March 3, 2010
TC3 guides employers in changing workplace
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Tompkins Cortland Community College Senior Admissions Advisor Brent Doane speaks with Danielle O’Rourke, right, and Allyson Kruczkowski in the admissions office Tuesday afternoon.
DRYDEN — Good news for Tompkins Cortland Community College almost a year ago meant tough news for some of the college’s staff.
Applications for admission were flooding the Enrollment Services Center, as people laid off from jobs or changing careers joined the people just graduating from high school. The staff was deluged with phone calls and office visits to ask about how to apply for degree programs and financial aid.
Facing physical and mental stress, the center’s staff used a program developed in the college’s own TC3.biz, called lean office, to examine everything they were doing and what to alter.
The result is that the staff feel more in control of their work lives and better able to handle the rising number of students, said Blixy Taezsch, dean of operations and enrollment management.
The American workplace has been changing, said Martha Hubbard, director of TC3.biz and the college’s Cortland and Ithaca extension centers. TC3.biz is a branch of the college that helps regional businesses with staff development, through online courses and workshops, and workshops at the extension centers.
TC3.biz lean office clients recently have included Pall Trinity Micro, which had layoffs in 2008 and 2009, and Cortland Regional Medical Center.
Layoffs at industries have left the employees who kept their jobs scrambling to adjust to new duties and more expectations.
Older people are taking jobs they might have held 20 or 30 years earlier in their careers. Four distinct generations are together in workplaces, with different ways of learning, communicating and seeing their duties.
Change takes these forms and more for employers, said Hubbard, and TC3.biz offers training programs for facing the trend, customized for individual workplaces.
“Even human resources staff feel pressured and need a re-configuration,” she said. “We help them create better ways to work together. Sometimes people are moved into positions that aren’t as good of a match for their skill, so they need training, maybe in math or computer programs.”
TC3’s Enrollment Services Center staff needed to face two certainties: the college’s enrollment was going to grow significantly for the fall semester and the college was not going to add more workers.
TC3 does not cap enrollment. The number of students eventually grew by 14 percent or 400 for the fall semester.
The Enrollment Services Center has 30 people who work in billing, admissions, academic records, financial aid and registrar services.
“I don’t know how those folks would have survived if we hadn’t done something,” Taezsch said of the staff in her division. “I didn’t want to lose anybody, and there would be no new hires, so we faced a challenge. We had to help people do whatever we can to get the work done and provide quality service for students.”
March is a quieter month for the center, which is on the main building’s second floor and consists of offices suites, computer workstations for students and a waiting area of cushioned seats. But Monday afternoon, a steady stream of students came through the door to ask about loan repayments, aid deadlines and fee refunds.
Taezsch said all of the staff learned how to apply lean office principles to what they were doing, and 15 of them had more in-depth training. They did the training with Hawthorne Consultants of Martville in two full days and some half days in March 2009, during the application process and just before the flood of students enrolling.
The staff questioned everything from how many people needed to check paperwork to whether certain reports needed to be printed on paper.
“We identified three areas to focus on: how we process high school and college transcripts, our deadlines or time frames for applications, and our phone service,” Taezsch said.
People applying to be TC3 students can become upset if they are not getting attention from the staff, Taezsch said.
The staff decided to open the office to walk-ins a half hour later, at 9 a.m., giving them more time to work on applications and answer phone calls or phone messages. Not many people came into the office when it opened at 8:30 a.m., so the move seemed sound, Taezsch said.
“We also are creating videos to put online, that explain the process,” Taezsch said. “We have everything written, but this supplemented the text. It just takes time to make the videos.”
Hubbard tells clients that they must build their resumes and seek out ways to learn new skills, in a competitive economy.
“I’m not downplaying what is happening, it’s very hard, but it’s a way of coping with this economy,” she said.
Susan Greener, a business development and training specialist for TC3.biz, said sometimes a workplace needs changes in just a couple of staff.
“It might just be a supervisor needs training, or it might be almost an intervention,” Greener said. “We develop ways for a team to learn to work together without being lectured.”
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