The organization that I chose is DeVry Inc. Specifically, I chose DeVry’s online student finance department because I am currently employed in this department. I started here as a Student Finance Consultant in July of 2012 and this is my first full time job after college. In my role, we assist student’s enrolling in courses and help plan how to fund their education. This job can be very satisfying yet frustrating at the same time. I feel that it is a great learning environment and overall, employee satisfaction is high. I feel that my position plays an important role in a student’s life as well as a critical part of the business. DeVry University is an accredited institution that offers a variety of programs to students across the world to pursue an associate’s, bachelors and even master’s degree. DeVry has over 90 locations across the United States and Canada to service students in several areas.
In addition, for students who may not live near a campus, DeVry offers an online classroom that gives students another flexible option. In this examination the focus will primarily be with the online division. The online division offers a non-traditional way for students to pursue a degree. It allows working adults, busy parents and a variety of others to attend class on their own time. Threaded discussions allow students to interact with one another, comparable to a classroom setting, but students can participate when they are available. I no longer feel as though my role is important, in fact, advisors in this department often refer to themselves as “mignons” or “at the bottom of the feeding pole.” The work that I do now feels unnecessary and irrelevant. The morale throughout the entire department is low. Instead of trying to be satisfied with our positions, we are trying to find ways to be less dissatisfied.
Themost unfortunate part is that I have only been here for 9 months, 1 month which was spent training. The work that we do now is all about meeting numbers, hitting goals, and extra paperwork. It is no longer about taking responsibility for student’s accounts and trying to find the best solution. Instead it is about answering as many phone calls as possible and making sure you hit all points on your “script” while on a call. As I stated before, the department as a whole feels as though we are on the bottom. Part of the reason is that we do not feel that we receive the respect that we deserve. We are given minimal notice of changes that are effective immediately. These changes affect the goals we have to meet and the processes we have to follow. In addition, most changes that are made do not provide enough information that we feel comfortable to advise to students. Problem Statement:
The organizational problem that I would like to research is communication within our department. I would like to resolve the lack of communication that I often see within my role. We work with online students, therefore, we do not meet with anyone in person; communication is all through phone and e-mail. We communicate with students to help answer questions, provide support and make sure their finance account is organized and accurate. I often see that not being able to speak with students face to face can make communication efforts difficult. Especially when communicating through e-mail because not being able to see the person or hear the tone of their voice can allow for misinterpretations with students and especially within departments.
Student Finance works closely with admissions and academics and I believe there is a lot of room for improvement with our communication skills. Our primary goal is to help the students and I have found recently, that goal is becoming less important. There is also a lack of communication to students. Often times students call in regarding an email they received, however, advisors have not been made aware than a standardized e-mail had been generated. For example, there were 8000 e-mails that were sent out to students that needed to submit documents. Although it was necessary for students to send in these documents, many of them had questions.
There was not adequate phone coverage to be able to assist all students who had received an e-mail. Students become frustrated that they have to sit on hold for thirty minutes while waiting for an advisor and once connected to the advisor they may not receive as detailed information as they would prefer. In addition, advisors become frustrated with management that they were not informed of the messages that were relayed to students. “Things happen in organizations because people working individually and in groups make them happen; people make the difference” (Schermerhorn). This can be both positive and negative. The lack of communication happens because people neglect to put in the work to make a difference and improve communication.
In addition, the lack of motivation from disgruntled employees causes lack of work as well. However, if these problems were resolved and increase satisfaction among employees it could create ambition for employees to make difference in how they perform their duties as well. I feel that there are improvements that can be made that can rectify the situation the Student Finance department is currently in. I feel that one of the most important changes needs to be in communication. The way that we communicate within the department as well as how other departments communicate between one another needs to improve. Although there are aspects of the job that are less than appealing, I think the main obstacle that needs to be tackled is the way we communicate. For the course project I will be concentrating on the communication process that is instilled in this department and how it affects achieving goals as well as employee satisfaction.
