With a campus full of experts in diverse fields, UNLV leaders often don’t have to look very far to find a project collaborator.
To create a service level commensurate with Top Tier aspirations, UNLV’s Business Affairs Division recently tapped into the expertise of hospitality professor Finley Cotrone on one such collaboration.
How It Began
Upon arriving at UNLV two years ago, Jean Vock, senior vice president of business affairs and CFO, saw a need to establish service standards for the division, which includes human resources; facilities management; financial services; financial planning, budget & analysis; and administration services (parking, telecom, shipping & receiving, and risk management, etc.)
“I wanted to create clarity about how service should look in each area, but did not have the capacity to lead the effort,” said Vock. “Nicholle Zarkower, executive director of strategy and communication, took the lead on the project and came up with a great idea — reach out to the Hospitality College for advice.”
They connected with Cotrone, an expert in service delivery, training, and management development. Her extensive experience includes working with marquee names in the hospitality industry, such as The Four Seasons and MGM Resorts International.
Cotrone proposed a comprehensive service culture development program that included gathering feedback from high-level leaders, middle management, and front-line employees through in-person seminars, job shadowing, and written responses.
“Taking a holistic approach was key,” Cotrone explained. “When you operate with transparency and get as many people involved in the process as possible, it builds confidence and makes everyone feel competent in their ability to implement standards in their daily routines.”
Vock gave the green light and Cotrone got to work.
Developing the Standards
First, senior leadership met for Results, Accountability & Teamwork sessions in which Cotrone led activities to articulate what excellence should look like in their areas. She stressed the importance of tying the standards to Business Affairs’ core values, service, and stewardship, by defining the “how” component of service.
“I used the information I gathered from senior leadership to formulate examples of service standards, which I presented to groups of middle management and front-line employees during the next phase – Standards Development,” explained Cotrone. These examples helped flesh out standards that would be appropriate for their teams. Before the sessions ended, each participant submitted written suggestions.
This information helped Cotrone create culture standards. “Culture standards capture how people want to feel when they come to work,” said Cotrone. “We started with some longer acronyms and eventually condensed those into C.A.R.E. – Collaborate, Acknowledge, Respect, Empower.”
Standards Development showed Cotrone that the complexities of job classifications within the university made this project much different from her previous projects. Typically, when working with hospitality clients, Cotrone created culture standards along with job standards or a sequence of service for each specific role — for example, bartender, front desk agent, or valet attendant. At UNLV, employees with the same job title often have very different duties, so this approach would not work.
To navigate this challenge, she leaned on Zarkower and her team. Through consultation, they decided to create four sets of standards:
- Culture standards – this became “C.A.R.E.: Collaborate, Acknowledge, Respect, Empower”
- Universal standards – guidelines for work attire, email communications, phone communications, service recovery, feedback, and meetings
- Departmental standards – address the unique nature of each department’s work, but also include commonalities across the different areas
- Supervisory standards – for all employees with direct reports
Business Affairs Culture Standards
Regardless of role, everyone in Business Affairs is responsible to live the following:
Collaborate — We collaborate with experts and freely share non-confidential information that helps us and our teams perform with excellence. We collaborate with areas we affect including both internal and external stakeholders. We communicate with transparency.
Acknowledge — We acknowledge others, by name when possible, with a greeting, smile, and respectful eye contact. We acknowledge – recognize – the interdependence of our work in Business Affairs.
Respect — Every job, every person is important. We appreciate and treat our colleagues and customers with respect, modeling the “platinum rule”: treat others as they would like to be treated. We are experts in our fields who serve experts in their fields.
Empower — We are empowered to solve problems in service to our stakeholders. We empower others to make decisions, expedite tasks, and create manager/employee coaching relationships.
Refining and Implementing
To ensure that all standards appropriately aligned with actual job duties, Cotrone met one-on-one with more than 60 employees for a “Job Shadowing” phase. This gave employees the chance to speak candidly about their roles. Cotrone then refined her drafts to create finalized standards.
Once the finalized standards were reviewed and approved by the Business Affairs leadership team, Cotrone presented them at the division’s all-staff meeting Sept. 9. The next month was dedicated to training.
Cotrone, Zarkower, and her team identified standards ambassadors — people from each department responsible for keeping standards top-of-mind for their areas. In training sessions, Cotrone provided sample activities, including Standards Jenga and hot potato, that ambassadors could incorporate into their weekly huddles or check in-meetings.
Business Affairs officially launched their culture and service standards Oct. 14. Overall the project spanned six months and incorporated perspectives from approximately 200 employees, almost half of the division’s employees.
“The most rewarding part of this process was having many voices with different areas of expertise sit together to debate and discuss how we could achieve the best possible end result,” said Cotrone. “I learned so much about the departments and people who keep this campus running, and I’m confident that they will use their new standards to deliver an elevated level of service to their campus partners.”