The Cable and Telecommunications Human Resources Association (CTHRA) has honored outstanding HR professionals this year from A+E Networks, Comcast Cable and Bright House Networks. Since 2007, CTHRA has hosted this awards program acknowledging the innovative ideas of the people in charge of hiring, benefits and much more. Slowly but surely, their initiatives will shape the industry and challenge the HR status quo. Here’s the second award for Team Innovators of the Year.

Comcast Cable, Leave of Absence Team

Comcast Cable wants engaged and dedicated workers. That’s why the company’s Leave of Absence Team is dedicated to reducing the use of leave of absence (LOA) days. “Comcast recognizes how important it is for employees to feel engaged in purposeful work, be part of a supportive team, and be able to provide for their families. Too often these objectives were being diminished by poorly managed leaves of absence,” said Rob Delmarco, vp of HR finance and analytics for Comcast Cable. The team implemented a strategy to use statistical analysis in order to understand the motivations behind prolonged leaves of absence. To mitigate the number of employees who exit the company after an LOA, Comcast Cable has taken steps to increase communication during leave and work collaboratively with individuals to carve an inspiring, desirable career path. After two years, Comcast has seen results. The number of LOA days has dropped, and productivity has increased. “When employees feel engaged, they’re more likely to want to return to work as quickly as possible. When we can get employees back to work quickly, it helps the employee and his/her family and ensures we have the talent we need to run the business—whether it be creating innovative products or delivering great service for our customers,” Delmarco said.

Q&A with Rob Delmarco, vp of HR finance and analytics for Comcast Cable

Why was it important for Comcast Cable to encourage employees to return from leave of absence?
Comcast recognizes how important it is for employees to feel engaged in purposeful work, be part of a supportive team, and be able to provide for their families. Too often these objectives were being diminished by poorly managed leaves of absence. Like many companies, Comcast was looking for a creative solution to help employees more easily and quickly come back to work from leaves of absence. When employees feel engaged, they’re more likely to want to return to work as quickly as possible. When we can get employees back to work quickly, it helps the employee and his/her family and ensures we have the talent we need to run the business—whether it be creating innovative products or delivering great service for our customers.

What are some best practices that employers can use to increase engagement and reduce LOA?
It’s important to look at the impact to the business and the people—not just the numbers. This starts with determining the root cause of LOA and applying a statistical analysis to understand the situation. Here are some additional actions employers can take to increase engagement and reduce LOA:
• Maintain clear, consistent, and frequent communication with employees on leave to promote engagement and make sure they know they’re valued by the organization.
• Create a dedicated LOA Operations team approach to provide a single point of contact for employees who either have not returned as planned from leave or who require modified (light) duty or other medical accommodations. This removes a significant burden from local HR leaders while simultaneously creating a center of excellence focus on leave management.
• Leverage a clinical review officer to support the LOA team to allow for peer-to-peer discussions with injured workers’ medical providers about stay-at-work and return-to-work opportunities. The role also assesses the appropriateness of accommodation costs proposed by the employee or the employee’s health care provider.
• Look at ways to make returning to work more attractive, such as implementing flexible workplace initiatives (such as shift swaps, schedule swaps, and shift slides) to mitigate the need for intermittent FML.
• Explore ways of making it easier for employees to return to work, such as training managers on medical accommodations, encouraging the use of modified duty assignments, and exploring alternative positions for employees who are unable to return to their former job due to permanent or ongoing medical restrictions.
• Engage the services of a health assistance coordination vendor to provide employees with a single point of contact to receive information about the company’s health-related benefits, and how employees can best take advantage of them to their benefit.
• Engage other benefits vendors to help employees with financial issues (such as debt management and budgeting) and mental/emotional issues (such as stress management) through the Employee Assistance Program (EAP).
• Call out to senior management the full impact of LOA. Executive leadership may not see the collective impact of LOA on the business—on service levels, consistency of processes, delivery of products and services, financials, etc.—until it is gathered up in one place. Get their buy in for change by educating them on the end-to-end impact.

What is one of the biggest changes in the HR field in this industry in the past five years?
The cable industry has undergone dramatic change to compete with a whole new portfolio of technology and products. HR has had to change, too—playing a key role as a change accelerator and talent manager—so we can attract, engage, develop, and retain the talent we need to adapt, lead, innovate, and deliver products and services our customers love and trust.

 

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