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How We Serve our Employees and Stakeholders: A Journey with HR at UCDSB

Who is UCDSB

The Upper Canada District School Board is a high-quality educational organization comprised of 78 schools, with approximately 4,200 staff educating around 27,000 students in the counties of Lanark, Leeds-Grenville, Stormont-Dundas-Glengarry, and Prescott-Russell. The Upper Canada District School Board is situated on traditional Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee Territory. UCDSB is proud to offer their students a wide variety of academic, athletic, artistic, and extracurricular activities as part of a well-rounded education. Their vision is “Creating Futures, Leading and Learning for All."

Service Desk History at UCDSB

Like many organizations, having a common platform for employees to get answers to their questions and seamless flow of information between HR and IT was important.  With separate systems at UCDSB, there were situations where an employee may call the wrong department, and this presented a need for a system that could seamlessly transfer requests for service between HR and IT.  Collecting metrics and customer survey responses were equally important so that the HR and IT departments could continue to improve their service standards, and this was another key driver.

Considerations to Get to the New Unified Service Desk

In 2016, a project plan was developed that involved 3 departments (HR, IT, and Facilities) with agreed upon milestones. Department managers of UCDSB met with Marval North America and mapped out the implementation strategy: implement Incident Management, Request Fulfillment, and Knowledge Management processes, and develop a self-service portal.

The department leads agreed that the following would be vital:

  • Determine what commonalities there are in workflow and where it’s different. Once size didn’t fit all with IT, Facilities, and HR.
  • Common nomenclature for naming knowledge articles/FAQs.Learning that it’s better to write them all out in a document first, then add to the knowledge bank.
  • Training for staff using the system in the departments, which continues to this day.
  • Determine when to develop a form in Marval MSM vs Microsoft forms, Qualtrics, or some other form entry system or survey tool.

Getting the Word Out: Campaign & Messaging

To ensure a successful launch of the AskUC self-service portal, UCDSB developed a marketing campaign to appeal to their users to get assistance via the forms and knowledge articles.

For Human Resources The campaign didn’t stop with the email notifications: posters had been developed and sent to all work locations.  Even employees’ email signatures were updated to include the contact information for the service desk. Just-in-time delivery notifications and links to knowledge articles continue to be sent out to this day, which remind staff how to access the FAQ and how to resources.

While employees and supervisors continued to contact the people they were used to working with, when they began to see the service standards increase by contacting the service desk, that also boosted the buy in. 

Successful adoption and consistent application of the new askuc system and processes was also important for the HR team who were engaged in assisting users. As an example, if a recommendation to hire came to HR via an email instead of to AskucHR, the HR representative would record it directly using the forms in the AskucHR portal and respond to the user through the system.  This was a subtle shift to self-serve them, but also to model where the information needs to be directed in the future.

There would be light at the end of the tunnel after several months of consistent messaging between the employees from across the organization, and because of the encouragement delivered from the employees who were serving their stakeholders.

Maintaining an Open Dialogue

Having key communication between HR and the service desk continues to be essential as well. For example, when questions come into the desk FAQ knowledge articles are available to support the service desk staff which ensures that even if an HR staff member is away and not available to immediately assist, there would still be someone at the service desk to support the user.

New in 2022-23, the UCDSB sends all employees monthly communications insider newsletters which HR has a dedicated section to direct people to frequently asked questions we’re expecting in that month. For example, in June 2023’s publication, staff are reminded of knowledge articles that answer questions regarding records of employees’ seasonal layoffs and occasional renewal information. Having these FAQs help mitigate some of those inquiries that would otherwise go to the service desk or an HR representative via email, ticket, or phone call.

How the System is Used Across HR

HR has expanded their use of self-service forms for intake of new employees, which has significantly increased the speed of service delivery.  Specifically, with the occasional employee shortage happening in the province of Ontario, UCDSB has seen an increase in emergency workers, which prompted the creation of an emergency worker form that school principals utilize.  Weekly, HR can typically see up to 500 of these requests via forms and having them recorded in MSM allows for multiple HR staff to manage the data, and efficiently process the new emergency workers in a timely manner.  Previously, this would have been handled via emails sent to one person in varying different formats. Whereas now, the form filters only the relevant information required.

The MSM Service Desk form layout is customized to HR users’ preferences: it’s easy to use and navigate. With the use of the system’s automation, input actions in the system are escalated from HRO to HRA using HR Category. All actions on the request are recorded in an Audit database ensuring there is a record for all updates.

When an HR employee is absent, another team member can manage their assigned inquiries in their absence, so no request is overlooked. Having a Knowledge Base dedicated to HR staff greatly assists in responding to commonly asked questions. Service desk can handle questions as well because of the knowledge base therefore, freeing up time of HR officers.

Self Service Portal for UCDSB Staff

“AskUC” is the self-service portal that UCDSB staff can access over 1,200 knowledge articles/FAQs and log incidents, inquiries, and requests for service for Communications, Facilities, HR, IT, Special Education, Payroll, and Purchasing departments.

Employee requests directed to HR such as employment letters, pay rate questions, retirements, where to find information, etc., are done through the AskUC self-service home page search feature. Results from the search may include an existing request the user had previously logged, a knowledge article, or a form. Self-service forms are also used for high volume intake, and knowledge articles help users to solve repeat questions, thus freeing up the HR staff's valuable time

What does the data tell us?

Knowledge Articles:

Knowledge articles, such as the one pictured above, greatly reduce the number of inquiries that come into the HR office. This article in particular has been viewed more than 4552 times and had helped resolve requests that would have otherwise resulted into the desk.  Management can also run reports on most frequently used knowledge articles.

Escalation Trends – Workload Considerations:

Reports also show where a significant amount of escalation is occurring, signaling perhaps that more training or knowledge articles are needed.

Also, by reviewing the number of requests to a particular workgroup or individual, it can assist management with reviewing workload considerations. Reports generated using MSM, combined with other HRIS systems used by the HR department, aid in receiving an additional 1.0 allocation.  The report allows the department to quantify the workload increases in a specific area thereby supports the need to increase staff resources.

What’s in Store for the Future?

With continued support and interest in the success UCDSB had with the implementation of service management in HR, IT, and Facilities, the departments plan to continue to develop more knowledge articles for all areas within the board (e.g. Payroll, Special Education, etc.) In HR there are also plans to continue to gather more data to monitor response time: it is the board’s goal to plan potential improvements on service levels and develop more forms to streamline escalations.


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