When Service Point was officially launched in October 2010, it was the beginning of an odyssey for Romesh Vadivel, Project Manager and eventual Service Point Associate Director, a key figure in the transition toward Service Point’s new home and its new orientation. Nestled on the ground floor of the McLennan Library, Service Point offers students everything from McGill ID cards to help with Minerva to student exchanges and studies abroad, all in a single setting. Romesh was keen on being part of the transition team, thanks to his project management skills.
The shift of several high-volume services to a single location represented a major challenge for Romesh and his team. They had to quickly expand upon their internal network of partner units on campus so as to be operational on day one, able to provide accurate information to students trying to navigate the maze of university services.
“We needed to have a more simplified process for the administrative functions that students have to navigate; we now offer more streamlined services by pooling resources and placing our people front and centre, where they can better answer questions from applicants, current and future students, alumni, and parents,” explained Romesh. “We refocused our vision and examined how to reposition our services, seeking support from Staffing, Organizational Development (OD) and IT in order to do so.”
Training – a key factor
Training would be vital for employees serving visitors and students at Service Point and at the Welcome Centre. “Our team is often the first point of contact for students. To better support them in their work, we had to work closely with OD, with particular focus on change management. Business process mapping was also important in integrating existing and new processes. Because there was a reframing of virtually all Service Point positions, many employees had to reapply for a position. OD helped with resume writing and interview skills, while Staffing helped to identify the skills required and matched those skills with the right candidates in the right roles. IT pulled out all the stops for us, particularly in having us up and running in less than three days, readying us for the day of the launch in our new location.” A larger team of over 120 Enrolment Services and Student Accounts staff work behind the scenes, including those in connected units and administrative services. The Service Point itself has a team of 23 who are on hand to respond to some 750 queries daily.
Communication – an ongoing process
Communication was essential to ease the process of transitioning to a new concept and service-delivery model. Mini-town halls were held with both partner units as well as with those who would be transferring to the new facility. Romesh even acted as a tour guide for a year to help employees understand and visualize what it would be like to work in this new environment. Once Service Point was open, there were challenges on different levels: not only having the initial knowledge of where to direct people, but ongoing coaching to ensure consistency in services, staying relevant in service offerings and networking with other units to promote the new centre, and for the team to tap into those units’ knowledge.
Service Point will be moving to its first evaluation phase after completion of its first year in service, conducting informal surveys with students in the fall, including a feedback box where students can drop suggestions. A staff evaluation is also being planned. But the process is ongoing. Its purpose: learn about opportunities, engage employees throughout, and empower those on the front-line who make decisions on-the-spot, thus becoming owners of the process.
For Romesh, the most rewarding aspect was in managing the scope of the entire project – the physicality of bringing together a whole community was at times daunting. He was nominated for the Principal’s Awards for Administrative and Support Staff. “Although I didn’t win, just being nominated by my team meant being recognized by my peers for what had been accomplished; that in itself is a source of pride.”
Service Point emerged from the December 2006 Final Report of the Principal’s Task Force on Student Life and Learning, garnering executive sponsorship from Professor Morton Mendelson, Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning). Looking for cost efficiencies, Professor Mendelson decided to allocate resources – including the leadership and vision of University Registrar and Executive Director Enrolment Services Kathleen Massey – to a project that today is already providing added value to the client: giving students more effective administrative support to alleviate the stress of getting organized when they set foot on campus.
For Romesh, there is still room to grow, but he and his team are confident in their service-delivery approach: “the maturity to admit a mistake when they occur, provide a solution and learn from the experience – that is what carried us through the first year and has brought us together as a team.”