Cox Newspapers Inc. is one of the nation’s largest newspaper publishing companies, producing 17 daily and 26 nondaily newspapers. In an organization this wide and varied in its job roles, providing consistent, efficient training across the company can be a challenge. Streamlining learning and development through a computer-based learning management system is difficult for Cox because many of its employees don’t use computers on a daily basis or even have a company e-mail address.
“We run the whole gamut here,” said Doug Teachey, manager of organization change management and training, as well as acting help desk operations manager. “We have some of the most tech-savvy folks on our team, internally, and we have your front-line factory worker who’s never used a computer before. We don’t need them to all be on the same page in terms of competencies, but they all have varying degrees of technical skills, and we’re meeting the needs of a vast audience that covers the full spectrum.”
To accommodate its vast workforce, Cox implemented both computer-based and instructor-led learning programs. Cox distributes e-learning and documentation development programs through the Info Pak tool from RWD Technologies. The company also uses the tool to create and implement learning materials for employees who don’t participate in e-learning. It first developed this approach at Cox Ohio Publishing.
“The first circulation system they had put in place was not fully tested, it wasn’t functioning like it should and there were a lot of training gaps,” Teachey said. “So, people who were doing things wrong in the system because of gaps in understanding the system or processes would blame everything on the system.”
Cox conducted workshops to address these problems and learned 60 percent of the issues Cox Ohio saw with circulation were either people- or process-related, not related to the system itself.
“Even though the system had problems, the majority of the issues were that people weren’t following the processes directly because they didn’t know them, didn’t want to follow them or there was no enforcement of them,” Teachey said.
At that time, the Cox Ohio call center had 1,100 dropped calls per week, and its customer satisfaction levels were around 20 percent. Once Cox had its new methodology in place with enhanced performance support and a retrained workforce, dropped calls fell to 200 per week, and customer satisfaction levels rose from 20 percent to 94 percent.
“That was the first week we went live,” Teachey said. “So, it was an automatic improvement in performance.”
Cox’s next big project will be developing a global template for HR, payroll and finance departments at all its newspapers. One of the first to re-implement these functions will be The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“They have a 38-year-old financial system. They have a lot of more factory-style workers in print shops. They have a paper-based, manual, outdated process. So, we’re moving them from the Dark Ages to the 21st century,” Teachey said.
One of the biggest challenges throughout the change management process was convincing Cox’s top brass of its merits, Teachey said.
“Half of the work that we do when it comes to change management is educating on and selling the work as we’re doing the work because all of this ERP [enterprise resource planning] stuff is new,” he said. “Our audience often has no framework for what it’s like to implement an ERP system or to re-engineer your organization around a process-centered focus rather than a functional focus.”
– Daniel Margolis, email@example.com
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