Using Technology to Increase Productivity at the Work Place
Charles T. Chojnacki
Technology is changing at such a fast pace that things that are brand new today will be outdated tomorrow. How can technology be used to educate those who should be using it, but do not? I have spent the last year trying to increase the efficiency of the department I work in through technology. This document will attempt to convey the efforts, triumphs, and failures of this work.
I work for a small hospital located in Kenmore, New York. The department in question has one department head with four supervisors. Each supervisor has their own responsibilities all of which, while using the technology that is already available, would save time and money for the hospital while making the workday easier. All the supervisors have various levels of computer knowledge from having a good idea on how to use Excel and to make spreadsheets to typing with two fingers and not knowing how to turn the computer on.
My first challenge was to introduce some basic Excel documents that could immediately be used by all and show how they can make life easier. The first document created was a log used for the supervisors to communicate. Prior to this the department used a spiral notebook and hand wrote the entries. This was a challenge due to poor penmanship. With little effort I was able to get all to start using the Excel document. This was followed up with a chronological record for each associate to keep tract of the highs and lows that we all have. This document became popular not only with my department but with the Human Resource Department as well. It was easy to read and could be printed in a moment’s notice.
During this initial stage, I asked each supervisor what type of reporting he or she was responsible for. I found some common elements that all were responsible for and went to the department head to make some suggestions as to how we could increase efficiencies. The department head gave me a limited amount of time each week in order to start my program. Each supervisor was met with and my plan of action was put into place.
We started with meeting as a group one hour a week, with follow up on an individual basis. It was during this time that I introduced the basics of Excel. The various supervisors all had some accounting function that was required. One had to breakdown the various types of sales in the Café. They had sales for staff, clergy, volunteers, and visitors. The cash register gave a breakdown of each sale but he was responsible for giving that information on a by-weekly and monthly basis. We immediately developed a spreadsheet that he could complete on a daily basis to keep a running total of each type of sale. This document alone cut a minimum of one to two hours a week.
The literature review process taught me about some of the barriers to technology in education that include insufficient internet access, outdated equipment, as well as inadequately trained instructors. All of the above hinder the use of technology. Advantages and disadvantages to e-learning was also discussed, as well as the use of games in education.
The methodology used for this capstone project was mirrored after the ADDIE Model used by instructional designers. The initial phase was the analysis phase. During this part of the project I observed the various supervisors doing their regular work and asked questions as to what they were doing, when the work was due, and where they obtained their information. We went over the various reports, and discovered that much of the information could be centralized and distributed to the correct person. This fact alone caused the department to increase its efficiency alone.
The design phase of this project included the development of one central location for information to be stored that could be transferred to each supervisor for use. Weekly meetings were established to allow for constant feedback from the users in regard to what information was required. This identification of specific needs became crucial as we continued the process.
The development phase included detailed plans on what was to be taught and when. As each supervisor had different needs, as far as computer training and the information they were responsible for, this was a fluid plan that changed as we went along.
During the implementation phase we all discussed our goals and projected outcomes for the project. The department head expected a certain amount of improvement in the department to allow us to meet on a regular basis. The supervisors who were already challenged for time were looking for immediate results in order to keep their attention. And I was required to not only develop the coursework but to also keep up with my daily requirements as a supervisor.
Evaluation of the project was done on a constant basis. Summative evaluation happened on a weekly basis as a short quiz was given to the staff or they were expected to demonstrate the knowledge they had learned. The ultimate feedback was when the students started to develop their own spreadsheets that made life easier for them.
The result of the project was that the department did increase their knowledge of Excel. Each individual supervisor will be discussed in detail. The department head became involved as a student to increase her knowledge and use of Excel and the computer overall. She started to look at the old way information was presented to her versus the new way and she liked what she saw. Almost immediately she started to ask if I could design spreadsheets for her. I was more than happy to do so, but I requested that she first start with the end in mind and we could design the sheet backwards. I instructed all to view various You Tube video’s, as well as Woopid Tutorials to help with the process. The biggest problem I have with the various tutorials available is most people know what they want the sheet to do, but they don’t know what it is called. This can be frustrating. The department head is a woman in her mid 50s and has been in her field most of her adult life.
