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Office Management - Case study

Office Management - Case study

Introduction and background — City Training Solutions (CTS)

City Training Solutions (CTS) is a privately owned training company started by Anita Brown in Glasgow 10 years ago. The company has grown steadily over the past 10 years gaining a number of government contracts. This has been the main source of income but Anita, the Managing Director, is keen to bring the company into the 21st century. She is aware that while focusing on the training aspect of the company, she has neglected the background services and this is limiting the company’s growth.

In addition to work in and around Glasgow, they have been delivering training in and around Aberdeen. Anita is keen to build on this geographical spread and recently was able to buy out the owner of another training organisation based in Aberdeen.

All the staff of the new company were retained and issued with new contracts but other than that no further discussion has really taken place.

Anita bought the company to prevent any others buying it and becoming their competitors. They are now the largest training company in Aberdeen and have established a sizeable client base in Glasgow. However, Anita realises that there are some major changes required if the expansion is going to work.

Current training provision

Currently, the company delivers the following training courses from both sites in Glasgow and Aberdeen:

High volume training solution contracts

¨ Employability Fund contracts via SDS aimed at supporting individuals into work through a combination of focused training and work experience.

¨  Provide prison education in ICT, basic personal finance and literacy/numeracy programmes.

Low volume training solution contracts

¨ Community based ICT training adults who have little to no ICT experience — the age range for this has tended to be over 60.

¨  Beginner courses preparing individuals for academic study.

These programmes are two year Government contracts that need to be secured via public sector procurement processes which are complex and time-consuming. There are a number of contracts at various stages of completion. The high value Employability Fund contract with SDS is due for renewal in four months and a tender to renew the contract must be completed and submitted in one month’s time if CTS are to retain it.

Until now Anita has been solely responsible for the development and submission of tenders for contracts.

With the larger company, Anita is keen for the organisation to move into the private training market to provide more long term security.

Future training provision

At the same time as Anita was buying the Aberdeen company, she was also successful in winning two high volume contracts with multi-national energy companies to deliver e-administrative training courses in the Aberdeen area — a new and exciting field for CTS, meeting Anita’s vision that the company becomes the market leader for training of emerging technologies. This means that a significantly higher percentage of the company’s future business will be centred in Aberdeen than in Glasgow.

Existing contracts will be renewed pending successful tendering in both cities.

Anita is keen to build on these contracts and wants to focus on seeking and securing further contracts for her business. It is becoming clearer to her that she needs to ensure that the organisation is appropriately structured and able to respond to the demands anticipated.

Staff

The organisation is still structured along the old company lines, ie the Glasgow office staff are the original CTS employees and the Aberdeen Office the employees of the company that was purchased. Anita recognises there is much work to be done to ensure that they work together.

Glasgow office

¨  Anita Brown — Managing Director

¨  Kasha Lenska — Personal Assistant to Managing Director

¨   Alyson Cameron — Training Manager (newly appointed)

¨   Martin Georgiev — Trainer/Assessor

¨   Ann McGuigan — Trainer/Assessor

¨   Fiona Hunter — Administrator

¨    Liam O’Donnell — Administrator

Aberdeen office

¨  Peter Smith — Training Manager (newly appointed)

¨  Tahir Khan — Trainer/Assessor

¨  Kirsty Wallace — Trainer/Assessor

¨ Steven Hill — Administrator

¨ Carla Jaconelli — Administrator

In the original CTS company Anita made all key decisions — applying for and managing training contracts. She was responsible for all aspects relating to staff employment, setting up and running of website/promotional materials and events, procurement of equipment as well as overseeing the general day-to-day running of the office. Anita line managed all staff and allowed an informal approach for the delegation of support tasks to the administration staff to take place within the office.

As part of the company expansion, Anita appointed Alyson and Peter to the post of Training Manager. This is a newly created position and as yet Alyson and Peter are still unclear as to what this will entail.

There has been no meeting involving all of the staff of the company and as a result they feel somewhat awkward and suspicious of where the changes may be leading.

Company offices

The company’s Glasgow office is located in the city centre. It is a well-equipped open plan office with state of the art networked computers. The Aberdeen office is smaller than the Glasgow office and the IT equipment is not as up to date.

