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People Development Excellence
Devon Goetz
Human Resources Director
The (San Luis Obispo) Tribune

Devon Goetz works hard to make sure that no employees are as ignorant about their newspaper’s business as she once was.

“When Knight Ridder bought us in 1997, I was the No. 2 person in advertising and was in on a lot of high-level meetings,” she said. “But I wasn’t aware that our profit margin was in the single digits. If I had known, I would have made different business decisions.”

Goetz moved from advertising to human resources two years later, just as a variety of new products were introduced and managers were pushing for higher performance. The solution, she believed, was to “open the books to people,” making clear both the challenges the company faced and the need for everyone to take responsibility for meeting them.

She championed companywide sessions – at least eight per year – that give employees a clear understanding of business goals and a forum to discuss issues.

But “business literacy” in itself is not enough. “Giving people information about the business, but not giving them the tools they need and the power to make decisions, is only going halfway,” she said.

Decision-making must be inclusive, she stressed. “We try to get folks involved who are closest to the work.” Drawing on more than 20 years of experience at The Tribune, Goetz put into action a performance appraisal system that set clear expectations for employees. She implemented “Development Days,” during which division directors prepare specific, written plans for managers.

That passion for training and development has benefited all of Knight Ridder, too. In 2004, Goetz helped develop a training program for new supervisors that is now used throughout the company.

Describing the mind-set at The Tribune in the late 1990s, she uses the term “patriarchal.” Now the company is not so parental, Goetz says. “We have three steps in empowering people to be responsible for the health of the business. We provide them with the knowledge they need, the power to do something about it and honest feedback on what they have done.”

Former Tribune Publisher Par Ridder commends Goetz for taking an active role in developing the company’s new culture. “Devon could have opted to stay in the shadows, simply enforcing policy. … Instead, she emerged as a real driver of change, helping everyone across the organization think differently about how we operate.”

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