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Question & Answer:

  • Discuss several areas in which HR can affect organizational culture positively or negatively.

  • Give some examples of ethical issues that you have experienced in jobs, and explain how HR did or did not help resolve them.

  • Why is it important for HR management to transform from being primarily administrative and operational to becoming a more strategic contributor?

  • Assume you are an HR director with a staff of seven people. A departmental objective is for all staff members to become professionally certified within a year. Using Internet resources of HR associations such as www.shrm.org and www.WorldatWork.org, develop a table that identifies four to six certifications that could be obtained by your staff members, and show the important details for each certification.

  • Your company, a growing firm in the financial services industry, is extremely sensitive to the issues surrounding business ethics. The company wants to be proactive in developing a business ethics training program for all employees both to ensure the company’s reputation as an ethical company in the community and to help maintain the industry’s high standards. As the HR Director and someone who values the importance of having all employees trained in the area of business ethics, you are in charge of developing the ethics training program. It needs to be a basic program that can be presented to all employees in the company. Resources for business ethics information can be found at www.business-ethics.org/primer1.html.
    What legislative act prompted many U.S. companies to develop internal ethical policies and procedures?

  • Your company, a growing firm in the financial services industry, is extremely sensitive to the issues surrounding business ethics. The company wants to be proactive in developing a business ethics training program for all employees both to ensure the company’s reputation as an ethical company in the community and to help maintain the industry’s high standards. As the HR Director and someone who values the importance of having all employees trained in the area of business ethics, you are in charge of developing the ethics training program. It needs to be a basic program that can be presented to all employees in the company. Resources for business ethics information can be found at www.business-ethics.org/primer1.html.
    What are key concepts related to business ethics that should be considered in the development of the ethics training program?

  • Firms in a variety of industries have been recognized as being among the Most Admired Companies by Fortune magazine. Others have been highlighted as being the Best Companies to Work For by Fortune or as Optimas Award winners by Workforce Management. These recognitions contain some common elements because of how HR management has contributed to organizational success and is being positively viewed by employees. Three examples are highlighted here. One recognized firm is Google, which is well known by many individuals because of its Internet components. Google has an HR image as a creative contributor to business objectives through its work environment guided by HR. According to the head of HR at Google, Lazio Bock, the overriding key of HR at Google is its emphasis on organizational culture and business objectives. The focus of Google HR is on giving its employees flexibility to produce results, not just following core job requirements. Consequently, HR at Google has established innovative efforts for its people and has made the administrative part of HR efficient. Minimizing numerous HR administrative forms, data, and reports by using technology has occurred, which would be expected in a prominent technology firm. At Google, HR communicates to its employees extensively about business objectives, organizational results, and relevant current information. Because many of the Google employees are stock shareholders also, they have a personal interest in Google being a successful business. Thus they continuously want to know the operational results by seeing current reports, data, and information. Overall, Google’s HR approach is unique in comparison to the approaches at other companies recognized by Fortune, but its success illustrates that how HR is established and operates can be a key to organizational success. A different firm with a variety of organizations and a strong HR culture is Scripps Network, a prominent television and communications corporation. At Scripps, HR plays a core role in establishing strategic goals and efforts. Even when Scripps has merged separate media firms, HR has focused on getting the cultures of the two entities to integrate effectively. Several HR functions are used to support the culture and core values at Scripps. One is an active pay-for-performance system to reward employees at higher job levels with base pay increases, annual incentives, and long-term incentives. Another key part of HR efforts at Scripps is that HR emphasizes leadership development throughout the firm. Additionally, the firm has widely used work variability efforts such as worklife balance, telecommuting, and worker flexible schedules. These are done as part of a core value at Scripps of “compassion/support.” A different firm with an extended history of effectively integrating corporate culture and HR is UPS, the transportation and logistics delivery firm that operates worldwide. Its culture is different from the cultures of Google and Scripps; however, for more than a decade, UPS has been recognized for its corporate integrity, culture, and HR inclusion with employees. UPS has emphasized linking HR with business objectives and uses communication and intranet programs to ensure that employees are kept constantly informed on business objectives and workforce challenges. One well-recognized component at UPS is the established codes of conduct that are consistently reviewed with all employees. These reviews include specific examples of ethical situations that employees may face and how to respond to them. Annually, managers complete a “conduct code” report that asks specific questions about ethical problems that have arisen during the year. These three firms are in different industries, have different cultures, and use a variety of HR efforts. However, each of them has been recognized for implementing HR as core to their organizational cultures and successful business results.51
    How does the integration of HR with the organizational culture contribute to the success of Google, Scripps, and UPS? To find ideas, go to the corporate website for each of these companies and search for additional insights.

  • How does the market-driven approach illustrate that HR has strategic, operational, and administrative roles at SYSCO?

  • Discuss what types of HR changes could have affected reductions in workers’ compensation expenses, employee turnover, and increases in customer satisfaction.

  • Discuss how technology has changed jobs in an organization where you have worked. What are some HR responses to those changes?

