Service culture

The success of this large-scale transformation of the university will depend in part on a parallel shift in the culture of service at the university. Core to the operating model will be an enhanced service culture and a shared commitment to continuous improvement. All administrative functions and activities must serve and support the university's mission to the highest possible standard with the resources available.

As part of the work to develop our shared university service culture, leaders at the U of A have developed service excellence principles for the university:

  1. User-focused, not inward looking . We work to deliver outstanding service that results in high user satisfaction and enhanced value, considered through the lens of students, staff, researchers, and faculty.
  2. Respectful, not commanded . Our people are supportive, act professionally, and engage respectfully. Services are designed, delivered, and received in a manner that respects individuals and our values of equity, diversity, and inclusion.
  3. Designed with, not for . We work to understand our clients' expectations, striving to co-design services for each stage of their journey.
  4. Working together, not in silos . We work collaboratively and push to break down siloed thinking. We adopt a pan-university perspective.
  5. Empowered and accountable, not passive . We empower people to make decisions at the right level. We are clear where accountabilities lie. We support personal and professional growth.
  6. Simple and standardized, not over-engineered . We favour simple, standardized and efficient processes that are reliably delivered.
  7. Continuously improving, not static . Our approach is forward-thinking, considered and planned, with a focus on identifying and meeting unmet and growing needs innovatively.

Service Excellence Education Program (SEE)

At the U of A we know that service excellence is a shared commitment to continuous improvement. It's about the way we serve colleagues, students and external stakeholders, and it means consistently meeting and exceeding the needs of our diverse community. The Service Excellence Education (SEE) program reinforces our commitment to service culture at the U of A through continuous improvement.

This revitalized educational approach improves upon the original Service Excellence Training Program (SETP) implemented in 2021/2022.

In this new iteration, SEE grounds service excellence education within the U of A context and supports diverse and evolving needs of staff and faculty. SEE is a multi-tier program that helps individual contributors, teams and supervisors build their knowledge, skills and behaviours in service excellence delivery. It takes participants on a journey that establishes foundational knowledge in principles and corresponding competencies, builds skills and identifies personal behavioural goals that support service culture and positive workplace behaviours.

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Continuous improvement

It's important to note that implementing and training new processes and modes of delivery is disruptive and can initially lead to a drop in service and satisfaction levels. However, with a commitment to continuous improvement, the long-term outcome can result in higher levels of satisfaction, as has been seen at other universities that have undertaken similar organizational change.

Studies have shown that large-scale change to processes, structures and systems can also drive a change in culture, when leaders take the opportunity to define and demonstrate new behaviours that become embedded and sustained in culture.

How will we ensure continuous improvement of service excellence? 

  1. The SET program has put in place pulse surveys for faculty and staff—and will soon start this for students as well. These provide check-in points on the current state and help to identify needs.
  2. We will be developing key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure performance and adjust as needed (eg: response time, cycle times, engagement survey results, etc.).
  3. We will be implementing a continuous improvement team, which will be trained and devoted to dealing with issues proactively and effectively throughout the implementation process and beyond.