Taming chaos: Reining in inefficiencies in the office

April 26, 2019
  • AACRAO Annual Meeting
  • Change Management
  • Competencies
  • Leadership and Management
  • Meetings, Workshops, and Trainings
GettyImages-945877654 by Lisa Erck, Associate University Registrar & Law Registrar at the University of the Pacific 

In a Wednesday morning session at AACRAO’s 2019 Annual Meeting, presenter Sheila Gray of Texas Tech University shared her perspective on how to manage chaos to achieve effective results. The high volume of forms, phone calls, meetings, and student services, coupled with increasing demands for more work to be completed by fewer employees, can lead to chaos -- unless one has effective organizational strategies. Gray explained that their admissions office oversees the entire admissions cycle from start to finish including answering approximately 60,000 phone calls and processing 100,000 documents while providing excellent customer service. 

How it began

Gray illustrated to the audience how her journey began when she first arrived on campus twelve years ago. The office was in need of structural and procedural changes. She identified several inefficiencies such as long turn-around times, lack of cross training, and staff who were unwilling to share job knowledge with others and lack of documentation of procedures. The combination of inefficiencies, training gaps, personnel challenges, and customer service issues required her to take a holistic approach to rein in the chaos. 

Raising the standard: Training, restructuring, and accountability

Providing training opportunities, creating a training manual, and implementing a structure of accountability were critical first steps.

One of the strategies was to utilize what she called a TOGAK (Test of General Admissions Knowledge). The process was administration of the test to all staff with a requisite eighty percent passage rate, otherwise retraining was required. Utilization of this test ensured that information given out was correct and consistent across all team members. Gray also completed personnel restructuring and began employing student workers in their office to fulfill many of the basic office tasks.  This step opened opportunity for employees to focus on more detailed and increasingly more difficult tasks, which benefited response times, processing times, and employee morale. Results included 50%-70% reduction in document turnaround time, 25% reduction in staffing, and a 90% success rate for incoming calls.

New challenges 

Soon after Gray's arrival, several new challenges emerged. The university began the implementation of a new CRM to address lack of accurate reporting, constant work stoppages, and the clean up of data. At first, this implementation created additional challenges as they were still in the process of implementing structural changes in the admissions office. Additionally, there was a challenge with staff retention, which was resolved through creation of job specializations and professional development opportunities. 

Calendars & professional development

Gray explained that streamlining of processes, creation of dashboards, and electronic document uploads within the CRM improved the flow of work into and out of the office with improved turnaround time and accuracy. Furthermore, the CRM provided access to reporting on areas such as issue identification and the ability to track peak times. This led to the creation of a production calendar, which she demonstrated to the audience.  Gray continued to describe the rewards attributed to providing opportunities for staff, such as, extended workday versus overtime, creating leadership roles within the office, and conference attendance. 

Out of chaos and on to success 

Gray provided a candid and practical approach to dealing with the complexities experienced in administration within higher education. She used a direct and practical approach to assessing, training, and building a department to reach its fullest potential. Through organization of the chaos, she brought procedures into alignment while simultaneously improving the work life of the staff. Her positive and skillful methodology reigned in the chaos and created a place where students, staff, and the university could thrive and reach greater success than imagined.