A True Community Newspaper

~Arizona Republic Hires Beacon to Deliver Needed Services

What does a company do when restructuring creates a need for very select services as positions get consolidated?  How can an organization continue to offer excellent internal service to its employees economically when faced with significant changes such as a new location or business model?

The Arizona Republic faced challenges like these recently as the building they once dominated transitioned to a home for a larger number of tenants, and their centralized mail room was removed.  The Arizona Republic is a Phoenix daily newspaper, owned by the national media company Gannet.  Circulated throughout Arizona, the Republic is the state’s largest newspaper.  Headquartered in downtown Phoenix, the company now occupies four floors of the 10 story building that was once full of newspaper staff.

With the elimination of the Republic’s mail room, existing employees of that department were offered retirement incentives as their positions were not sustainable.  But even without dedicated mail staff, all of the remaining employees of the Republic still received mail and packages – a lot of them – every day!   The question that Doug Steele, Senior Manager of Strategic Sourcing, faced was: how would Republic employees get their postal mail and time sensitive deliveries?  Steele knew that Gannett’s Corporate offices in Virginia outsources these services locally, so he started researching mailroom services in Arizona and happened on a perfect solution to solve the need, one that in his mind befits a community newspaper.

Beacon's Customized Work Team High Fives with Job Coach

The Republic’s parent company, Gannett has a supplier diversity program that encourages inclusion.  Steele learned about Beacon Group’s Customized Work Teams (CWT) and wondered if it might be a cost-effective solution for outsourcing their on-site mail-room needs.  A CWT is a group of employees working together on projects and tasks as part of a regular ongoing schedule.  Each Beacon Group CWT consists of several Beacon employees with disabilities and a job coach, and each has its own set of specific goals and objectives per jobsite, determined collaboratively by the organization and our Program Managers.  The intent is to support an organization’s unique needs without directly increasing their labor force.

After a thorough project assessment with Steele, Beacon submitted a proposal, and Steele ran the idea by the local site managers.  They felt that Beacon was competitive and would provide a good value for the organization going forward.  The Arizona Republic CWT started up in June but experienced an early set back.  Steele felt like the work wasn’t being performed to standards, but he knew it could be.  He and Beacon worked together to trouble shoot the issues and were fortunate to be able to recruit a past employee of the Republic, Maria Canez to lead the CWT as Job Coach. Canez brought her mail services job knowledge to help train the two Beacon workers, Victoria (Tory) Ramos and Sandra Harris as they perfected their service delivery.  The trio has now been working together for four months, and Steele says they are doing an exceptional job.  The experience demonstrated how Beacon’s commitment to provide solutions that work, combined with industry knowledge and cooperation from the customer, can deliver stellar results.

“The role of the job coach is pretty special,” remarks Steele.  “The coach has to teach the skills and manage the team in a way that both meets expectations of the company and makes each team member feel valuable in his or her job.”

Canez has organized her team to divide and conquer.  Harris and Ramos have different duties as mail room clerks.  Harris retrieves packages delivered by UPS, FedEx and the USPS from the building dock several times a day and then distributes the packages among the four floors where Republic workers office.  Ramos is responsible for the tear-sheet delivery, getting over 14 different newspapers delivered to staff on site and helping pick up mail from the Post Office box off-site.

Beacon's CWT members performing mail room tasks.

Both Ramos and Harris have their own unique journey to joining the CWT team. Tory Ramos once had her own radio show and worked in administration. She has battled health conditions and disabilities related to the Cerebral Palsy since a baby.  She recalls being told in school that she wouldn’t work and would need to be ‘institutionalized.’   After her symptoms caused her to leave her other positions, she felt isolated and suffered from depression.  She came to Beacon and started in custodial and special projects until the CWT opening came up.

Due to her vision loss and partial paralysis resulting from the Cerebral Palsy, Ramos uses a walker and takes the elevator to accomplish her tasks.  She enjoys the consistency of her work routine and says it gives her a purpose to get out of bed each morning.  The movement of her work serves as exercise to help slow atrophy and muscle weakness.

“At a lot of my other jobs I was isolated, and here I am not,” Ramos shares. “I feel like I’m part of a team rather than by myself.  I’m valued here.”

For Sandra Harris, she says that her job is therapy for her disabilities which include ADHD, seizures, and Tourette’s syndrome.  Since she started working in the mailroom at the Republic, Harris has not had a seizure or experienced any of the other behaviors that were causing her challenges.  She says Canez, her job coach, helped her figure out that holding an object in her right hand while delivering with her left, helps manage some of her symptoms. The camaraderie of the mail team and interacting with the other staff, including occasional celebrity encounters in the building, have helped relieve Harris’ stress.

“We laugh a lot,” explains Harris. “This job has helped me in my life.  I am proving family and doctors wrong.  I have a good job, support system and am making my dad in heaven proud.”

Job Coach Canez adds, “This is an amazing place to work, and it’s even more special to be working side by side with these very strong ladies.”

Linda Swain who works in the finance department at the Republic also enjoys her interactions with the mail crew.  She says Beacon’s CWT team members go beyond expectations in their jobs and contribute positively to the culture of the office.  “They help instill the values of tolerance and individualism,” states Swain. “They teach us that you don’t need to put up barriers.”

Doug Steele agrees that the friendly rapport gives homage to the ‘old days’ at the Republic when the entire company acted as one big family.  When looking back at his original dilemma, it seems so sensible from Steele’s perspective.  “Why would you not consider this?  It’s an economical decision that also creates community benefits,” he says.  “We’re the community newspaper — the entire community.  The opportunity to engage in providing this type of employment arrangement is a win-win – for the community and for the Arizona Republic.”

To learn more about hiring a Customized Work Team at your organization, contact Jim Campbell at Beacon Group, 520-622-4874.