The next supervisor is a woman in her mid 40s. She has the most computer knowledge of all the supervisors with the exception of me. While she has been integrated into using the various forms that all the supervisors use, she is reluctant to change from her old ways. This may be due to the fact that she and I have a personality conflict that we cannot get over. Her largest responsibilities include purchasing, payroll, and making the production sheets. The production sheets are sheets that come out each week with instructions for the various associates to do. My feeling is they should be made once and cut and pasted to provide this week’s sheets. Some of the information would have to be changed on a weekly basis but I feel that once the “master” sheet is done it would be easier. Due to the complexity of payroll and the current computer system used by Catholic Health, the only type of sheet I think could be developed to make the process easier is a sheet that would calculate the “manual” part of payroll. For example, if I call an employee into work on short notice they get a certain amount of “extra” pay. This can be from $3.00 per hour to $6.00 per hour, depending on the shift. I feel I can develop a sheet for this but have not had an opportunity to try because I cannot convince the department head that it would make life easier. I also do not know all of the fine details of payroll at this time. This individual presents me with my toughest challenge. Again, she has the most knowledge in regard to computers but due to personal issues between us, she will not use what I was trying to teach. Perhaps if I was a paid consultant for the hospital she would.
The third supervisor is a man who is in his late 40s. He is my two-finger typist and my greatest accomplishment for this project. He is still typing with two-fingers but his speed has increased. He is responsible for turning the financial information over to the department head. As I mentioned earlier, he saved a substantial amount of time after we started using Excel. Prior, he would go over each cash register tape once a week and keep a log of the various numbers. The largest problem with this is that it is usually done at the end of the night and his handwriting is less than good. He can type the numbers into Excel, this helps to insure accuracy and it can be read by anyone at any time. Also, this action can be done each day, adding a few minutes additional to his job, but cuts down on the amount of time spent each week.
He has since learned how to do simple calculations on his spreadsheets and he has even developed a spreadsheet to use for other information. We discussed a sheet that he could use for the development of the schedule. We are a union hospital and he is required to give the associates the correct amount of hours each week. If they are short it can be a problem or if they are over it can also be a problem. We went into “Google Docs” and found a spreadsheet that was developed for a schedule. With some work we were able to get the document to do what we needed it to do and we changed the names. This document is now being used for the initial stages of the associate schedule. It is not uncommon for me to arrive at work and check my e-mail to have an attachment and a question from this supervisor as he was trying to create a document.
The fourth supervisor is a man in his mid 40s. He is part time and works five days every two weeks. Computers and Excel are not new to him and he has been a help in this process.
Towards the end of this process, other supervisors from other departments became involved. They had heard what we were doing and wanted to increase their knowledge. It is a great compliment to have other departments sending people to the class. It is my ultimate goal to obtain employment in corporate training and I believe this may help with this goal.
At the end result of this exercise we were able to increase efficiencies in the department by utilizing the technology that was already available. Microsoft Office is installed on every computer in the hospital. I have developed a number of instructional videos for some of the forms I have created for the department. Each supervisor has been given the links to use if they have a question and I am not available. As the process will be ongoing, as long as I am employed at the hospital, I feel that the group as a whole will continue to grow. Some of the supervisors have started to first look on line for solutions to their questions while others will wait for me to answer questions. It is not uncommon for me to be paged over the system to go to another department to answer questions or to help out.
The largest hurdle to overcome was trying to motivate the individual supervisors to learn something new. Two out of the four people involved were open to learning new things as it directly related to their employment. One of the supervisors was reluctant to learn new programs and this may have been based on a personal situation between her and I. The third supervisor is open to learning what he can about the hospital. Three out of the four people involved are looking at new ways to use the knowledge.