Portfolio: Reflection #3 (Proposal)

The course: Report and Business Writing

This course was very helpful to me as it introduced me to formal business documents I had never written before. Having the skills to write a formal proposal or report will be useful to me as I grow my career. In my current position, I have not been required to produce any formal reports, but I do often have to make informal reports or propose new ideas. Being able to incorporate elements of formal documents into the writing I do enhances my credibility and allows my supervisors and colleagues to take my work seriously.

The assignment

The assignment required us to identify a problem in our workplace and propose a solution. The problem I chose was the high number of incorrectly completed travel claims, which I proposed could be solved by hosting a Lunch and Learn lecture.

I chose the direct approach for this proposal because I felt it was uncontroversial and therefore would be received positively by management. I included my suggested solution first before diving into the justifications. The advantage of this formula is that it allows readers to get a high level understanding of the proposal early on. Readers in the executive positions that can implement proposed solutions are often limited in the time they can devote to reading a proposal or report. Presenting a suggestion early in the proposal can get the reader’s attention and provide motivation for them to continuing reading the document.

To enhance my proposal, I included several visual elements. I used a flow chart to demonstrate the administrative process involved in filing travel claims. I think it can be helpful to include graphics to explain ideas, particularly the steps in a process. I also included several tables. Tables are great for showing time and budget requirements because they allow the data to be presented in a clean, readable way. With the white space and lack of unnecessary words, the data is more apparent.

During revisions, I focused on small changes as I felt my original draft was quite solid. I was able to improve concision and readability by removing extra words and making my sentences more active.I also expanded my explanation of the travel claim process in the background section to clarify the administrative consequences.

Returning to the proposal after leaving the job it was written for allowed me to look at the assignment with a new lens. I was able to identify areas where I had not included enough information for outsiders to understand the proposal because I had assumed the readers had a certain level of knowledge. I used the perspective of someone no longer working in that department to expand and clarify points I had not addressed fully.

Portfolio: Revised Sample #3 (Proposal)

PROPOSAL: LUNCH & LEARN SESSION ON TRAVEL CLAIMS

Abstract

Hosting a Lunch and Learn session on completing travel claims would improve staff efficiency, reduce the number of claims returned to the office for correction, and lessen the wait time for reimbursements.

Contents

Executive Summary. 2

Introduction. 2

Background. 2

Workflow Diagram.. 3

Proposal 3

Topics Covered. 3

Format. 4

Required Materials. 4

Schedule. 4

Budget/Cost Analysis. 4

Staffing. 4

Possible Risks/Setbacks. 5

Benefits. 6

Conclusion. 6

Authorization. 6

Appendix A: Systems Travel Policy. 7

References. 12

Executive Summary

University Systems employees regularly complete travel claims to be reimbursed for business-related travel expenses. If these claims are completed correctly, the review time required for General Office clerks is minimal and employees receive their reimbursements within three weeks. However, incomplete or incorrect claims can delay reimbursement and create additional work for clerks. A Lunch & Learn session on completing travel claims could be held with optional costs of up to $150 and a time commitment of only 7.5 hours. Hosting this session would reduce reimbursement wait times, allow clerks to focus on other priorities, and promote our departmental values of Communication & Information Sharing and Continuous Learning.

Introduction

This is a proposal to plan and host a one-hour “Lunch & Learn” session on Travel Expense Claims. I would run this session in our main conference room over the lunch hour (12:00-1:00pm).

Background

Many University Systems employees travel for business purposes, whether to attend a BCNET meeting in Vancouver or to participate in an international conference. University policies require employees to use personal funds to arrange their trip and then submit expense claims for reimbursement after the trip concludes. In ideal conditions, Accounts Payable reimburses travel claims within three weeks.