Within each office, the Training Managers and Administrators have their own allocated work stations with laptops. Anita shares an enclosed office with Kasha her Personal Assistant. In the new CTS Trainer/Assessors are no longer based in one specific office. They use laptops which can be linked to the IT system via ‘hot-desks’ when in the Glasgow or Aberdeen office.

Trainers/Assessors appear to be spending more time in the Glasgow office as there is more space available for ‘hot-desking’ and they like the up-to-date technology.

Anita anticipates more opportunities for securing further business in the energy sector (Oil/Gas and Renewables) via private firms as well as having much closer geographical access to Moray and Highlands government/council contracts. Anita plans to base the company’s future growth on a greater emphasis on private sector contracts which she hopes will form a larger percentage of the company’s business. She decides that sales activity will be focused on this area for the next six months.

In light of this, Anita has taken the decision to establish the Aberdeen premises as the company’s new Head Office. This decision was taken without consultation and was communicated to all staff by Kasha Lenska via e-mail.

Use of ICT to communicate with customers and between staff/offices

The company has a website through which potential clients and individuals can make contact. The website is very basic, consisting of one page outlining the services offered by the company and a contact phone number and e-mail address. Kasha’s e- mail is the contact address given, meaning she has to respond or filter messages to the appropriate person. The website is not linked to any database or other means of information capture so retention of contact details for potential clients is ad-hoc, unstructured and very dependent on Kasha’s record keeping, as no-one else has access to her e-mail.

Staff use e-mail extensively to communicate with existing and potential clients and people interested in their training courses. They also use e-mail and/or telephone to contact the other office and staff located there.

Anita, the Training Managers and Trainer/Assessors have been issued with company smart phones through which e-mail and internet can be accessed as well as making calls.

Although Anita can read her e-mails, Kasha administers and responds to most of them. For low level and routine communication by e-mail, Anita leaves Kasha to respond and just likes to be kept informed. For more complex/high level issues, Kasha consults with Anita to draft responses.

When out of the office Anita, the Training Managers and Trainer/Assessors have to contact the administration team should they need any company information, eg costings, training programmes/materials/dates, contact details, etc if the information is not stored or available via their smart phones.

Operational re-structure

With the new contracts coming on-stream and plans for expansion in the Aberdeen area, Anita decides that she needs to recruit more people with skills that will enhance the efficiency and flexibility of the organisation and increase its capacity to secure and deliver new business. She needs to delegate tasks that have until now been her sole responsibility.

Anita invited a Business Consultant to meet with herself and the Training Managers to discuss the need to restructure the organisation effectively. They all agreed that the first step should be to consolidate the management structure to ensure that it was appropriate for an expanding company. It was agreed that the management team would comprise Anita as the Managing Director with three people reporting directly to her — the two Training Managers and a new post of Office Manager. Kasha would continue to provide a Personal Assistant function to the Managing Director, with a particular responsibility for Financial Planning and Budgetary Control. The Training Managers would each be responsible for specific training contracts and for specific Trainers/Assessors. The Office Manager would be responsible for the administration function, including all forms of communication, ie website, e-mail, intranet, etc — tasks and staff — across the whole of the organisation. This would then free up Anita to pursue further training opportunities in both cities.

At the end of the meeting, Anita announced that she was about to go on holiday for three weeks and that she wants Peter to complete the tender for the renewal of the Employability Fund bid. Peter has no prior experience of this and feels quite daunted, particularly as Anita has never produced a documented process for writing tenders/bids.

Anita’s meeting with the Glasgow staff

As Anita is frequently out of the office it has been left to Kasha to try to control the rumours that have developed in the absence of information from Management, but this has proven very difficult and stressful for her. The administrators have little confidence in her reassurances and there is resentment of her perceived job security as Personal Assistant to the Managing Director. The Training Managers — Alyson and Peter — feel undermined as they were not consulted on the decision. Alyson feels this particularly acutely as she has no rationale that she can provide to Glasgow staff to explain the decision to move headquarters to Aberdeen or to allay increasing tension and anxiety in the office. They had assumed with the increased attendance of Trainer/Assessors that the Glasgow office would remain as the main office and so are badly affected by the announcement to move to Aberdeen.

