Emory Report
June 22, 2009
Volume 61, Number 33


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June 22, 2009
Staff leads efforts to cut costs

By kim urquhart

In the Division of Campus Services, water cooler service has been replaced with faucet filters; seasonal parties and picnics have gone potluck; and employees are invested in saving energy in their personal workspaces.

This wasn’t a mandate from leadership, but a staff-led effort to save the division hundreds of thousands of dollars. Campus Services employees submitted more than 250 cost-cutting ideas, many of which are being explored and implemented.

Vice President for Campus Services Bob Hascall engaged the workforce to help come up with solutions, and committed to reviewing all ideas for viability. The brainstorming process began this winter, in response to the national economic downturn and Emory’s budget reductions. “It was clear that we’re not going to do business as we always have done, and there is likely to be a shift in our daily routines,” says Hascall. “We are trying to shift the culture in this whole process of saving.”

The division curtailed all new hiring, cut its annual equipment budget, reduced overtime usage by nearly 20 percent, eliminated its Emory-funded annual picnic and holiday celebration expenses, and made plans to reduce the size and operating expenses of its vehicle fleet. Many individual departments have identified other operating efficiencies and cost-cutting initiatives and their implementation is under way.

The focus is on the cost-cutting initiatives that have measurable savings and the largest financial impact, says Karen Salisbury, chief of staff to the vice president and a member of the specially appointed Process Improvement Team.

Some of the best ideas came from front-line staff, notes Salisbury. “There were some incredibly creative ideas. It was touching what staff were willing to do,” she says.

“People came forward to help others keep their jobs,” explains Nadir Hailey, a steam plant maintenance mechanic. “Many of us have been working with each other for years; we’re all on the same team.”

Hailey is a member of the Campus Services Advisory Board, the group charged with prioritizing the cost-cutting measures. More than 20 are currently being addressed at the department level.

While the early implementation of cost-saving measures was able to reduce the impact on staffing, the budget target could not be met without some job eliminations. In April the Division of Campus Services eliminated 47 positions — 19 of which were vacant — in order to achieve a $2.5 million decrease in the campus services budgets for FY10.

Hascall says the hope is that implementing these staff-suggested operating efficiencies and cost-cutting initiatives will better position the division for the future — and protect jobs.

“That is why it is so important that we can measure and verify the cost-savings,” a criteria of the ideas selected for review and implementation, says Salisbury. Metrics include comparing expenditures against the previous year.

As Campus Services continues to explore new ideas and measure savings, Hascall pledges to keep his staff posted and report back on the progress made on their ideas. “This is and will continue to be something we invest our time and energy in and one in which we continue to celebrate our successes.”

Hascall’s advice as Emory adjusts to a projected long-term reduction in revenues: “Every department has an opportunity to look at the processes that they have in place and see if there are opportunities for savings.”