The lack of communication that is throughout the DeVry Student Finance Department is an issue that can be resolved, and should be resolved. “Mistakes are common in business and can lead to negative repercussions for organizations” (Bolkan, San, John A. Daly 2009). The lack of communication is not intentional, but does have a negative effect. If not corrected, some of the negative effects may have a continuous cycle rather than being resolved. Repercussions that may result from mistakes made within an organization are a high employee turnover rate, and dissatisfied students. Lately, employees have begun leaving DeVry as early as two weeks of employment. Some employees that have been there longer relocate into a different position within DeVry, and others that leave sooner leave the
company altogether. This has a negative effect since it takes time to train employees, and by the time the department finishes training one new-hire group, previous advisors have already left the position. Instead of having full teams of ten advisors, each team has on average seven.
In addition, the lack of communication becomes a problem for students when they become dissatisfied. Students may choose to not enroll with DeVry again and quit school completely, or transfer to a competing school. Also, students who are not happy with the school they are attending may tend to have negative review comments. As a corporation that is looking to expand, DeVry should want only positive feedback from students. “Communication is absolutely critical for achieving success, but is it something that is often lacking” (Williamson 2010). In order for DeVry to successfully expand, there has to be effective communication to the student in order for students to be satisfied. In addition, if DeVry expands, there will be a need more for employees, if there is a high turnover rate it would be difficult to provide the quality service that DeVry stands behind. Analysis:
The lack of communication is an error on numerous ends. One of the main reasons the problem has not been solved is that management may not be aware of the severity of the problem. Blame cannot be placed on management if management is not aware that a problem exists. Due to circumstances that had been a cause of lack of communication, management should be aware that there is a problem but may not be aware of where the problem lies. For example, there is a high turnover rate due to employee dissatisfaction. This is prominent in the department. However, what is vaguer is why employees are dissatisfied. One of the main reasons is the lack of communication. Not only does management not effectively communicate changes and information, but also does not welcome communication coming from advisors. Input is not welcome when discussing possible changes.
Without listening to input from advisors, management is unaware of the problem. They may be under the impression advisors are dissatisfied with the changes that are being made, rather than how the changes were communicated to them. Advisors feel that when they are able to comment on decisions, their voices are not heard. Their input may be received but their opinion was not listened to. Currently, there are processes in place that are supposed to address concerns of employees. However, it is ineffective since concerns are heard but not listened to. In addition, this provides more frustration to advisors. They are voicing their concerns but concerns are not being addressed or even acknowledged. This essentially becomes a “dead-end.” Not having a forum that an advisor can express concerns and be accounted for increases dissatisfaction among employees. As discussed in class, dissatisfaction can be related to employee motivation. It is assumed that employees who have a more dissatisfaction are less motivated (Schermerhorn).
The lack of satisfaction not only affects one’s professional life, but can also affect one’s personal life as well. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs requires that one is satisfied on numerous levels before able to reach the peak of self-actualization. First, one must meet physical needs, in order to meet these needs, money is required. A job can provide a paycheck which would help fulfill meeting physical needs of food and shelter. However, if you are only working at a job to meet the lowest level, you will never reach full satisfaction. In addition, if the job makes you unhappy it can affect your emotional state and well-being. A job may not fulfill emotional value, but a job that affects it negatively can prevent one from moving up on Maslow’s scale. Previously, the focus was on lack of communication between management and advisors; however, there is also a lack of communication between advisors.
Academic advisors and finance advisors do not often communicate effectively. Consideration is not taken that different departments may have different guidelines and policies. This issue can be frustrating for advisors, but has more of an effect on students. Since students utilize both departments to guide them through their education they feel let down if they receive conflicting information. This can cause conflict between departments. Conflict can be advantageous when advisors are able to learn from one another and gain insight on the other’s position. However, conflict can also cause tension and confusion. If not dealt with properly, conflict can affect both advisors and students. Solutions:
The first part of solving this problem is to make the proper audience aware that there is a problem. “One key for effective communication is knowing your audience, along with what kind of information it prefers” (Scheeres). The lack of communication between management and advisors needs to be brought to the attention of management. While doing so, it is important that it is addressed in a way that management does not see as complaining. Instead it is important to portray opinions in thoughts in a professional manner and also be able to include how improving communication can be beneficial to the organization as a whole.
