After 5 weeks of orientation-related activities and the first week of class at the business school where I work, today was the day on which I helped move my oldest son into the dormitories at the conservatory at the same university. I had been involved in moving him into a dormitory space once before--for the Philadelphia International Music Festival in the summer of 2013. I don't recall the details of that registration experience. It seemed a little slow and chaotic, but at the time, I had just moved to become a member of the Dean's office at the business school--whereas now I have been at the business school for nearly one and one-half years.
What I saw was an inefficiency. My son was asked at each of three adjacent tables for his name or his last name. He was almost the only one there at the time and it seemed like the student helping at the next table would have heard what the student at the last table asked. Regardless of whether the next student had heard, I thought it was silly to ask the same question three times and have my son answer it three times. He took it in good spirit, and there were only a relatively small number of new students at the conservatory, so this was by no means the rate limiting step in the process of getting my son moved in this morning.
However, at the third table, I said, "You should give out name tags next time." The student behind the desk agreed and said that was a good idea.
I'm honestly not sure I would have thought of that a year ago. But today, after going through two years of orientation activities in the past 18 months, five intense weeks of orientation activities this summer, and more than a year on the leadership team and faculty at a business school, I have figured out ways to make processes more efficient. And it is how I think in general at this point.
But it also reflects how different leaders and organizers look at things. My goal as an organizer and leader at a business school is to make the students' experience the most positive experience possible. And, importatnly, to make my staff members' lives the best they can be. Giving each student a stick on tag at the start of the check-in process would remove all need to ask the question, "What is your name?"
Now, you could say that having the opportunity to do a simple question and answer with a student helping with check-in is not a bad thing but starts conversation. But it would seem far easier to me to have the sticker, greet the new student by name and ask how he or she is doing, and move on from there.
Maybe addressing the person by name is something that I focus on even more than I would have in the past based on my learning of the Mandarin names for graduation and new students. Or maybe that was just my nature anyway.
But the key is how to conduct business to make students (the customers) and staff as happy as possible. What a difference a name tag might make. Sometimes it is the simplest, little things that we do in business that make a difference in others' experiences.