CNN.com is among the world’s leaders in online news and information delivery. The International Programing Department manages the production and programing for the network’s 24/7 international television channel.
CNN’s employees operate around the clock and across multiple countries and timezones. Over 200 dedicated news professionals including anchors, producers, writers, and copy editor make up the International Programming Department, which operates 6 bureaus in multiple countries and provides support for CNN USA’s overnight broadcasts.
With the unpredictable nature of the global news cycle, schedules at CNN change rapidly. Employees rarely work the same days, hours, or on the same programs each week. Depending on the assignment, writers and producers work the hours of other bureaus, while program directors continuously collaborate on the lineup of programs scheduled to run on their designated channel.
Prior to using ShiftPlanning, all schedules were manually created in Excel and compiled by one administrator out of CNN’s headquarters. Without in-depth knowledge of the staff at each bureau, the scheduler was not able to take into an account each employee’s skill-set, subject-matter expertise and interpersonal relationships when matching them to a specific production and program team.
In an attempt to streamline this process, bureau managers took over scheduling for their office, while continuing to rely on Excel. This localized approach gave managers better control over assigning the right staff to programs, but it practically doubled their workloads.
Without a central schedule, organizing and locating employees across the bureaus became extremely difficult and time-consuming. For those working on shows in different timezones, any last minute schedule update had to be emailed and confirmed by both the manager and the employee. This inefficient process caused unnecessary work for both parties, and introduced the possibility that an employee would miss their shift altogether.
Maintaining the labor budget and schedules for CNN’s freelancers presented another challenge for the bureaus. While the freelancers were managed on site, CNN’s business department in Atlanta needed to verify the labor budget for each bureau and authorize any overtime. As a result, in addition to their regular duties, managers had to report to the business department to coordinate payments to freelancers, as well as confirm if their monthly labor budget may have changed.
To overcome these issues, Ryan Cooper, program director for the Los Angeles bureau, sought to unify the scheduling process for all and began researching online scheduling solutions that would enable CNN’s International Programming Department to create and manage a centralized schedule.
“As journalists our schedules vary greatly – we have to work holidays, weekends, and overnight hours. Working this type of schedule is stressful in itself, so we wanted to provide our employees with something that would make this part of their lives less hectic,” said Ryan Cooper.
During his search Ryan rigorously tested several workforce management systems until he discovered ShiftPlanning. After testing and training a group of key personnel on the platform, CNN rolled out ShiftPlanning and had immediate adoption by all employees in the International Production Department.
With ShiftPlanning, the bureaus are now spending 88% less time on scheduling a sharp decline from 40 hours to just 5 hours a week, freeing up managers to focus on more important tasks.
Key managers now oversee specific departments and can quickly assemble and update schedules to meet changing demands of the news. Relevant employees and managers are notified automatically when shift changes are made eliminating scheduling miscommunications. The notifications are especially helpful for employees who work floating shifts or when urgent staff changes are needed to adapt to breaking and developing news, as well as other unforeseen program changes.
Managing the freelancers’ schedules and budgets is now simpler, too. With ShiftPlanning, CNN’s business office and bureau managers can independently manage their freelance labor budget, and the billing department can easily view the schedule and verify how many hours a specific freelancer has worked and if they’ve worked overtime.
“For our managers, ShiftPlanning reduces the administrative efforts associated with scheduling and enables us to focus on the more pressing aspects of our jobs,” said Ryan.“For our employees, we figured that if they could do the little things like checking their schedule or submitting a vacation request from home, it would go a long way to improving morale, and it has.”
“As journalists our schedules vary greatly - we have to work holidays, weekends, and overnight hours. Working this type of schedule is stressful in itself, so we wanted to provide our employees with something that would make this part of their lives less hectic”
Ryan Cooper, Programing Director
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