When Cox University first opened its doors and went online,
its mission was simple: teach employees well, anytime, anyplace.
And when Cox Communications Inc. began launching
high-speed-data service Cox@Home and other advanced services, teaching employees the many
nuances and complexities of the new technologies that drive those services stretched the
MSO's traditional training methods to include greater access, knowledge,
accountability and attention to the company's overall business strategy.
The result is CU, an around-the-clock, online,
Internet-based Web site now solidly entrenched in the company's corporate culture and
available to more than 50,000 employees of Cox Enterprises Inc., which includes Cox
Communications, broadcasting and newspaper companies and even its Mannheim Auto Auctions
CU has not only been a hit internally at Cox, but it is
gaining national attention as a new-century education and training prototype for companies
with advanced technical-training needs and for corporate curricula needing close alignment
with a company's business strategies.
"The key for Cox University's success has been
its speed and fiscal efficiencies. It's condensed, accessible and strategically
aligned with its business strategy and performance. It's a great success story,"
said Adam Eisenstat, director of research and communications for Corporate University
Xchange Inc., a New York-based corporate-education research and consulting firm.
CU was recently named "Top Learning Organization"
by Corporate University Xchange and The Financial Times, and since April, it has
gained more than 400 students per month, currently totaling about 4,000, according to CU
director Anna Young, the driving force behind Cox's online-education program.
Young credited CU's wildly successful beginning to the
right strategy at the right time.
"Our vision statement is tied directly to the
company's business strategy, and it has helped us with the rollout of new products.
High-speed-data products change very quickly. So it gives us a competitive edge to be
quick to market. At CU, we can add or change a course in less than a week," she said.
She pointed to a 147 percent sales increase for Cox@Home
during the first month of CU's existence -- a direct result, Young said, of
Cox's "@Home Sales Tool" course, which was taken by 152 customer-service
"The tools that we gave our CSRs mirrored the actual
sales process and included four sales and technology steps that enabled them to access the
best selling techniques to explain the technology and services," she added.
For field technicians and engineers, finding the time and
place to learn complex new technologies and how they're integrated into a
system's network isn't easy. Their mandate is to stay close to technology's
curve, and learning the nuances of new technologies is an issue that is not lost on
Cox's engineers and technicians.
"When we launched cable-modem service, there was lots
of training needed. But the techs are in the field with lots of time demands, so training
was difficult," said David Knight, data-engineering manager for Cox's San Diego
CU, Knight said, is now enabling field techs to stay
current in their respective job areas. "It's a great place to learn quickly
about new headend routers and data," he added. "Content in this area changes
very rapidly with integrating technologies, and consistency is very important to us.
Online, there's commonality of updates we can learn quickly."
What separates CU's courses from the traditional
corporate classroom mentality, Young explained, is not only a responsive and timely Web
site, but the company's buy-in to employee education and the dividends it will pay,
especially in today's shrinking labor pool, where quality, trainable workers are at a
"The company has developed a fundamental belief that
learning is a sustainable competitive advantage and that it will help us to achieve our
business goals. To do that, we must get knowledge into employees' hands," she
CU, Young continued, determines its curriculum content
through a selection committee chosen from a cross-section of key company functions.
"We listen to all of the various disciplines and determine what subject matter fits
into the business strategy," she said.
That approach, Eisenstat said, is the key to CU's
success. "When a company is in a technology-related business, the shelf life of
technical knowledge needed to do business can be short. It's not possible to fiscally
and physically train people fast enough to keep up with the developing technologies,"
Technical courses, for example, are six-week classes via
Cox's Web site. They are available to all 50,000 Cox Enterprise employees, including
new hires, and they contain fresh technical information contributed by various product
Yet despite the need for continuously updated information,
Young admitted that technical content remains elusive. "Most courses are technical in
nature, and we're actively searching for technical content, but the courseware
isn't there yet. Vendors are still developing their products," she said.
The early success of CU is prompting Cox to expand its
Web-based curriculum beyond the technical function and into other disciplines. Added
Young: "IT [information technology] and network-management courses are in place now,
but we want to add leadership courses, soft skills, advisory and office-related courses,
like marketing and the principles of telecommunications."
Once these free courses are added to CU's Web-site
curriculum, which is now the company's most frequently visited site, Young is
confident that even more employees will gain from the CU concept.
"Research says that online courses are completed 50
percent faster than instructor-led courses," she added. "That means a savings in
'productivity dollars.' And with new services and technologies appearing, it
gives employees who are interested in career advancement a great opportunity."
And an opportunity to change the traditional methodologies
of corporate training departments. Added Eisenstat: "Traditional training departments
are order-takers, not proactive. When a corporate university like Cox is strategically
aligned with its business model, employees are privy to the company's business plans,
and they become business partners, not training bureaucrats."
For CU, developing "business partners" within
Cox's corporate ranks is a critical component to the company's long-term
success. Concluded Young: "Our employees are embracing the change, and there's
lots of in-house development of courses, all in line with our business strategy."