After a few days, Kasha and Alyson persuade Anita to hold a special meeting of Glasgow staff to address concerns and provide more information on future plans. Kasha arranges for all administrators to take lunch breaks simultaneously between 12 and 1pm to allow the meeting to take place over lunchtime which is the only time available in Anita’s diary.

Anita is happy to oblige, however she has a heavy schedule to meet and is pressed for time. She is used to making decisions that are not challenged and is confident that her decision is the right one for the long-term security of the company. She is impatient about this intrusion on her time and she comes across as brusque and dismissive of any concerns.

In the meeting Anita makes it clear to staff that the decision to establish the Head Office in Aberdeen is final because it is in the best interests of the company and provides the most long term security in a highly competitive market and difficult economic conditions. She advises that the Glasgow office will remain open but will require the commitment of all staff to maintain and expand the client base for training if it is to remain open in the future. She states that she can guarantee posts to anyone willing to relocate to Aberdeen. This does not really have the desired calming effect as relocation to Aberdeen is not a realistic option for most of the Glasgow staff due to personal, family and financial reasons. The staff are quite intimidated by Anita and concerned that asking questions could jeapordise their future with the company, meaning very few questions are asked for clarification.

As a result of all the above some problems are beginning to surface.

¨ The trainer/assessors have been travelling between Glasgow and Aberdeen to deliver contracts — some of these arrangements have been criticised because the decisions appear to be ad hoc and as a result the Glasgow/Aberdeen trainers/assessors have passed each other en route to their destination. This has led to a rise in travel costs, overtime and confusion.

¨ There is a lot of friction between the administration team and the Trainer/ Assessors. The new Trainer/Assessors feel they are not being supported by the administration teams — work is not being done properly or completely. The Glasgow Administration Team is complaining about additional workload as a result of the Trainer/Assessors spending more time in that office resulting in a higher demand on them. The Aberdeen administration staff are becoming concerned as they have a lot of spare time and are wondering if there will be redundancies. The recent announcement about establishing the company’s headquarters in Aberdeen has helped a little but the staff are not aware of the plans for expansion and therefore don’t anticipate any increase in volume of work.

¨ Communication between staff is proving challenging — the two offices operate in very different ways. It appears that neither office has any clear procedures for handling many of the administration tasks, and mistakes are being made resulting in complaints from clients.

¨  Anita’s recent announcement about relocating has raised fears about redundancies in the Glasgow office and so all staff members are becoming increasingly fearful about their jobs.

¨  Peter and Alyson feel their positions as part of the management team have been undermined by Anita’s blunt announcement regarding the new headquarters. They were not part of the decision-making and were not briefed by Anita, so found out in the same way as the rest of the staff. However all staff in have been coming to them for information and answers which they are unable to provide. Both are supportive of the decision because they understand the training market but feel it could have been handled in a better way. The recent meeting to discuss the company restructuring was helpful in overcoming some of their concerns because they feel that there is a way forward but this has not yet been communicated to the wider staff.

¨ Peter is becomingly increasingly anxious about the pending bid and feels he doesn’t have anyone to go to for advice. He feels that raising this with Anita will make him look weak and is extremely worried that he might make mistakes and if the business is lost then it would be very damaging to the organisation. He is not confident with budgeting and finances.

A new Office Manager — Michael Chang – was appointed three months ago and has spent time since then setting up meetings with the administrative staff in both offices — meeting with each administrator individually and in groups to try to identify what is working and what is not. Michael met with Kasha and the Training Managers to find out what their expectations of the administration team are and what they would like to see in future.

A priority was to meet with the Glasgow staff who remain upset and stressed as a result of the meeting with Anita. In the meeting, Michael advised everyone that although the changes represent a short-term risk to their job security, the growth of the company will also provide opportunities. Staff were advised about the plans for future recruitment and the team were invited to participate in the development of the Administrator job description, as well to participate in the designing, testing and evaluating of procedures for a range of administrative tasks. By the end of the meeting both the Glasgow Administrators had volunteered to help in both requests


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