Tuesday, May 7, 2013

On the front lines of change

The Cashier’s Office is a place where the challenges our students face each day come in direct contact with our Business and Administrative Services (BAS) division.  When I arrived for this “In My Shoes” session in the Hahn Building, students were lining up to pay bills and ask questions about their accounts. I remember my own experiences as an undergrad many years ago when I headed to the Cashier’s Office at the University of Alabama at Birmingham to pay my tuition, rent, and a multitude of other fees. When I was an undergrad I worked multiple jobs to put myself through college and at times it was hard to imagine how I would ever make it through.  I recall that the tone and tenor of the person behind the counter at the Cashier’s Office could either give me great comfort and hope, or it could add to my anxiety and frustration.  A couple of decades have passed since my own days waiting to pay those college bills and technological advances enable students to handle many transactions online.  However, the need for our front line team members to demonstrate patience and empathy when they engage with our students has never been more important.  Here are some lessons learned during my afternoon with the team in Student Business Services (SBS).

Paying bills and asking questions about finances
can be an anxiety filled experience for anyone

Students understand students:

I am a strong believer in the notion of providing as many opportunities as possible for students to work, intern, and be partners in our BAS operations.  After all, they are why we are all here!   These opportunities provide students with work experience, critical thinking skills, contacts, and financial support as they make their way through their higher education experience.  These opportunities also benefit unit leaders by ensuring they remain engaged with our customers.  Students as BAS team members also ensures we have ready access to the student perspective as we identify better ways to communicate, streamline processes, etc.  During my time with SBS, I found that student workers are critical to the operations of the SBS customer service desk and downstairs in the Cashier’s Office.

Kelly offers a smiling face for peers who come
to the Cashier’s Office to pay their bills

Change is a constant force:

During my time in SBS, the phrases “this is a new process” and “we recently changed this” were repeated utterances.  The entire unit, and the Cashier’s Office in particular, has undergone a lot of change in the last year. Integrating new technology, streamlining processes, and understanding what steps along the way do not add value were constant themes.  This type of thinking is absolutely critical as we face the future.  In my presentations to BAS team members, I have repeated the following quote from the book Leadership on the Line: “people don’t fear change, they fear loss.” This SBS team understands that change can be challenging, but they recognize that change is an important aspect to stewardship.  They also recognize that they need to be active and vocal participants in it.  Change just for the sake of change has no value to an organization and only adds to cultural paralysis and chips away at employee engagement.  However, change that incorporates the feedback from front line team members, identifies which steps along the way are not value added, and aims to provide a better experience for our customers is an important part of organizational life. As I learned about the processes used in SBS and learned about how they used to do things, I was so impressed with our team members. They ask the tough questions about their processes and they understand that they must identify unanticipated consequences. Their cash handling procedures alone have added accuracy, decreased redundant and ineffective steps, and have lead to an end of the day close out that takes a fraction of the time that it used to.  This group knows that many more opportunities exist to provide a better experience for our customers and enhance stewardship, but applying the change skills they have developed in the last year will be key.

What used to be a convoluted and stress-filled process
is now more streamlined and effective

It is not our money:
During the day I was with SBS, they processed $1,150,000 of transactions.  I have said many times during my tenure at UCSC that we must be good stewards of the resources entrusted to us, because these resources are not ours….they are the dollars entrusted to us by hard working and sacrificing families, taxpayers, and other funding agencies.  Nowhere else on campus is this notion as real as in the Cashier’s Office.  They physically see the dollars coming to us from students.  Each student and each dollar has a story.  Each dollar counts and each dollar must be valued and weighed in our decisions.

The money scale can detect if the number of coins logged
is the actual number of coins in the bag

Thank you to Kim, Marji, Lori, Denis, Kelly, Sheryl, Gloria, Caryl, Harmony, and Jeff for hosting me and giving me the opportunity to understand what a day is like in your shoes.

A slug I am,

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