The processing time for travel claims increases when employees are unfamiliar with the reimbursement procedure. If Accounts Payable receives incomplete or incorrect forms, they return the forms to the claimant via inter-campus mail with an attached memo listing the required corrections. An internal audit conducted by Accounts Payable in 2013 indicated a 29% error rate on travel and business expense claims (“Expenses and Payments,” 2014).

Depending on how often the claimant checks their mail and how quickly they are able to correct their claims, the claim process may be delayed by several weeks.  Employees who have paid for international flights and hotels on personal credit cards must pay their credit card bills out of pocket or risk incurring interest charges.

Incorrect travel claims also place an administrative burden on General Office clerks. The Systems General Office clerks regularly assist with preparing travel expense claims, particularly when employees are unfamiliar with the process. All travel claims should be submitted to the General Office for review before they are signed by supervisors and submitted to Accounts Payable. Clerks check the forms for completion, enter account numbers where necessary, obtain signatures from supervisors, and file electronic copies of the claims. If claims are incomplete, the clerks must also locate missing information and receipts. If claims are incorrect, the clerk may have to redo the claim form. The workload for clerks would be  reduced if employees were able to submit complete, error-free claims accompanied by all necessary paperwork.

Workflow Diagram

workflow

Proposal

University Systems regularly hosts informal Lunch & Learn sessions organized by the Living Values Committee. These sessions allow colleagues to share their expertise and undertake cross-training in a casual, enjoyable way. A Lunch & Learn session on completing travel claims would be an efficient and cost-effective way to refresh employee knowledge and, as a result, improve processing times and increase efficiency in the Systems General Office. Additionally, hosting a Lunch & Learn session would support our departmental values, particularly Communication & Information Sharing and Continuous Learning & Development.

Topics Covered

The lunch and learn session would cover the following:

  • Systems travel policy
  • Travel claim workflow
  • Travel advances and prepaid air claims
  • Components of the travel claim form
  • Requirements for back up receipts
    • Lost receipt declaration forms for missing receipts
  • Prohibited expenses
  • Foreign exchange rates
  • Account coding information
  • Required authorizations/signatures
  • Common errors and how to avoid them
  • Audience questions

Format

The session would run for approximately one hour, including a 45-minute lecture with slides and 15 minutes for audience questions.

Required Materials

The session would be held in the Systems Conference room, which comfortably seats 25 attendees. If more than twenty employees RSVP, an alternate room could be booked through the Office of the Registrar for no cost. All rooms are equipped with the necessary audio-visual equipment for a slideshow presentation.

Attendees may choose to bring a laptop or a notepad to take notes, but these are not required. Because the session takes place over the lunch hour, attendees may also choose to bring food.

Schedule

The time commitment for this project is minimal. I have outlined the necessary steps below.

Task Time Required (Hours)
Contact Living Values Committee to pitch the topic 0.5
Research content of the presentation 1.0
Draft content of the presentation 3.0
Rehearse presentation 2.0
Book conference room and arrange supplies and refreshments 1.0
Deliver presentation 1.0
Total: 8.5

Budget/Cost Analysis

Hosting a basic Lunch & Learn is free. However, hosts may order refreshments through Degrees Catering to encourage higher attendance. The table below breaks down the optional refreshment costs.

Optional Refreshment Approximate Cost (for 30 attendees)
Coffee and Tea $60
Cookies $20
Pizza $150

I recommend ordering coffee and tea as well as cookies to increase attendance, a total cost of $80 for 30 attendees.

Staffing

I would host the Lunch and Learn. As one of the clerks in the Systems General Office, I have over two years of experience completing and reviewing travel claims. In December 2014, I attended a training session held by Accounts Payable explaining the travel claim process and reviewing common errors.

While drafting the presentation, I would consult the Administrative Officer  regarding departmental travel policies to ensure the information presented is accurate. Additionally, one member of the Systems Living Values Committee would assist with the development and promotion of the Lunch & Learn event.

