Judging from a first evaluation carried out half a year after the restructuring, the cutbacks on and improvement of the university’s support services are going well. However, a large majority of the University Support Centre’s staff feel that their workload has increased since the organisation was restructured.
Last year in May, the university created a University Support Centre (USC). After thorough restructuring, almost all of the support services have been brought into one organisation. IT specialists, communications officers, the finance department and the people responsible for maintenance of your classroom; they are all part of the USC. One of the benefits is that every question or complaint arrives at the same place within the university. What is the progress on the USC’s main goals – improvement and cutbacks – half a year since the restructuring?
The objective of the cutback in expenditure was to save €1.7 million in staffing costs in 2015 and another €1 million in 2016. The USC looks set to achieve this target. “Our capacity will be in line with our objectives, because we hired people on the basis of those objectives,” said USC managing director Kees Lansbergen. “We will actually come in under budget as far as staffing costs are concerned, since a number of vacancies have not yet been filled.”
Even so, the USC has significantly exceeded its budget, by approximately € 1.8 million. The excess costs were due to the fact that external agents had to be hired, especially in the IT department, several of whose projects, such as @wEURk2.0, required many additional staff members. “It’s true that we exceeded the budget by a considerable margin because we had to hire so many external agents,” says Lansbergen. “However, that’s a temporary situation which only applies to the IT department.” According to Lansbergen, the need for additional IT workers was not caused by the restructuring, as the projects requiring more hands had been ongoing at USC before the restructuring.
Workload is an issue to Lansbergen. A survey carried out by the USC’s employee council showed that many USC employees feel that their workload has increased since the restructuring. About three in five USC employees feel that their workload has increased significantly. Says Lansbergen, “I can’t say I’m surprised to hear it. With us being a new organisation with new ambitions and problems which really need to be solved, we’re asking a lot of our people. I do believe we sometimes ask too much of them. Our managers will have to seriously look into that.”
Even so, Lansbergen feels that there is no structural solution which will reduce the amount of pressure employees are under. In some cases, he says, certain tasks can be dropped, or additional people can be hired to complete them, such as in IT and HR. “But we’ll also have to make sure that our managers recognise when people are under pressure at work and need support, and that our employees have a good understanding of the tasks that need to be carried out and indicate their struggles.”
Improved level of service
Not much can be said at this point about whether the level of service has improved, which was the other objective the establishment of the USC was supposed to help achieve. By 2018, the USC’s ‘customer satisfaction rate must be 7.5 out of 10′. Judging from a quick survey of demand managers (USC’s representatives at other departments), the Service is receiving mainly neutral assessments at present, with the odd compliment or complaint thrown in for good measure. Between May and November 2015, the front office received 40,000 reports, but only 131 complaints.
“By year-end 2016, we will have to demonstrate that we’ve made progress in terms of service levels. I hope the USC will be a more effective and more reliable organisation by then,” says Lansbergen. To this end, USC is looking into making processes more effective and offering collective training courses. In addition, a customer satisfaction monitor has been purchased to measure more frequently how people rate the USC’s service levels.