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HR'S Most Resourceful

The Cable and Telecommunications Human Resources Association each year honors individuals and companies for their outstanding work in leveraging human resources to drive business results. This year, CTHRA singled out C-SPAN's vice president of administration and human resources, Jack Jackson, and Comcast's human capital management team.

Leadership and Excellence Award: Jack Jackson, C-SPAN

For the past 14 years, Jack Jackson has led C-SPAN's human-resources department with intelligence, insight and integrity, CTHRA said in a statement. He has also been instrumental in the success and expansion of the trade group and its myriad programs.

Jackson joined CTHRA in 1995 and since then, has been instrumental in its development. He has served on the organization's board for 12 years, in the roles of president and treasurer.

“I joined CTHRA 14 years ago when I joined C-SPAN,” Jackson said. “C-SPAN, the industry and CTHRA have all grown so much in that time.

“We have tried to make sure CTHRA is a benefit to company human-resources departments across the industry,” he added. “We now hold meetings in various venues around the country so more people can attend, and we have expanded our membership. It's been gratifying working with CTHRA and I have gained so much by working with others in the industry.”

Jackson's involvement has helped CTHRA become the effective organization it is today, said Brian Koenig, the now-retired senior vice president of human resources at Scientific Atlanta and the 2007 winner of CTHRA's Leadership and Excellence Award.

Under Jackson's oversight, public-affairs programmer C-SPAN has been a longtime supporter of several industry organizations, including the Emma L. Bowen Foundation for Minority Interests in Media, the T. Howard Foundation's internship program, the Walter Kaitz Foundation and the National Association for Multi-Ethnicity in Communications. C-SPAN is a charter member of the Everybody Wins! D.C., literacy mentoring program, and Jackson has personally mentored children in the local school system for years. The company also supports the Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School Corporate Work Study Program.

“We strongly believe in a strong internship program, and that is why the Emma Bowen and T. Howard programs are so attractive to us,” Jackson said. “In the 13 years we have been involved in the Emma Bowen Foundation, we have had four students per year participate.

“We've seen six students graduate and, of those, three work in the industry today, including one who works for us. The others are in graduate school or law school. We give them multiple opportunities especially if we have them for four years. That way, when they graduate, hopefully we can keep them in the industry.”

The Don Bosco Cristo Rey work program is similar but with high school students. C-SPAN sponsors four students each year and they come to the network's offices once a week.

“We give kids an idea of what the workplace is like and what will be expected of them when they are ready to enter it as full-time employees,” Jackson said. “They started as freshmen last year and the same group of kids are sophomores this year.

“It's great having the opportunity to work with these kids for several years in a row,” he added. “You really keep connected to them. We love these programs because we learn as much from them as they learn from us. Kids today connect with the media in ways that we are only learning about now. They help us make sure we stay connected in meaningful ways.”

As Teresa Easley, C-SPAN's HR director, put it, “Jack's professionalism and leadership skills are exemplary and beyond measure. I think he might have coined the phrase 'lead by example.' ”

Added CTHRA executive director Pamela V. Williams: “Throughout his career, Jack Jackson has adeptly meshed his acute business acumen with an extraordinary human touch to deliver results and motivate individuals.”

Best Practice Award: Human Capital Management Team, Comcast

As Comcast was expanding to become the nation's largest MSO over the last decade, the company's human-resources department was managing the growing workforce within “non-standard, decentralized environments,” according to vice president of human resources Melanie Penna.

“To become more efficient, we needed to streamline our people-related and administrative processes and provide self-service options to employees and managers,” she said.

In an unprecedented 20 months, Comcast implemented a new human capital management strategy to centralize and integrate compensation, payroll, performance and talent management for 95,000 employees. The effort was spearheaded by a 40-person multidisciplinary team, led by Penna and vice president of HR operations Mike Molinaro. It included representatives from human resources, information technology, finance, audit and operations.

To be sure, there were many challenges associated with this daunting project, including standardizing workflow processes that had been decentralized and uncoordinated, transitioning data input from paper to portal and shifting administrative processes to self-service models, Penna said.

“It was a challenge to shift from the traditional use of pencil and paper, fax machines, hand delivery and the like to an innovative integrated solution,” she said. “However, we recognized the need to make this shift in order to become more efficient. The main goal of this project was to create a new human-capital management system.”

Comcast consolidated more than 200 different sets of payroll rules into less than 10. The time from decision-to-offer for hires and promotions was reduced from more than a week to a matter of hours. The company established a common language for process definitions, organizational HR criteria and employee data attributes, which encouraged and fostered communication and synchronization between different business units, functional areas and divisions.

Under the new program, every Comcast business unit now shares a uniform tool for performance management and goal-setting. This allows for greater and more immediate alignment of talent with business objectives. The new process streamlines numerous people-related and administrative processes, Penna said, and Comcast expects that will free up additional resources so more time can be invested in strategic planning to support core business activities.

“For the first time, we have real-time access to organizational structures for work-force analysis, budget alignment and targeted training and communications,” senior vice president of compensation and benefits Bill Strahan said in a statement. “Moreover, we have a scalable HCM solution for future acquisitions and a platform for business analytics to manage our data and drive business decisions.”

The project required total buy-in by all Comcast employees, according to Penna.

“Our staff embraced this project from the beginning, which is why the project was completed in just 20 months,” she said. “This project took dozens of people from across HR, IT, finance, audit, and operations. Even our external partners came to us and said that we were one of the few clients who really brought the 'A-team' and A-team leadership to the project.”

Said CTHRA executive director Pamela V. Williams: “Comcast's Human Capital Management Team is an example of cross-departmental teamwork at its best. By leveraging the knowledge and diverse perspectives of 40 individuals representing numerous disciplines within the company, Comcast undertook one of the most complex and challenging conversions that an HR team may encounter.

“Together they embraced and achieved challenging deadlines, forecast potential problems and developed practical solutions,” she said.