Possible Risks/Setbacks

The following table shows potential risks and setbacks and how those risks and setbacks might be prevented or mitigated:

Potential Risk/Setback Prevention/Mitigation Strategies
Information presented is incorrect or incomplete Research information thoroughly·

Confirm information with Administrative Officer

Contact Accounts Payable to verify information

Staff members are confused by information presented Allow time for questions following presentation

Provide contact information for Accounts Payable department

Conference room is not available Contact Office of the Registrar to book alternative room at no cost

If necessary, postpone session until the room is available

Few people register for lecture Send additional emails advertising session

Target emails at staff who frequently travel and at leadership team

Offer additional refreshments

If necessary, postpone session until more staff can attend

Cost of refreshments is over budget Confirm food price quotes prior to submitting orders

If necessary, cancel or reduce food order

One of the required resources has competing priorities and cannot complete their tasks Confirm availability prior to planning session

Locate an alternative staff member to assist with that portion

If necessary, postpone session until the resource is available

Benefits

Training staff to complete their own travel claims correctly before submitting them to the General Office for review would reduce the workload for clerks, allowing more time to be spent on other priorities. Additionally, with fewer claims returned for correction, employees would be reimbursed more quickly, reducing personal financial strain. Finally, organizing an educational event supports many of our top departmental values, including Continuous Learning & Development, and Communication & Information Sharing.

Conclusion

My conclusion is that hosting a Lunch and Learn training session on travel claims would be an effective, low-cost way to expedite travel reimbursements, minimize work required by General Office clerks, and promote departmental values.

Authorization

Thank you for taking the time to review this proposal. Please respond to me by Monday, February 29 indicating whether I may proceed with planning this event. I can be contacted by email  or telephone if you have any questions or concerns. I look forward to hearing from you.

Appendix A: Systems Travel Policy

[Removed from this sample for security reasons]

References

“Expenses and Payments” [Slideshow Presentation]. (2014). Retrieved from https://www.uvic.ca/vpfo/accounting/assets/docs/acctpayable/resources/expenses-payments-presentation.pdf

Portfolio: Reflection #1 (Claim Refusal)

The course: Introduction to Business Writing

One of the most important strategies I learned in this class was the direct/indirect approach. The direct approach works well for positive or neutral messages. It gets to the point right away, and then provides evidence and details. It’s a particularly useful strategy when you are writing for an audience that may not have the time to read your whole document.

The indirect approach can be helpful when delivering bad news or when rejecting a claim or proposal. With this approach, the writer provides the evidence and background information first. This eases the reader into the bad news, and also ensures the reader is aware of the reason why the claim was denied or the bad news was delivered. If a letter opens with bad news, a reader may stop reading immediately and miss out on crucial information.

The assignment

We were asked to write a letter denying the claim of Mr. Yee, a customer who wanted to return opened merchandise. For the assignment, we were asked to assume the store policy did not allow returns on opened media products because of copyright concerns.

Delivering bad news is always a challenge, and this assignment was no exception. I needed a way to reject Mr. Yee’s request while maintaining our business relationship. If Mr. Yee responded poorly to my rejection, it would mean a loss of not only his business, but the business of any other potential customers he shared his story with.

To make delivering bad news easier, I relied on the indirect approach. I presented my evidence first, and stated the real message near the end of the letter.

I began with a buffer. In my first draft, I opened with a neutral buffer, stating the company’s reputation for good service. My revised version went further. I thanked Mr. Yee for bringing his concerns to our attention. Customers like to know that their opinions are taken seriously. Then, I mentioned that I wanted to explain our return policy, which allowed a smooth transition to the next paragraph.

I then politely but firmly explained the return policy before denying the claim. Explaining store policies can be tricky. It’s important to explain why the policy is fair, or the customer may believe your decision was either arbitrary or deliberately rude. I emphasized the legal concerns around copying media to ensure Mr. Yee understood why I couldn’t grant his claim.

