Quality and Productivity Database

Descriptive Title of Proposal: University of Victoria Service Excellence Program
Year Submitted 2017
Person(s) Responsible for the Idea
Name / Nom Title / Titre
Gayle Gorrill Vice President Finance and Operations
Name of Institution University of Victoria
Office Address PO Box 1700 Stn CSC
MWB A207
Victoria, British Columbia V8W2Y2
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Telephone: 250 721 7017
Email Address: Email hidden; Javascript is required.
Name (Senior Administrative Office of the Institution) Janice Johnson
Title (Senior Administrative Office of the Institution) Director, Strategic Initatives Office of the VPFO
Office Address PO Box 1700
Stn CSC MWB A207
Victoria, British Columbia V8W2Y2
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Telephone: 250 721 7017
Email Address: Email hidden; Javascript is required.


In January 2014, the president of the University of Victoria reported to the campus community the results of his extensive campus conversation consultations. The report identified challenges “in maintaining our high levels of collaboration, engagement, and collegiality” and recommended, “To address these challenges we must improve our internal communications and engagement processes” (University of Victoria, 2014b, p. 9). The UVic president highlighted the need to strengthen internal communications and identified that “staff members in some support and service areas feel somewhat isolated and not fully integrated into the mission of the enterprise” (University of Victoria, 2014b, p. 6).

The Office of the Vice President Finance and Operations (VPFO) created a Service Excellence Program that aims to shift the culture throughout the portfolio with the goals of increasing staff engagement and enhancing service to clients. The program has increased our willingness to make and accept change, shifted our culture to be more service and client focused and extended training and networking opportunities to all staff  to reduce a sense of ‘silos and isolation’ to one of ‘inclusion and value’.

The program is comprised of two parts; portfolio-based and committee- based. Each portfolio in the VPFO (Human Resources, Financial Services, Facilities Management, Campus Security, Financial Planning and Ops, General Counsel, Internal Audit and University Systems) conducted an employee engagement survey and most areas have completed a client satisfaction survey. Area leaders reviewed the results, identified with their team’s departmental priorities, and defined how to target and measure these priorities. “3 R” workshops were held to determine how best to improve client service through enhancing responsiveness, reliability and client relationships.

Cross-portfolio initiatives are led by the VPFO Service Excellence Committee comprised of volunteers from all areas of the portfolio. Designed to integrate and build connections, the committee has created 3 learning streams; a coaching training program, Meet the Team open houses, and employee developed Lunch and Learn sessions.

Shifting culture is tough! After just over one year into the project we are seeing a culture shift that is translating into elevated job satisfaction for our employees and enhanced service for our clients.


Criteria Please submit one paragraph describing how the proposal fulfills each of the evaluation criteria.

The University of Victoria VPFO Service Excellence Program is highly transferable to other organizations. Employee and client survey questions and methodology can be shared and benchmarked with other universities. Program goals, employee engagement approaches, committee structures and web/ print material is available as a starting point for other institutions interested in investing in changing the client service culture and increasing employee engagement. http://www.uvic.ca/vpfo/excellence/index.php

Individual portfolios within the VPFO have created presentations highlighting specific initiatives based on feedback from staff and clients. Areas of improvement identified through survey analysis and subsequent staff retreats are unique to each area.

In addition to retreats within each service area, cross-portfolio sessions have been held to identify opportunities, share innovative ideas and celebrate success. As part of this process, we have redefined our concept of ‘leaders’ within the portfolio. We now include supervisors – often unionized and many who have previously not participated in any kind of retreat or planning session. At one session, the group discussed the portfolio findings from staff engagement surveys; and decided to focus efforts on four major themes that were present across all department surveys the opportunity to increase our coaching and feedback training and delivery, leadership transparency, process review and enhancing engagement of staff that had been at the university greater than 10 years (the survey results showed that, on average, engagement was lower for this cohort). We believe these themes are not distinctive to the University of Victoria, and that other institutions would be able to benefit from the processes, survey tools, communication materials and implementation plans developed to translate these “themes” into action plans.

The Service Excellence program’s guiding principles created through facilitated sessions with the Service Excellence Cross-Portfolio Committee, are; flexible for diverse learning styles, accessible to all types of employees and supervisors, growth and learning-oriented, with cross-portfolio focus on engagement, inclusivity and transparency, and leadership commitment – these all could be applied to other institutions as a starting point for program development. Communication and outreach has been tailored to enhance participation. This includes everything from participation by senior leaders, personal outreach and follow up, ‘fun’ activities with catchy graphics and a website designed to highlight activities as well as celebrate participation with the objective of providing everyone in the portfolio, over 570 people, the opportunity to participate in a meaningful way.

Specific action plans, including an assessment of “bang for buck” could also be shared.

Quality Impact

The Service Excellence Program is about discovering how to achieve service quality by developing an engaged workforce. The program and committees associated with the program have fostered a sense of internal community and collaboration. As an example, The Executive Director of Facilities Management described the impact of members of his staff on the Service Excellence Committee as being “… instrumental in cultivating a strong sense of inclusion as significant contributors in members of the FMGT team. A group of often under-represented individuals were provided with an opportunity to design and lead initiatives and collaborate as an integral part of the VPFO team. The constant encouragement and support was key to their success”. James, another committee member suggested, “The Service Excellence Committee is the only committee I’ve ever worked on where people are asking to join. It is because of the collaborative nature and authentic purpose. The positive energy and collaborative style make our projects fun and the team truly believes that we are making a positive difference through this committee”.

