When Yale needed to found a service help center, it didn’t outsource call handlers to another country. Instead, it created one on Whitney Avenue.
The Employee Services Center, which opened at the end of June, is no more than a small office on the first floor of 221 Whitney Ave. filled with oatmeal-colored cubicles and 12 staffers who handle Yale employees’ questions about their contracts, benefits and payroll forms. But it’s just one of many reforms that administrators say will make Yale departments run more efficiently and at lower cost.
By Friday, employees for YaleNext — a comprehensive overhaul of Yale’s operational systems inspired by private-sector practices — will have trained 270 business managers across the University in how to use a new expense management system and online tools, both part of a wave of YaleNext changes coming to campus in November and December. The reforms are inspired by similar private sector models, and indicative of Yale’s increasing YaleNext project leaders, including director John Jibilian and Assistant Vice President for Communications and Strategic Projects Anne Murray-Randolph, say they are determined to cut down on paper, e-mails and calls by centralizing functions that formerly required navigating a maze of Web sites and human resources representatives.
All the changes will ultimately reduce the sheer number of people needed to administer the roughly 670,000 human resources transactions, such as changing an address or checking available vacation time, that occur each year, they said. YaleNext reforms could make it possible for the University to run on much less labor, Murray-Randolph said.
“Before, you had to find a human for everything you wanted to do,” Vice President for Human Resources and Administration Michael Peel said. “Now it’ll be the last resort rather than the first resort.”
The call center on Whitney Avenue is designed to serve as a central place for employees to bring their questions, rather than having to make numerous phone calls to different supervisors in the human resources department.
“The concept behind it all is to offer one number and one place for everyone to call,” Jodi McCullagh, the call center’s lead supervisor, said. “We aim to provide a consistent response.”
As the newest changes are introduced to more and more University departments over the next two months, business managers will begin relying on a revamped Web site that combines a new, all-electronic benefits management program, an online time sheet and payroll tool, and a new expense management system. The site, called the Yale Portal, currently also displays campus news, search functions and other tools that are customized for the user. Faculty members, for example, can find their evaluations and students’ grades and can request to hire postdoctoral fellows on the portal, while staff can perform tasks such as keeping track of time sheets and checking their available vacation time, Murray-Randolph said.
The revamped benefits management system, which allows employees to monitor their benefits and sign up for pension accounts online, will debut by Dec. 1, replacing a system that was almost entirely paper-based, Jibilian said. And by next week, when the new expense management system designed by the software company Oracle is introduced at the School of Medicine, staff will be able to process expense reports more quickly, a change projected to save the University $500,000 next year, YaleNext leaders said.
Three business managers interviewed agreed that the Yale Portal site and other reforms so far have made their days at work more efficient.
“Sometimes, navigating through the Yale Web sites can be challenging, so yes, it’s getting clearer and easier to navigate,” said Carolyn Haller, the operations manager for Davenport College.
Though YaleNext aims to cut costs at the University, it too has had to contract under budget pressures: The project’s cost, which is undisclosed, has been cut back about 60 percent.