That’s entertainment: Inside HR at NBCUniversal

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Every day, above a man-made lake in Orlando, Florida, thousands of people gather to brave the ‘Zero G Roll’. Sitting in a boxy, car-like vehicle, they ascend a steel structure that bends and loops into the air like a scribble, before it peaks at 150 feet – high enough to turn a falling potato into mash.

It’s a ride known as the Incredible Hulk. It gets that label by following a Hulk theme, but also because once the car reaches the steel structure’s full height it bullets down a sheer drop of twists – the Zero G Roll – with enough force to do to its passengers’ nerves what its comic book namesake does. Hulk smash.

Just as regularly as this happens, far away, in New York City, teams of writers and directors gather to produce some of the world’s most watched television content – everything from Saturday Night Live and The Office to breaking news.

On the other side of the US, in Los Angeles, different teams work at the same time to create movies with eight figure budgets.
These seemingly random events do not happen by chance. They are connected by one, uniting force. As different as all the teams behind these operations may appear to be, they are all businesses under the umbrella of NBCUniversal.  

Created as a result of a 2004 merger between the then General Electric-owned NBC and Vivendi Universal Entertainment, the company remains one of the largest diversified media and entertainment conglomerates in the world. Its range of household-name businesses include Universal Pictures, NBC broadcast networks, cable channels like E! and Syfy, and Universal Studios amusement parks.

It’s a corporate structure that on the surface appears intricate, complex even, and it’s a status that has been heightened by a succession of takeovers and restructuring. January 2011 saw cable TV operator Comcast acquire a majority stake in NBCUniversal, which set the company on a path of transformation and paved the way for Comcast’s 100% buyout of the company in March 2013.

Establishing a common identity among a company with so many different operations, and one that has had its corporate structures stripped, scrubbed and refitted, hasn’t been easy. As most HR professionals will attest to, significant change activity such as M&As, and the accompanying people-related matters, can be one of the most daunting challenges one can face.
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