Wake Forest MBA students assist Surry Children‰’s Center

12.16.2011 Article, General, School News

Reposted from The Mt. Airy News | by Josh Armstrong

DOBSON —The Wake Forest MBA program selected the Children’s Center of Surry for their talent management group to assist. As part of this decision, the university sent two teams of students to advise the center with business needs.

“The two teams helped us tremendously,” said Robin Testerman, executive director for the Children’s Center of Surry. “Because we’re non-profit, we can’t pay MBA consultants to come in and help us with organizational structure, issues or challenges.”

“They gave us tons of consultation hours,” she continued, “and presented us with a project that we can actually implement in our organization, to help us do a better job in the community and serve our children better.”

This wasn’t the first time Wake Forest’s MBA program assisted the Children’s Center. The relationship between the two began years ago, courtesy of the center’s current board treasurer, Jason Moser. From high school to college, he worked at the Children’s Center, later becoming a board member and a chairman.

Meanwhile, Moser studied in the MBA program. About five years ago, he informed his professor that the Children’s Center would be interested in the project. As a result, Wake Forest sent teams in two different years.

However, almost two years have passed since Wake Forest last enlisted the Center’s Center. During that time, the center experienced incredible growth. Hence, the program felt the non-profit organization could benefit once more from its assistance.

The endeavor began early November, when Professor Sherry Moss divided her MBA students into two teams. Going to class twice a week, each team made about four trips from Winston-Salem to the Children’s Center in Dobson. They met with Testerman, Operations Manager Flo Martin, and other members of the staff and volunteers. In addition, the teams interacted with children in the center, to hear and consider their opinions.

The first team consisted of Carling Boyles, Cory Fisher, Matt Henson, Daniel Lauer and Govine Ravikumar. They were assigned to improve supervisor efficiency.

“The goal of the project was to improve the system they have in place by making it more efficient,” said Boyles, “which would improve the overall quality of care being provided to the children.”

According to Boyles, the largest obstacle her team discovered within the supervisors was a lack of communication, which affected the way the supervisors worked together. To help solve the matter, the team applied principles they learned in class.

“We developed some clever, creative ways to bring them together,” she explained, “to facilitate more communication through various methods and to improve their scheduling.”

The second team consisted of Galen Price, Sharnai Thompson, Sergio Espinoza, Tadashi Nakazawa, Jeanelle Seimster and Sean Dauterize. Their primary focus was the direct care staff. While the supervisors work on a managerial level, the direct care staff often work more closely with the children on a day-to-day basis.

After interviewing the staff, the second team analyzed their notes, searching for ways in which the staff could increase teamwork.

Basically, the team identified a gap of information between the outgoing direct care workers and the incoming direct care workers, said Sergio Espinoza.

One solution his team presented was a 15-minute overlap in shift transitions. During that period, a staff member entering second shift can interact with a worker leaving first shift, for instance.

“They can exchange information that is vital for the incoming direct care [worker] to know,” explained Espinoza. “For instance, did that child take his medicine? Did he eat? Did he do his chores? It’s all relevant information which needs to be addressed.”

To help address the noted questions, the team also suggested a new format for the daily log, including a checklist.

They also considered minimizing employee turnover. The team suggested an information video showing a realistic preview new hires will see, to fully understand the experience of working at the Children’s Center.

People often misunderstand the type of work they will do at the Children’s Center, said Espinoza. When they realize their expectations differ from reality, they leave, creating higher turnover. This also translates into higher costs, from advertising to training new employees.

But perhaps the worst result of high turnover is the emotional impact on the center’s children, who have been neglected or abused.

“They create an emotional bond with the direct care workers,” he continued, “and if there is a constant change in the staff, it has a very negative affect on the children.”

Both teams offered their analyses and solutions via a paper and a PowerPoint presentation, viewed by their classmates, Professor Sherry and the Children’s Center supervisors. As the final project of their Organizational Behavior Class, the report counted for a substantial part of their grade.

Testerman and her staff were highly pleased with the results.

“The Children’s Center cannot express their gratitude enough,” said Testerman, “for the valuable knowledge and resources that Wake Forest University’s MBA students provided.”

“We are extremely excited to implement their strategies.”

“I didn’t think I was going to learn as much as I did,” said Boyles. “I think they learned a lot from what we delivered, and I equally, in turn, learned a lot from them.”

“It ended up being a really positive experience on both ends.”