These ideas have to be well thought out and fully developed. “Effective communication doesn’t have to take extra time but it does demand greater awareness” (Gunn and Gullickson, 2008). Initially it makes take time to express concerns, but one’s awareness has been brought to the attention of the audience, it does not require additional work on their part. For example, communications can still be sent via e-mail, however, when they send the e-mail should be taken into more consideration. Another way to address the communication issue is to allow employees an outlet where they can express concerns and have them be addressed. This could even be anonymous. Advisors could write concerns and place them somewhere where management could have access to them. These issues do not have to be addressed daily, but possibly in a newsletter issued monthly.
This solution may require additional time but could also increase employee satisfaction if they feel their concerns are being addressed. Again, an increase in satisfaction can also increase employee motivation. Recently, a survey was distributed to DeVry Student Finance Department to rate their overall satisfaction and engagement. After receiving results from this survey it was brought to management’s attention that there were underlying issues that needed to be addresses. This was an effective way to listen to the concerns of numerous advisors. It would be useful to send various surveys addressing different concerns. It would also be useful to have employees retake the exact survey six months later to determine if improvements have been made. If improvements are not made management may then want to reconfigure their communication process. Reflections:
As an advisor in continuing student finance it has affected development professionally, personally and academically. Professionally, it has decreased my motivation to go above and behind what is expected of me. For a short period of time, it resulted in me meeting my weekly goals and not desiring to go beyond what is asked. In addition, it also caused me to look into other job opportunities that do not challenge me. Fortunately, I continued through the struggles and am now looking at ways to improve my position. Instead of looking at the negative aspects of the position I try to focus on what I like about the job. I enjoy the team that I work with and enjoy being able to work with students. When I am able to provide assistance that the student is asking for it can be a rewarding experience. Unfortunately I do not feel that I am able to reach my full potential in this position, but am trying to excel in the position to better myself and eventually use the skills I learn to apply them in another position that may challenge me further.
Previously, I felt intense dissatisfaction with my job. Since it was something I had to deal with on a daily basis it affected my personal life as well. At first I felt dissatisfaction in both professional and personal aspects of life. For eight hours a day I have to be somewhere that I did not enjoy. This carried outside of the workplace and caused dissatisfaction outside of work as well.
Eventually I was able to reevaluate the different aspects in my life and make adjustments. When I was dissatisfied at work, I learned to over-compensate satisfaction in my personal life. I knew that while I work I would not be happy and therefore was determined when I was not at work I would fulfill my time with activities that would help increase my satisfaction. This included spending more time with friends and family that I was previously neglecting since I was bringing my dissatisfaction from work home with me.
For me, my academic development was also affected. This was in large due to the fact that I am attending school that is related to work. It was hard to leave work and DeVry and want to come home to do work for Keller. Once I left work I wanted to leave anything involving DeVry behind. This gave me a negative view on school and caused me to avoid putting forth the effort I should have been. Eventually I started to take a different outlook on school. I knew it was a way that I could better myself and it was something that I could do in my own time. I enjoy school and learning and needed to be reminded that it was for me and not for work. In addition, I was also able to recognize that by learning more I can learn to deal with difficult work situations in a way that does not affect my (dis) satisfaction. By improving my skills and knowledge it may also qualify me for different positions that I may not have been eligible for previously.
Evaluating the lack of communication within the department I work in has allowed me to evaluate how I communicate with others also. In addition, it has displayed how professional and personal life can coincide with one another. In addition, it has also inspired me to make changes not only in how I communicate, but how others communicate with me as well. By bringing awareness to others, it may increase the effectiveness of how we communicate with one another. By increasing effective communication employees are able to grow individually and the organization has the support to grow as a whole.
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