the Walter Kaitz Foundation.

NAMIC and WICT have engaged Mercer, a leading global consultant on human capital issues, to conduct the joint survey. The survey will benchmark data vital to the advancement of gender and ethnic diversity in the cable telecommunications industry and, for the first time, will utilize diversity data that takes into account geographical distinctions.  The joint survey results will focus on the current state of ethnic and gender diversity within the cable telecommunications industry.

The survey activation period began in April, and the deadline for completion is June 7, 2013. Mercer will distribute the combined survey and independently manage the development of customized reports for each organization. Findings from this research initiative will be presented by WICT and NAMIC during a Town Hall Meeting scheduled for October 8, 2013, in New York City as part of Cable Diversity Week. 


Consider Your Employees for the Women’s TechConnect Initiative
The Women’s TechConnect Initiative is designed in partnership with Women in Technology (WIT) honorees, Women in Cable Telecommunications (WICT) and the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) to provide a mentoring relationship between senior and rising cable technology professionals to help educate and retain women in the technology fields of the cable industry. This formal mentorship program will pair WIT honoree mentors, each of whom is a leader and innovator, alongside less-tenured, though high-potential, women in technology fields.

The goal of the program is to provide a crucial support system to better equip mentees to overcome workplace challenges, while helping them rise through the cable ranks until they themselves become the leaders and innovators. WICT and SCTE will support the mentors/mentees by offering online resources and tools, underwriting event registrations and memberships, as well as providing a sense of community as the designated mentees embark on their mentoring journey.

To participate, applications must be received by 5:00 pm E.T. on Monday, June 17, 2013. For more information, please visit WICT’s website.


A Round of Applause
Starz upped David Laughlin to VP, Human Resources. Congrats, David!

New Members
Join us in welcoming those who joined CTHRA since our last newsletter issue: