May-June 2011 
Discovery Communications’ Flexible Staffing Strategy
A look at the initiative that earned CTHRA’s 2011 Best Practices/HR Operational Efficiency Award.


Report from Philadelphia: Highlights from CTHRA’s 2011 Symposium
Changes, challenges, and transformations were the focus including specific sessions on recruiting, global mobility, diversity, and being strategic.


Your Perfect Pitch
Secrets to a game winning elevator speech are featured in this CTHRA article published by CableFAX.

A Round of Applause
Read all about the latest honors, promotions, and media coverage in our community.

An Invitation from Being Strategic Author Erika Andersen

31 New Members Joined CTHRA

Discovery Communications’ Flexible Staffing Strategy

CTHRA’s 2011 Best Practices/HR Operational Efficiency Award went to Discovery Communications’ Flexible Group (FSG). The award, presented at this year’s Symposium, honored the FSG for its work in implementing changes in contingent workforce practices that saved the company millions of dollars over a two-year period and increased service efficiency without sacrificing service quality, all performed under full regulatory compliance.

The FSG consists of (back row left to right) Tanishia Lewis, Tyler Benjamin, Stephanie Leonard and (front row left to right) Shalaen Yancey, Tierra Patterson, and Latoya Tardy as pictured at above.

In a continued effort to streamline operations and increase internal customer service, Discovery Human Resources decided to insource the contingent workforce function, formerly handled by a managed service provider. The new in-house team, dubbed the Flexible Staffing Group (FSG), created a system for sourcing, presenting, tracking, and classifying contingent workers, and conducts ongoing audits to ensure compliance with the mandated 52-week limit for external personnel to remain in position. FSG also assumed responsibility for classifying contingent workers and independent contractors for tax reporting purposes, negotiating reasonable rates with staffing agencies, and managing relationships with an external payroll provider.

The success Discovery has seen with FSG is only the beginning, as the company expects savings to grow exponentially over the next few years while they expand the initiative to include other parts of the global organization.

Report from Philadelphia: Highlights from CTHRA’s 2011 Symposium

CTHRA’s Symposium focused on “Changes, Challenges, and Transformations!” and wasted no time diving into the issues facing the industry. The conference opened with Cablevision Systems Corp.’s COO, Tom Rutledge (pictured at left), providing a few chuckles and much insight into the current state of the industry and projections for the future. Tom first described how our industry started with an entrepreneurial culture, moved into a managerial phase, and is now entering the enterprise era: a more decentralized, systemic approach to business operations that allows for localization, more complex technologies and a need for more specialists than generalists in the workforce. Tom explained that in this new era, there are three highly interdependent legs of the industry: business operations, regulations, and technology. He said the legal systems including “regulatory and copyright mish mash” are outdated for the current era of telecommunications, and discussed the challenges of fast-paced technological advances saying, “When you develop a technology, you have no idea what it will unleash.” As an example, he cited that the industry predicted telephony, but not broadband. During the transition into this new era, Tom said the industry will rely on HR to help manage people through the change; at Cablevision, HR is integrated at every level of the business. In conclusion, Tom stated, “We’ll always need HR.”

At the conclusion of his remarks, Tom was joined on stage by Nomi Bergman, President of Bright House Networks; Margaret Lazo, EVP of HR for NBC Universal Entertainment & Digital Networks and Integrated Media; and Christopher Powell, EVP of HR, Scripps Networks Interactive, for a panel discussion moderated by Seth Arenstein, Editorial Director and Assistant Vice President of CableFAX (panel speakers pictured above). During that discussion, the group emphasized the importance of employee motivation, especially in this economy where everyone is asked to do more with less. Chris Powell explained, “Motivation gives people a line of vision.”

Margaret Lazo shared the simple but effective strategy of recognizing and rewarding success. Everyone agreed that a culture that celebrates employee wins and that sets the bar for achievements through communications creates an environment that motivates people to do their best. For further insight into motivating employees, Nomi Bergman recommended Daniel Pink’s books on the subject.

Hand in hand with rewarding success is creating an environment that encourages risk taking in order to help companies differentiate themselves. However, the panelists warned that employees will not take risks if they fear they will not survive a situation in which a risk doesn’t pan out as hoped.

After the breakout sessions, Symposium attendees proceeded to the Awards Luncheon where they received a warm welcome from Craig Martell of Oracle, this year’s sponsor. Discovery Communications swept the awards (see separate articles) and attendees enjoyed a great networking luncheon and awards presentation.

The breakout session titled, “It’s A Global Workforce: A Case Study in Employee Mobility,” featured Sharon Denson, VP of Global Mobility and International Compensation for Turner Broadcasting System, and Patti Wilkie Proietti, Senior Manager/Global Employer Services, Deloitte Tax LLP. In this session, insights included:

  • A one-size-fits-all approach no longer meets the needs of a changing global workforce.

  • Global mobility addresses various talent management solutions and is increasingly a cornerstone of an employer’s value proposition.  While it is a significant investment, a solid approach to global mobility can enable a firm’s growth and survival in a complex business landscape and competitive war for talent.

  • An effective global mobility program is grounded in the organization’s business strategy and integrates strategy, process, and technology in a way that delivers service solutions throughout the life cycle of an assignee.  

The breakout session titled “Warring for Talent: Are You Still Fighting the Battle After You Thought You Won the War?” was moderated by Linda Chambers, Corporate VP of HR for Bright House Networks and featured Renee Hauch, SVP of Search Management and Research for Carlsen Resources; Lisa Kaye, President of; and Janet Manzullo, VP of Talent Acquisition for Time Warner Cable. The group pointed out that one of the biggest challenges companies face is the fact that relocation in this economy can be a deal breaker. Also, the panelists expressed that it is becoming more and more difficult to recruit recent college grads: Their expectations are higher, they want more freedom and autonomy, and they feel more entitled.

  • Instead of posting a straight-forward job description for an open position, write a summary of the job as though you were writing an advertisement to entice the ideal candidate.

  • Bring candidates into the workplace so that they can get a sense of the environment and culture. This way both candidate and employer can make a more informed decision about the likelihood of a good match.
    A trend towards centralized recruiting efforts is resulting in a more consistent approach to the process.

  • Outreach and networking are highly effective recruiting tools.  If XYZ company is laying off employees, connect with its HR team to identify potential candidates for your open positions, if that seems appropriate.

The panelists were split on the practice of using social networking sites to gain insight into candidates. Some recruiters use it, while others rely on reference and background checks to avoid potential legal issues. Additionally, the group discussed diversity. Lisa Kaye offered, "Although companies continue to make an effort in diversity recruiting, it continues to be a challenge to recruit diverse talent at senior levels within organizations. In this we have a long way to go to improve or efforts."

“Leading with Diversity in a Changing Economy” was a breakout session featuring Dennis Brennan, SPHR, Global Inclusion & Intercultural Management for McDonald's Corporation; Cynthia Featherson, Managing Director for Ivy Planning Group; and David M. Porter, Jr., Ph.D., Executive Director, Walter Kaitz Foundation.

The day concluded with a highly interactive “workout” with Erika Andersen (pictured at left), President of Proteus International and author of Being Strategic. Erika started by stating that HR professionals can better support their organizations’ success and operate more effectively as business partners by being more strategic in their approach. She defined strategic as consistently making those core directional choices that will best move you toward your hoped-for future. Using the simple imagery of capturing a castle on a hillside, Erika led the group through several exercises to create a blueprint for developing a successful stratey. First one must define the challenge, then clarify what it is, envision the desired outcome, face obstacles, and then determine the best path to reach the goal.

CTHRA’s one-day event concluded with a relaxing networking and book signing reception, sponsored by Starz Entertainment. While everyone left the event with a complimentary copy of Erika Andersen’s book, three exuberant attendees went home with door prizes which included an Apple iPad 2. You can see their expressions and the entire day in pictures by visiting our photo gallery on Flickr.

It takes the assistance of many to develop the Symposium, including the 2011 Symposium Committee: Michael Butler, SVP Compensation & Benefits, Cablevision Systems; Rosalind Clay Carter, SVP, Human Resources, A&E Television Networks; Karen Bennett, SPHR, CCP, SVP, Human Resources, Turner Broadcasting System; Christopher Powell, EVP, Human Resources, Scripps Networks Interactive; and Tenia Davis, VP, Human Resources, Harpo Inc.

CTHRA would also like to thank those companies that showed their generous support for the Symposium.

Your Perfect Pitch: Secrets to a Game-Winning Elevator Speech

This article penned by CTHRA was among’s most read in April. [Read the article

An Invitation from Erika Andersen

After Proteus International President Erika Andersen’s closing presentation at CTHRA’s May 11 Symposium, she asked us to extend to all of you an invitation to be part of her Insider List, a twice-monthly email offering exclusive content and fresh ideas.  You can join at

A Round of Applause

Margaret Lazo (left), Awards Committee Chair, and Lisa Chang (right) CTHRA President, present the 2011 HR Leadership Excellence Award to Adria Alpert Romm, Senior EVP of Global HR, Discovery Communication (center) during CTHRA’s Awards Luncheon in Philadelphia on May 11 shown in the picture below.

Two thumbs up to Cheryl Rosenbloom, who has been named SVP/HR for NBC Universal’s Cable Entertainment and Cable Studios.

Our hearty congrats to Mae A. Douglas, EVP and Chief People Officer for Cox Communications on winning the 2011 Friend of NAMIC Award from the National Association for Multi-ethnicity in Communications. Mae will be honored at NAMIC’s Annual Awards Breakfast on June 16, 2011, during Cable Connection in Chicago. You can read more about Mae and her work with NAMIC online.

CTHRA bade a fond farewell to two Board members at their May 12 Board of Director’s meeting. Linda Chambers, Corporate VP of HR for Bright House Networks, announced her retirement as of June 30. Ted Stewart, SVP, Total Rewards/Human Resources, Discovery Communications, will be leaving the cable and telecommunications industry as of June 30. The CTHRA Board of Directors and staff expresses its gratitude to Linda and Ted for their support and involvement in all of our efforts. We wish them much success and happiness in their new endeavors.

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