Natural Resources Institute Finland
The Natural Resources Institute Finland raised the quality and efficiency of their research support services by clarifying roles and simplifying processes.
- Service attitude, ability to listen, and predictability have improved
- New operational models for measuring service quality are also in use
“Feedback suggests that we are on our way to reaching the service quality we have been aiming at”, says Tiina Mellas, the Director of Research Support Services at the Natural Resources Institute Finland.
There was a need to raise the services to a new level, as the Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke) is about to enter the second stage of a strategic process in which internationalization, stronger effectiveness, and customer-oriented solutions are emphasized. The new objectives also require a new approach for Luke’s own support services.
Luke was formed some three years ago when MTT Agrifood Research Finland, the Finnish Forest Research Institute (Metla), the Finnish Game and Fisheries Research Institute (RKTL), and the statistics services of the Information Centre of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (Tike) merged.
At the beginning of 2016, the support services employed some 200 persons that were responsible for, e.g., personnel services, communication, and finances. After the cooperation negotiations conducted in the spring of 2017 and the joint project with Talent Vectia, the same entity is now run in a new way with a personnel whose size is one fourth of what it was before.
Even though the consultants provided the operational model, they still listened to our personnel intently. They were able to continuously create new steps in a positive way." — Tiina Mellas, Director of Research Support Services, Natural Resources Institute Finland
A coherent approach
After the four organizations had merged, many of operational models were used in internal services, and they did not always appear coherent to internal customers. In 2015, during Luke’s first year of operation, the emphasis was on getting the joint systems in order. However, the coherence of the operational methods still needed improvement at the beginning of 2016. ‘The promise to produce the services in a high-quality and cost-effective way still required some work’, admits Mellas.
Going through the processes proved to be the key issue in the development of service operations. In the course of the development work, each team discussed which services could be decreased and increased and how the old operational models could be modernized. The teams produced a long list of measures, and the management group of research support services follow up on it regularly.
The development of coherent operational methods has already improved both the quality and efficiency of the services, but the work continues.
Internal partners for specific needs
Since internal customers may have very different service needs, a partnership model for internal services was developed during the project. The objective is to channel the best expertise towards each need.
For Luke’s service unit, this meant a three-step division. The role of partners is to focus particularly on the implementation of Luke’s strategy and on introducing proactive ideas to the management. The personal consultant acts, on the other hand, as one half of a work pair particularly in the planning and implementation of projects. Luke’s key persons are the core customers of the personal consultants.
The entire personnel can seek guidance and support from the service experts. Usually this has more to do with day-to-day transactions. ‘This partnership model forms the framework for our service, and we will implement it fully during 2018. This will realize the changes in the processes and give a face to the services’, says Mellas.
Competence according to needs
In addition to the processes, it was important to plan a strategy for competence development of the experts who produce the support services. The processes alone will not be enough if competence does not correspond with new needs. The development targets were divided into strategic and generic competences. Generic competences meant, skills like customer service skills, which everybody needs. Whereas, only a part of the personnel needs to alter the strategic skills.
As customer service competence is an important skill for everybody, a training course was arranged for the entire personnel to discuss practical customer service situations that occur in the day-to-day work of each employee. ‘During the development discussions, we will consider the competence needs of each employee in more detail in order to determine what kind of a gap there is between the needs and the competence’, says Mellas.
Success is measured
Since there is only little experience of the new operational model, the proof of success is based more on verbal feedback than KPIs. The first service questionnaire did, however, already suggest satisfaction with some of the services. According to the respondents, the availability, service attitude, and reaction time are already on a good level.
In future, Luke will, however, be provided with more detailed results, as the service questionnaire and process meters developed during the development project will begin to produce comparative results. ‘The KPIs are one of the most important outcomes of the development work, as they provide us with constant trend information on how our service promise is being realized’, summarizes Mellas.