As a goodwill gesture, I offered Mr. Yee a coupon for his next purchase. While it was not what he was hoping for, I wanted to show that we took his concerns seriously and wanted to keep him as a customer.

During revisions, I replaced some of the language in my original draft to make it simpler and less wordy. “Amended” became “updated” and “became aware” changed to “learned.” It’s important for business communication to be easy to understand for a diverse group of customers. Convoluted language or industry-specific jargon alienates your readers and makes it more difficult for them to understand your message.

Portfolio: Reflection #2 (Informative Email)

The course: Writing with Style (now called Writing Well: Style)

This course was dedicated to improving the style of our business writing. I had never considered style when writing work emails or documents. I usually just wrote whatever I thought sounded formal and professional. It was eye-opening to see the way I could improve the style of my writing with a few small tweaks.

Many of the techniques we learned were ones I was already familiar with in the context of creative writing. For example, we learned about using the active voice and cutting dead wood from our sentences. However, I had never tried applying these techniques to my business writing. I was amazed to see how many extra words and passive constructions I was including in my emails.

One of the most interesting tips I learned in this class was the strategy of opening a sentence with known information before flowing into something new. I had never thought of writing sentences that way. I still find it a useful strategy when I am revising my writing and notice that the transitions feel awkward.

The assignment

For this assignment, we were asked to use the principles we had learned to revise an older piece of our own writing. I chose an email I actually sent to coworkers advertising a fundraiser by my choir.

I used humour and conversational language to connect with my coworkers and build goodwill. Because the focus of the class was on style, I varied my sentence structure and length, and made many of my verbs active. I used the old-new construction discussed above to make the information easier for readers to process.

I made extensive revisions to my original draft. One of my first steps was to break the information into shorter paragraphs with more cohesive themes. That reduced the risk that readers would be overwhelmed by a block of text and choose to ignore the email.

I  also provided more information about my choir and the benefits that the fundraiser would provide. I even added a link to my choir’s website so those who were interested could learn more. Because I was trying to convince colleagues to spend money, it was crucial to show them why they should care.

In addition, I emphasized how easy it would be to order online. By emphasizing the ease, I removed one of the possible roadblocks that would prevent people from engaging with the offer.

Finally, I made the deadline more obvious by placing it in a shorter paragraph and bolding the text. The bold text catches the reader’s eye and reminds them that they should take action.

Portfolio: Revised Sample #2 (Informative Email)

Dear colleagues,

Got chocoholics on your holiday shopping list this year? I’ve got you covered. The Avalon Singers, a local not-for-profit women’s choir, is holding a fundraiser sponsored by Purdy’s Chocolates. For every order you place, our choir gets 25% of the profits. Money raised goes toward rehearsal and performance space, professional accompaniment, the purchase of new music, and more.

Check out the attached brochure and start planning your order. If you miss the good old days of flipping through the Sears Wishbook, stop by the General Office. I have a few paper brochures available.

What’s the best news? Ordering is easy! You don’t even have to leave your desk. Order and pay online using your credit card. If you are interested, please let me know and I will send you an email invitation to the group purchase site.

You can also fill out the paper order form found in the brochure and return it, along with cash or a cheque, to the General Office.

Please order by November 20, 2015. I will distribute your orders during the first week of December.

If you have any questions, please reply to this email.

Best Regards,

Heather Fraser

Portfolio: Draft #3 (Proposal)

PROPOSAL: LUNCH & LEARN SESSION ON TRAVEL CLAIMS

Abstract

Hosting a Lunch and Learn lecture on completing travel claims would improve efficiency, reduce the number of claims returned for correction, and lessen the wait time for reimbursements.

