Creating efficient systems and practices (managing busy work)
Issue: Managing the busy workload associated with the REC position can be burdensome and take up so much time that there is no opportunity left to initiate strategic activities to improve the research education experience.
Are there ways to streamline the work processes?
- Reduce the number of signatures required on low-status documents, such as parking permits
- Do a top-down review of all internal processes to streamline layers of approval for all documents
- Create online sign-off processes to speed up the flow of documents
- Set-up and use alert systems to remind HDR candidates about progress reports and other key events
- Make good use of time management strategies, e.g., let HDR students and supervisors know that you will only answer emails at dedicated times, such as afternoons.
- Clarify expectations about availability
- Develop some ‘standard’ response emails
- Triage emails to see what needs to be done straight away
Issue: Both RECs and HDR administration staff and managers have a range of responsibilities managing and reporting on HDR candidature progress.
What strategies can be employed to ensure that relationships between RECs and admin staff work well and that efficient processes are in place to manage the workload? What technologies might be useful in streamlining processes?
- Clarify the roles and responsibilities between the REC and admin support
- Set up regular meetings between the REC and admin support
- Use a flowchart to identify different processes and responsibilities, e.g., admissions and examinations
- Have a network of HDR administrators across the university that meets for particular events but also meets a couple of times a year to discuss issues, share information and provide peer support
- Use technologies to streamline administration processes, such as online student filing systems
- Use the Learning Management System (LMS) to disseminate information to HDR candidates
Issue: When staff filling REC positions move on and take on new positions, it is often difficult for the new REC to quickly ascertain what are the key activities and responsibilities in the new position. Many RECs have suggested that a ‘handover’ process would have helped facilitate their work.
What things might be useful for a ‘handover’?
- Alert staff to key policy documents
- Admissions process information including policies, forms and processes—perhaps an admissions flowchart
- Provide a list of key people
- Provide a work plan that outlines reporting lines, key processes and parameters for the role
- Provide a glossary of terms used in research education
- Provide a timeline for key activities across the calendar year
- Provide a clear outline of how student files are organised, including training and access to data
- Leave a supervisor database, including experience, interests (through key words) and qualifications
- One of the challenges is how do you pass on ‘unwritten knowledge’ about problem supervisors and students? Should this be left for the new coordinator to find out for himself/herself?