Don't Underestimate the Impact of Building Your Department's Influence.
As a scheduling professional, you understand what a pivotal role you and your department play in the management of one of your organization’s most precious resources: its physical space. On many higher education campuses, space is a finite resource. And even on those campuses where expansion is possible, constructing more meeting and event space involves significant time and expense. In other words, those rooms you walk through as you make the rounds overseeing setups or checking in on events are like gold – precious resources that get more valuable with each passing year!
Unfortunately, not everyone understands the huge responsibility that you and your team bear. “Event scheduling is just searching for an open room and taking down the requestor’s contact information,” is what those who’ve never worked in event operations might say. It’s not a malicious comment – it’s just misinformed.
Why Building Your Department’s Influence is Important
There are two ways to deal with the fact that scheduling’s role is often undervalued. You can either “grin and bear it” or you can take steps to elevate the perception of your operations. We, of course, are big proponents of the latter. Why? There are many benefits of growing your influence, including:
- Bigger budget. When decision makers begin to understand what the scheduling department does and how effective management of space impacts overall campus operations, the result is often a larger operating budget.
- Increased revenue. With better support, your department can help the school bring in more revenue.
- Better tools. As your department’s reputation grows, there tends to be a greater willingness to sign off on the purchase of more advanced tools that make your team’s life easier.
- Improved customer service. Having more influence gives you more power to produce a better customer experience, and that can earn your department and your school a more positive reputation.
- Enhanced career opportunities. When administration begins to pay more attention to the importance of space management, they start to recognize the skill and experience of scheduling team members and think about additional ways that their expertise can benefit the school.
For these reasons and more, it pays to understand how to make scheduling a more high-profile activity.
How to Gain the Support of Administration
It’s been said that you can’t buy respect. It’s also true that you can’t demand it. Instead, respect and the influence that comes with it are commodities you have to earn. But how do you do that? How do you gain the support of administration? It starts with learning to see the world – or at least the campus – from their perspective. In short, administrators thrive when the campus as a whole thrives. Every interaction you have with them regarding your operations needs to grounded in that core concept.
Next, you need to understand, and be able to articulate, what your department is currently contributing to the operational and financial wellbeing of the school. At the highest level, you need to know things like what your usage and utilization rates are, how much annual revenue you record, and what your expenses are. From there, administration will likely want to go deeper, asking you to break statistics down across different user groups such as students, faculty, staff, and off-campus organizations. This could include annual numbers on:
- Total events
- Total events turned away for lack of space
- Total attendance and average event attendance
- Total revenue from equipment rental and catering
- Average customer satisfaction rating
Have a good handle on these and other stats, and you’ll hold the attention of a high-ranking staff member. Fail to, and the meeting is over even before it starts.
Finally, you have to know and be able to articulate your vision for the department. How can it operate more efficiently, effectively, and profitably? And if it were to achieve your goals, how would that impact the university as a whole?
Being able to talk intelligently about your department will not, of course, guarantee that all or even any of your requests are granted. But, at a minimum, the conversations will give administration something to think about and probably cast your operation in a new, more favorable light!
How to Gain the Support of the Broader Campus Community
One of the things we learned from interviews we conducted with more than two dozen scheduling professionals is that if a scheduling department operates strictly as “order takers,” that’s what they’ll be treated like. On the other hand, if you and your team focus on how you can help students, faculty, and staff achieve their goals, you will quickly gain their support and earn a reputation for being problem solvers.
Your role as collaborators gives you more influence on campus and increases the respect with which your team and your contributions are viewed. A scheduling pro we’ll call “Mike” shared his story, which is a perfect illustration of this dynamic.
He explained that his department now handles the scheduling of all the activities around commencement, but it wasn’t always that way. This very important event for the college with a $70,000 budget was changed when the school got a new president a few years ago. The results weren’t good. In fact, it’s been called the “worst commencement ever” at the school. The next year, attempts to correct the problems put the event more than 50 percent over budget – $40,000 to be exact!
Scrambling for answers, the college gave commencement to Mike’s department to manage the following year. Leveraging their experience in event scheduling, strong relationships with service providers, and a reputation on campus for “getting things done,” they delivered a highly successful event.
The key to their success? In large part it had to do with the influence his team wielded. "You have to make the effort to meet people where they are. We spend a lot of time on email, but we also spend a lot of time out there interacting with people on campus as well,” he says. “We build partnerships and we build our capital up. We are all about the mission. The mission for us is applying the golden rule and serving peoples’ needs as if it were our own event."
Clearly, Mike’s department has earned, and now enjoys, the respect of the college’s many stakeholders. As a result, he and his team can work much more efficiently and effectively.