Contents

Executive Summary. 2

Introduction. 2

Background. 2

Workflow Diagram.. 3

Proposal 3

Topics Covered. 3

Format. 4

Required Materials. 4

Schedule. 4

Budget/Cost Analysis. 4

Staffing. 4

Possible Risks/Setbacks. 5

Benefits. 6

Conclusion. 6

Authorization. 6

Appendix A: Systems Travel Policy. 7

References. 12

Executive Summary

University Systems employees regularly complete travel reimbursement claims. If these claims are completed correctly by the employee, the reimbursement is received within three weeks and the review time required for General Office clerks is minimal. However, incomplete or incorrect claims can lead to delays in reimbursement and additional work for clerks. A Lunch & Learn session on completing travel claims could be held with optional costs of up to $150 and a time commitment of only 7.5 hours. Hosting this session would reduce reimbursement wait times, allow clerks to focus on other priorities, and promote our departmental values of Communication & Information Sharing and Continuous Learning.

Introduction

This is a proposal to plan and host a one-hour “Lunch & Learn” session on Travel Expense Claims. I would run this session in our main conference room over the lunch hour.

Background

Many employees in University Systems travel for business purposes, whether to attend a BCNET meeting in Vancouver or to participate in a conference outside of Canada. University policies require these employees use personal funds to arrange their trip and then submit expense claims for reimbursement after the trip concludes. In ideal conditions, an expense claim takes approximately three weeks to be processed by Accounts Payable before the payment is issued via direct deposit.

The processing time for travel claims is increased when employees are unfamiliar with the reimbursement procedure. If claims are submitted to Accounts Payable with missing or incorrect information, they are returned to the claimant via inter-campus mail with an attached memo indicating the required corrections. An internal audit conducted by Accounts Payable in 2013 indicated a 29% error rate on travel and business expense claims (“Expenses and Payments,” 2014).

Depending on how often the claimant checks his or her mail slot and how quickly he or she is able to make the necessary corrections, the claim process may be delayed by a range of three days to several weeks. For employees who have paid for international flights and extended hotels on personal credit cards, this may present financial difficulties.

The Systems General Office clerks regularly assist with the preparation of travel expense claims, particularly when employees are unfamiliar with the way travel claims work. While travel claims should be submitted to the General Office for review prior to supervisor signoff and submission to Accounts Payable, the workload on administrative clerks in the office would be greatly reduced if employees were able to submit complete, error-free claims accompanied by all necessary paperwork to the General Office.

Workflow Diagram

workflow

Proposal

Our department regularly hosts informal Lunch & Learn sessions, organized by the Living Values Committee. These sessions offer an opportunity for colleagues to share their expertise and undertake cross-training in a casual, enjoyable way. A Lunch & Learn session on completing travel claims would be an efficient and cost-effective way to refresh employee knowledge and, as a result, improve processing times and increase efficiency in the Systems General Office. Additionally, hosting a Lunch & Learn session would support our departmental values, particularly Communication & Information Sharing and Continuous Learning & Development.

Topics Covered

The lunch and learn session would cover the following topics:

  • Systems travel policy
  • Travel claim workflow
  • Travel advances and prepaid air
  • Components of the travel claim form
  • Requirements for back up receipts
    • Lost receipt declaration forms
  • Prohibited expenses
  • Foreign exchange rates
  • Account coding information
  • Required authorizations/signatures
  • Common errors and how to avoid them

Format

The session would be approximately one hour in length, including a 45-minute lecture with slides and 15 minutes for audience questions.

Required Materials

The session would be held in the Systems Conference room, which comfortably seats 25 attendees. If more than twenty employees RSVP, an alternate room can be booked through the Office of the Registrar for no cost. All available rooms are equipped with the necessary audio-visual equipment for a slideshow presentation.

Attendees may choose to bring a laptop or a notepad to take notes, but these are not required.

Schedule

The time commitment for this project is minimal. I have outlined the necessary steps below.

Task Time Required (Hours)
Contact Living Values Committee to pitch the topic 0.5
Draft the content of the presentation 3.00
Rehearse the presentation 2.00
Book conference room and arrange supplies and refreshments 1.00
Deliver the presentation 1.00
Total: 7.5

Budget/Cost Analysis

Hosting a basic Lunch & Learn is free. However, there is the option of providing refreshments to encourage higher attendance. The table below breaks down the optional refreshment costs.

