Managing People Change

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Cox Communications consolidated 18 cable markets into 14 during 2009. Partly by allowing employees to relocate — with more opting to move several hours away, to keep their jobs, than might be the case in a better economy — the overall reduction to Cox's 22,000-employee workforce was “minimal,” senior executives said. Cox trimmed its employee base by 1% to 2% through the restructuring, officials said.

Cox has successfully consolidated systems in the past, chief operating officer Leo Brennan said, crediting the operator's talented field managers. The realignment was aimed primarily at reacting to competition and speeding products to market, and not at cutting costs, he said, adding that savings were plowed back into local marketing budgets.

With so much change happening at the company, though, Cox senior vice president and chief people officer Mae Douglas said the company opted to channel development dollars into “transition coaching,” a focused effort to train people in new roles, “including the informal things that people never tell you,” Douglas said.

Douglas said she's spent a lot of time talking with human resources leaders in the systems, because of all the changes.

“What I'm hearing is that people want to be here, and they're engaged,” the 15-year Cox executive said. “You can say, of course, because they're working, they have jobs. But I'll take it, because I feel like the people we have want to be here, and they're doing whatever it takes. Everybody knows that they've got to work a little extra, but they're willing to do that.”

Diversity within the workforce “absolutely” remains a priority at Cox, Douglas said, because of the importance of expanding product sales into multiethnic communities.

Earlier this month, Cox was recognized for the company's treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees and consumers. For the second year in a row, Cox earned 100% — a perfect score — in the 2010 Corporate Equality Index (CEI), an annual survey administered by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation.

“Inclusiveness is a core value at Cox and our embrace of diversity links directly to our success,” said Janet Barnard, senior vice president and general manager of Cox Communications Northern Virginia, in a statement.

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