  • What steps can HR professionals take to ensure that mergers and acquisitions are successful? How can HR help during the integration process?

  • How can an organization maintain its image while dealing with a talent surplus? If layoffs are necessary, what would you recommend managers do to ensure that survivors remain committed and productive?

  • As the HR manager for a multinational corporation, you want to identify HR competencies that are critical for global companies. Visit the website for the World Federation of People Management Association (www.wfpma.com) to research the topic and to identify differences in the body of knowledge in different parts of the world.

  • As the HR Director of a U.S.-based company that is looking at global opportunities in China, you have been asked by the company president to prepare an outline for an HR strategic plan as part of the company’s expansion process. You need to develop an HR strategic plan that will integrate the goals, objectives, and strategies of the HR Department with those of the company. The plan also needs to support the objectives of other departments within the company. To get ideas on how to develop an HR strategic plan, go to www.workinfo.com.
    What is the process to use for identifying the components of the HR strategic planning process?

  • As the HR Director of a U.S.-based company that is looking at global opportunities in China, you have been asked by the company president to prepare an outline for an HR strategic plan as part of the company’s expansion process. You need to develop an HR strategic plan that will integrate the goals, objectives, and strategies of the HR Department with those of the company. The plan also needs to support the objectives of other departments within the company. To get ideas on how to develop an HR strategic plan, go to www.workinfo.com.
    What other company strategic objectives must the HR strategic plan integrate and support?

  • The power of HR metrics and analytics is an untapped resource for many organizations. Human resource information systems (HRIS) are commonly used to capture and store gigabytes of data about employees, but few organizations have mined their data to improve human capital decisions. Most business leaders and HR executives do not make people decisions with the same level of rigor and rationale as they do other business decisions, relying more on intuition and gut feelings. This propagates the myth that the impact of human resources on organizations is either not measurable or not significant. Financial, operational, and marketing decisions all depend heavily on detailed analysis and cost justification. The use of analytics in human resource management can enhance the strategic contribution of HR executives and lead to better decisions and organizational outcomes. At Superior Energy Services in New Orleans, careful analysis of turnover data shattered previous beliefs about which employees were most likely to quit. The organization was losing skilled oilfield operators and supervisors faster than semiskilled blue-collar workers. This discovery led to implementation of training and coaching programs for supervisory employees, which resulted in a 15% drop in turnover and improved the bottom line of the company. Without this analytic approach to turnover, attention would have been focused on retaining blue-collar workers, which would not have delivered such impressive results. Thrivent Financial for Lutherans in Minneapolis believed that turnover during the first year of new hires’ careers was related to the previous experience they had in their disciplines. The thinking was that if a customer service employee had previously worked in customer service, she was less likely to leave Thrivent in the first year. Analytics dispelled that theory and Thrivent found that the exact opposite was true. Employees with previous experience in the discipline were leaving at a faster rate than those without such experience. Although they have not determined the causes, this data will help Thrivent’s leaders to address the real issues. One answer will lead to additional questions and lines of inquiry. The food service and convenience company Wawa, Inc., assumed that turnover among store clerks was tied to their hourly wage rate. However, the number of hours worked in a week was a much more significant factor in turnover. Employees liked working part-time, and when their work hours exceeded 30 hours per week, they were more likely to quit. Wawa reduced instore turnover by 60% by scheduling employees for less than 30 hours. Concerns about an aging workforce and a presumption that a high percentage of employees would retire in the near term led the University of Southern California to carefully analyze employee demographic data. To their surprise, HR found that the nontenured staff employees were, on average, too young to begin retiring en masse. Tenured faculty, while much older, are far more likely to work past the age of 70. The anticipated retirements are still a fact for USC to address. However, managers can plan for this and develop a longer-term transition plan because they are not facing massive retirements in the near future. The HR executives at Superior Energy Services, Thrivent, Wawa, and USC are harnessing the power of HR data and statistical models to better understand the challenges facing their organizations. Long-held beliefs about the patterns of employee actions and decisions can be analyzed and either supported or debunked. Either way, the organization can address the true issues only if HR looks beyond the surface and digs deeper into the sea of data. Overcoming the fear of number-crunching and developing expertise with metrics and analytics can separate winning organizations from those that get left behind. HR professionals who learn to interpret bits and bytes of employee data will help their organizations succeed well into the future.
    1. What are some reasons that more organizations do not implement HR analytics? How would you make the case for adopting HR analytics?
    2. How can HR professionals develop the needed skills to analyze and interpret metrics? What resources could an HR professional consult to begin building expertise in this area?

  • Discuss the challenges faced by HR management when significant staff cutbacks occur and how they should be addressed.

  • Use of technology, employee retention, and HR development have been at the core of HR becoming more strategic at Xerox. Why have those areas been so key?

  • If your employer asked you to review the decision not to hire an African American applicant for a job, what would you need to consider?

  • Explain why you agree or disagree with affirmative action and how affirmative action may be affected by growing workforce diversity.