Optional Refreshment Approximate Cost (for 30 attendees)
Coffee and Tea $60
Cookies $20
Pizza $150

I recommend ordering Coffee and Tea as well as cookies to increase attendance, a total cost of $80 for 30 attendees.

Staffing

The Lunch and Learn would be hosted by myself, one of the clerks in the Systems General Office. I have over two years of experience completing and reviewing travel claims. In December 2014, I attended a training session held by Accounts Payable explaining the travel claim process and reviewing common errors.

During the drafting of the presentation, the Administrative Officer would be consulted regarding departmental travel policies to ensure the accuracy of the information presented. Additionally, one member of the Systems Living Values Committee would assist with the development and promotion of the Lunch & Learn event.

Possible Risks/Setbacks

The following table shows potential risks and setbacks and how those risks and setbacks might be prevented or mitigated:

Potential Risk/Setback Prevention/Mitigation Strategies
Information presented is incorrect or incomplete. ·         Research information thoroughly.

·         Confirm the information with the Administrative Officer.

·         Reach out to Accounts Payable to verify information.

Staff members are confused by information presented. ·         Allow time for questions following the presentation.

·         Provide contact information for Accounts Payable staff.

Conference room is not available. ·         Contact Office of the Registrar to book alternative room at no cost.

·         If necessary, postpone the lecture until the room is available.

Few people register for lecture. ·         Increase the number of emails advertising the session.

·         Target emails at staff who frequently travel and at leadership team.

·         Offer additional refreshments.

·         If necessary, postpone the session until more staff can attend.

Cost of refreshments is over budget. ·         Confirm food price quotes prior to submitting orders.

·         If necessary, cancel or reduce food order.

One of the required resources has competing priorities and cannot complete their tasks. ·         Confirm availability prior to planning the session.

·         Locate an alternative staff member to assist with that portion.

·         If necessary, postpone the session until the resource is available.

Benefits

Training staff to complete their own travel claims completely and correctly before submitting them to the General Office for review would improve efficiency for the clerks, allowing more time to be spent on other administrative work. Additionally, with fewer claims returned for correction, employees would be reimbursed more quickly, reducing personal financial strain. Finally, organizing an educational event supports many of our top departmental values, including Continuous Learning & Development, and Communication & Information Sharing.

Conclusion

My conclusion is that hosting a Lunch and Learn training session on travel claims would be an effective, low-cost way to expedite travel reimbursements, minimize work required by General Office clerks, and promote departmental values.

Authorization

Thank you for taking the time to review this proposal. Please respond to me by Monday, February 29 indicating whether I may proceed with planning this event. I can be contacted by email  or telephone if you have any questions or concerns. I look forward to hearing from you.

Appendix A: Systems Travel Policy

Removed from this sample for privacy and security.

References

“Expenses and Payments” [Slideshow Presentation]. (2014). Retrieved from https://www.uvic.ca/vpfo/accounting/assets/docs/acctpayable/resources/expenses-payments-presentation.pdf

Portfolio: Draft #2 (Informative Email)

Want to start your holiday shopping early and skip the lineups at the mall? My choir, The Avalon Singers, is holding a fundraiser sponsored by Purdy’s Chocolates. If you’re feeling high-tech, click through the electronic brochure attached to this email. I also have a few paper copies of the brochure in the General Office for those who cherished flipping through a Sears Wish Book—or Scholastic book order– in bygone days.

The easiest way to order is online using a credit card. If you’d like to do so, reply to this message and I will send you an email invite to our site. You can also fill out the paper order form in the catalog and bring the form, along with cash or a cheque, to the General Office. Whichever method you choose, please order by November 20th so I can distribute your chocolates by the first week of December.