Two years ago Cox Communications’ San Diego and Orange Coast markets combined to form One Cox California. While joining the operations of what for nearly 50 years had been four distinct cable television systems was challenging on its own, finding a way to unite these systems’ cultures and create a consistent employee experience proved to be an even bigger task.
“Any time you go through a major change initiative, you really need to capture the minds and hearts of the employees,” said Sharon Smith, vice president of people services for Cox California. “We wanted to unite employees but maintain the culture of their local markets. Recognition helps people feel good about the work they do and the contributions they make, so we knew it had to be part of our talent strategy.”
Previously, the two Cox California markets had differing strategies for engaging, recognizing and celebrating success. Some of these activities were steeped in years of tradition. Today, employees across the region can recognize anyone, anytime. “We surveyed our employees about what was working well and what they would like to see change,” said Kathy Bardsley, director of leadership and organizational development for Cox California. “Coming from four different cultures across California, employees wanted to connect with each other. A great way to do this is to bring everyone together through a culture of appreciation.”
The company created Surfing4Success at the end of 2011, a program that provides recognition in two categories. The first, A Wave of Thanks, is open to all employees. These are free thank-you recognitions that can be sent by any Cox California employee to any other regional colleague. The second, Epic Effort, awards points, which can be redeemed for personal rewards at anytime. All leaders receive a monthly bank of points from which to recognize someone. Employees are eligible to receive points without limitation. Managers, directors and vice presidents do not receive points but may receive unlimited A Wave of Thanks recognition e-cards. Smith said an employee is recognized every 13 minutes through one of the programs.
The programs have maintained a 93 percent activation rate since their implementation, and Bardsley and Smith say they have contributed to an increase in the company’s return on investment. The company’s recent employee opinion survey engagement score was 91 percent, something the two company leaders also attribute largely to the recognition programs.
“An engaged employee makes a sincere effort to contribute to both the company and the team,” Smith said. “He or she is proud of what they do for a living, proud of where they work. I think this program clearly makes that connection for our employees. It makes them feel good, it makes them feel important, and it makes our business grow.”
For merging two divisions into one, Cox Communications California is the gold Optimas Award winner for Managing Change.