Redefining service values in the registrar’s office

January 22, 2020
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diverse hands from five people collaborate to put a puzzle together

During the 2016-17 academic year, the University of Calgary Registrar's Office* embarked on a project to identify and establish office-wide service values. The goal was to improve staff engagement and relationships between units, with students, and with campus stakeholders. 

“About five years ago, the office was going through significant transition,” said Angelique Saweczko, Registrar, University of Calgary. “I had just started, and we had a lot of unhappy staff who had issues with prior management, poor relationships with faculty, and the students had a negative perception of the office. We have about eight different units, and at the time they were very siloed and not working together.”

To get an understanding of both internal and external perceptions of the registrar’s office, Saweczko had conversations with her leadership team and staff (around 100 people), discovering that there were many different ideas about the role of the registrar’s office on campus, and that a clearer and more cohesive vision was needed.

“Given that we have front line staff, back office staff, and staff in hybrid roles -- we serve a lot of different communities,” Saweczko said. “We agreed it would be useful to develop standards to clarify staff roles and set expectations, and also as a positive team-building activity.”

What started as a look at service models and standards evolved over time into an effort to establish collective values instead. 

“Every area has different needs,” Saweczko said. “Specific metrics don’t work in every environment, from frontline to behind the scenes. We realized standards should be defined by unit, based on the communities they serve, and instead we needed to ask: What are the principles governing those standards? What do we value?”

A team effort

To define these values, the office did the following:

  • Identified a governance structure, creating a steering committee and working group.

  • Defined the goals and objectives of the effort: to establish common standards/values everyone could agree on and apply.

  • Reviewed the literature on service models and values within registrar’s offices.

  • Solicited outside feedback from faculty, students, and others via surveys regarding their thoughts about preferred service models.

Each area nominated two staff members to communicate between their team and the group and to identify the values for discussion. The quarterly staff meeting also included an agenda item to discuss the project.

Significant improvement 

Ultimately, the office established the following four service values, now incorporated into everything they do.

1. Effectiveness

2. Respect

3. Empathy

4. Collaboration

Each value is clearly defined for the office context.

“These values are now implemented in many aspects of our operation, from hiring practices, training and performance reviews” Saweczko said. The office has seen “huge” changes, Saweczko said, as the values have helped the department reprioritize.

“Our service response times have improved significantly, and we are working with students and campus partners in a more meaningful way,” Saweczko said. The registrar’s office is now more of a “go-to” office for proactive help and support, not the office where “service stops”. 

“We’re having better conversations that are focused on developing understanding and helping our constituents find solutions” Saweczko said.  

Learn more

Saweczko will outline the process used to develop and establish the values, highlight the implementation process, and talk more about the positive culture change that occurred in her unit in her session “Service Values to Change Culture within the Registrar's Office” at AACRAO 2020, April 4-7 in New Orleans. Learn more about this and other change management sessions and register before the early bird deadline. 

*I n many Canadian institutions, the Registrar’s Office has a broader charge than their U.S. counterparts. Many registrars in Canada are responsible for admissions, recruitment, enrollment management, and systems planning and reporting, in addition to typical registrar responsibilities. 


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