The HR Transformation

Lisa Knutson, Chief Administrative Officer, The E.W. Scripps Company

Like many publicly traded companies—and especially those in the constantly evolving field of media—The E.W. Scripps Company has faced its share of challenges and changes in recent years.

“We wanted to enable all HR processes to happen digitally, to make all benefits, payroll and talent management processes self-service, and to standardize them throughout the company”

We have had to take a hard look at our business, our people and our practices to help us determine the right course of action to keep the foundation of our business strong. One guiding principle through all of the change has been to hire the right people, give them the tools they need to be successful and to grow their skills and experiences in order to support the growth of Scripps.

It is this belief in our workforce that has helped Scripps endure the ups and downs of a turbulent market, and to emerge stronger than ever.

In my years working in administration and HR, my top priority has always been on people—the employees. However, as a business leader in 2015, technology is a factor in every decision I make. This has become increasingly clear in the past few years as we tackled some big hurdles. The changes we’ve made have been enhanced by the technology we have implemented, and have helped us become a pioneering mid-market media company.

In the past few years, we have turned our human resources operation around. What was a cumbersome, de-centralized human resources service became streamlined, user-friendly and highly efficient.

Our Challenge: Lack of consistency

As Scripps grew; we realized that with multiple locations across the country, we had human resources functions that were operated entirely separately from the corporate office. We had a real lack of consistency, and the employees were feeling it.

When we started this process, we had multiple job codes for essentially the same position at different properties. We had more than 25 different pay cycles throughout our locations. We had no employee or manager self-service. Talent management practices differed throughout the company, and in some locations they did not exist.

Our Principles for HR transformation:

People Before Process

As we strategized how to effect this change, we adhered to two overriding principles:

a). We wanted to avoid applying new technology to bad practices, a certain recipe for failure. We knew determining how to apply new technology would be a significant part of our transformation, but we knew that we that first we would need to devise strategies the technology was meant to enable.

b). Before implementing any change in strategy or technology, we sought specific answers for these questions: Why are we changing this and how does the technology make work life better for employees? How can we automate HR practices to save time for our managers and employees?

Our Strategy: The HR Transformation

First, we looked unflinchingly at what we needed to do differently. That started in 2007, and we continued looking hard at how to change for about two years. We named our process, unoriginally but certainly accurately, “The HR Transformation.”We set about this process of change in a few different ways, technology being just one of them.


We wanted to get our HR managers out of the paperwork and administration business so they could focus on bigger-picture strategies. We changed the job title for the human resources managers at Scripps properties to HR business partner. Partners they are. It was made clear that the entire process would also transform their jobs and make them “partners,” not only with company leadership but also with the employees they served.


Another of our goals was to make all HR information and services available through one internal website. We didn’t want employees to have to go to one website to find pay and benefits information, another site to find learning requirements and opportunities and another to find other essential or just interesting news about the company.

We integrated all these functions into our internal website, which features links for specific information on all these topics and is easily and quickly accessible to all employees. We also made this information accessible with a single sign-on, meaning employees need to remember just one password to access this important information.

Technology Partners

We wanted to enable all HR processes to happen digitally, to make all benefits, payroll and talent management processes self-service, and to standardize them throughout the company. At the same time, data integrity was of utmost importance to our team. We needed to define a system of record for each piece of data. In order to achieve this, we sought and found the right partners, including:

• Payroll and benefits: Outsourcing our benefits and payroll processes was a clear solution for us, and so we partnered with ADP. It’s ADP’s role to know this software, help us to adapt it to our needs and to continuously strive to update and enhance the technology. Our HRIS team tweaks and improves the site as needed, but ADP’s input has been essential. We are currently incorporating ADP functions into an internal smartphone app we are developing so that employees can do from their phones virtually anything they can do from their desktops.

• Talent management: We work with Success Factors (formerly Plateau Systems) for learning and training processes, as well as performance management. This helps us ensure the criteria that every Scripps employee–at every location–is evaluated using the same criteria. For compensation, we work with ADP via its Compensation Planner tool, and for recruiting and talent acquisition, we leverage ADP Recruiting Management.

It is essential for a successful business to look continuously to adapt technology to its needs in all of its business functions, including its human resources.

The Results

Scripps’ HR Transformation laid a foundation. The transformation is an organic process that can evolve—and is evolving—as needed.

These changes have allowed our employees to focus primarily on the pursuits they were hired for and spend less time determining everything from benefits availability to where W2s can be found online. Our journalists spend more time working on stories, finance people spend more time making the numbers work, sales staff can focus on selling and human resources staff can spend more time recruiting and managing talent.

To experience the growth that Scripps has seen in the past decade without the HR Transformation would have compounded our original problems. But by standardizing human resources processes throughout the company, we made it easier for Scripps to continue to grow and prosper as a company that provides its audiences with essential information.