For the entire portfolio, we offer programs, sessions, and events that create networking opportunities between all departments and all levels of employment. It is not uncommon, in one of the program learning sessions, for a research accountant to be role-playing on how to give effective feedback with a systems analyst, grounds keeper, or associate vice president. The learning environment in the Service Excellence Program fosters an open and unbiased space to meet and learn together.


The program has enrolled over 200 staff members from across the portfolio into our coaching training half day sessions, and 160 staff have signed up for our lunch and learn sessions. The departmental engagement in creating the Meet the Team open houses has been significant with approximately half to three quarters of the staff within each ‘hosting’ department involved in creating the event, and each event has had over 230 staff from outside the department attending. All of these sessions and events have exceeded our expectations. While intended to be for the VPFO portfolio, the events have attracted attendees from other areas of campus as well.


At the departmental level, leaders in all of the portfolios have taken a keen interest in developing a culture of engagement to enhance opportunities to create service excellence. The focus on engagement first, has enabled every department to identify and execute change initiatives in a more collaborative and transparent way with a focus on service to clients’ vs personal needs and influence. The quality of these change initiatives has been rich and meaningful.


Service excellence is now part of our annual service planning and departments are required to explore linkages to future initiatives with resource planning and demonstrate the relationship of client service and employee engagement with these changes. By including this criterion in the annual service planning process, leaders throughout the portfolio are consciously engaging members of their team to have a service focus.

Productivity Impact

The Service Excellence Program is about the ability to shift our culture through employee engagement to create an increased willingness to create and accept change and thereby enhance service to our clients; our faculty, staff and students as well as members of the community. Productivity impacts have occurred in all portfolios within the VPFO. Some areas have redesigned websites to provide better service and facilitate client inquiries and others have developed client focused phone trees that have reduced service inquiry time for their clients. Service response time commitments were developed in two units with client feedback built into the completion of services. Our Human Resources department underwent a renovation to bring back the ‘face’ of HR by making the physical space inviting, and by so doing making HR more approachable. All of these changes were a result of engaging staff within the departments to understand their clients’ service requirements.

Some productivity impacts include the Accounts Payable department implementing a new system that focused on processing time and resulting in a reduction of the average processing time for an expense claim from 18 days to 3 days. The Payroll department determined that, from a client service perspective, a specific form filled out by departments for 1500 employees was no longer needed therefore eliminating the handling of 4500 pieces of paper annually, and Financial Services has undergone a complete forms revision process. While the project is not yet complete, introducing ‘smart’ forms, and increased training on the use of the forms, have yielded a 60% decrease in the number of errors in forms submitted by departments. With the change in focus of helping departmental clients to getting it right the first time, there is less risk and greater client satisfaction.

The University of Victoria’s Service Excellence Program in the Office of the Vice President Finance and Operations has demonstrated the value in shifting the staff engagement culture to one of inclusion and collaboration to enhance service excellence. The employees in the VPFO portfolio are diverse. Service excellence applies to the entire portfolio and provides an opportunity for the entire portfolio to feel like they are part of something bigger, that they are valued and that they make a difference. The participation in our events are significantly greater that we had expected. The innovation is wonderful to see. Our clients have realized both qualitative and quantitative improvements in productivity.


The Service Excellence program is unique to other programs because it builds on the fundamental philosophy that in order to create a culture of service excellence, we need to first change our culture and enhance employee engagement. Creating a sense of increased engagement among all staff unlocks the door to creative thinking, change-management and innovation. Employees who are engaged in their work, take pride in what they do and feel empowered to make a difference will provide better customer service. The program design and implementation is based on results from employee and client feedback and works both within departments and across the entire VPFO portfolio to identify process, people and thought changes that result in a service excellence focus.

Ideas, direction and goals are developed within departments with all staff, using data collected from departmental retreats, cross-portfolio retreats and a highly collaborative and consultative Service Excellence Committee. This unique approach, transparent and inclusive in nature, enables leaders within departments to develop specific departmental initiatives and become active supportive partners in cross-portfolio activities. Departments have developed, in some cases for the first time, a method to reach out to all staff and engage them in what they have said (employee survey) and what their clients have said (client survey) and, as a group, determine the best course forward.

One unique aspect of the Service Excellence Committee program is the ‘high-touch’ approach with an emphasis on personal connections from registration to feedback retreats. Employee engagement and networking is critical – feeling part of something bigger than an individual unit and being physically connected to the places and people that surround us. Learning together in a collaborative setting with colleagues, at all levels of the institution, with face-to-face interactions is an important aspect of the program.

Our unique Meet the Team events where staff get to visit and see the inner workings of other departments, has had a significant impact on productivity. There is this “aha” moment from ‘visiting’ colleagues as they have a better understanding of ‘what’ is done, by ‘whom’ and ‘why’ it is done. For example, staff are now more confident in reporting something to Campus Security knowing the difference it can make; and meeting a campus security officer(s) can also make it easier. Staff have said they are now more diligent in sorting recycling knowing that it effects the work in Facilities Management. The personal visits that improve understanding also humanizes the anonymous. There is a shared learned understanding and respect for what we see others do, and it feeds back into how we interact with our unseen colleagues. Developing the Meet the Team curriculum for the staff within the department provided the opportunity to create, innovate, be proud and have fun. Units were encouraged to come up with their own ideas – and they did! During the Facilities Management Meet the Team, staff from across the portfolio had the opportunity to see how the electrical systems work within our buildings, learn about the use of native plants on our grounds, participate in a recycling sorting challenge and even “toss a turd” to win a prize! The Executive Director, Facilities Management relayed there was a lot more positivity during the days leading up to the Meet the Team event, and the morale and pride in what they do, even months after, remains higher than before.

Supporting Documents Service-ExcellenceSamples2017.pdf