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Students Gain Real-World HR Experience Partnering with Local Organizations

By Tracy Nelson

June 17, 2022

red and white tulips in front of a Wisconsin sign

Each spring semester, students in the Strategic Human Resource Management specialization of the MBA program have an opportunity to work with HR leaders in local organizations to address specific human resources needs while learning real-world HR skills. These projects offer a tremendous opportunity for students to navigate “HR on the ground” in their client organization, building their consulting and project management skills as well as cultivating deeper knowledge of HR in practice.   

Tracy Nelson
Tracy Nelson

Following are descriptions of this spring’s projects.

Alexis Parker and Harry Wolfe worked with Mead & Hunt to evaluate current competencies, and create a comprehensive framework for tracking and managing technical/role specific competencies and behavioral/leadership competencies across a set of mission-critical roles.  The competencies will be used for career pathing and employee development. They define clear skills requirements needed for career progression, making it more efficient for the organization to spot skill gaps and address training and development needs.  

PaHoua Lee and James Cox helped develop a health and wellness strategy for NeuGen LLC, an organization in the insurance carriers industry. The issues they focused on were providing strategies for supporting and improving employee financial, mental, and physical well-being, along with identifying desirable and viable employee benefits that would keep NeuGen competitive in the current (and future) economy.

Laura Rincón and Courtney Wartner helped Organic Valley redesign the company’s performance management program to ensure metrics were reflecting the company’s goals.  Their recommendations included segmenting the performance review structure by job role, creating a measurement scale, and incorporating best practices for the inclusion of peer feedback and change management.

Brad Spongberg, Briana Powell, and Samantha Cretens worked on a project for ERDMAN, a Madison-based architecture, design, and engineering firm. Their focus was on expanding and diversifying the talent pool for Erdman by sourcing top engineering and architecture programs/schools in the Midwest, Northwest, and Southwest areas of the United States. Erdman will utilize this information to create new partnerships with universities, and our team now has a deeper understanding of talent souring.

Claire Shea and Melissa Arenas worked with American Financing, a mortgage company that operates in all 50 states. The students were tasked with delivering options for employee engagement activities to connect American Financing’s nationally dispersed workforce. They researched unique, engaging activities and best practices available for online remote teams and categorized virtual activities according to low, medium, and high price points. American Financing will use the recommendations toward retaining their current talent and attracting new talent looking to work remotely yet be part of a connected work community. 

Renita Clayton and Masuma Zulfakar worked with UW Credit Union to review and update key employment policies through the lens of the employee experience, and with attention to incorporating DEI. They also provided recommendations on how to digitize the information by providing a toolkit for creating a Sharepoint site and mock template for the modernized handbook. 

Bethany Nolter and Stephen Colleton worked with WKS, a national restaurant group whose HR department was facing compliance and automation issues due to technology limitations in their HR systems. The focus was on identifying process improvement and automation opportunities, including creating tools to help the team evaluate HRIS systems and modules that integrate with the client’s current systems, with a goal of creating efficiencies and reducing risk to the organization.

Theo Prime and Michelle Cruz partnered with Exact Sciences, a molecular diagnostics company specializing in the detection of early stage cancers, to reimagine their onboarding process.  Exact Sciences is experiencing exponential business growth facilitating the needs for scalable HR service delivery practices and the ability to better engage a blended and distributed workforce. The students looked at current trends and best practices in onboarding including research into innovative approaches from other top companies. They also researched technologies available to support onboarding needs for a blended and distributed workforce.

Ed Gailor and Avi Gomez worked with CUNA (Credit Union National Association) in developing a plan for a structured succession planning process that aligned with the core values of the organization. They researched best practices, and current trends and tools. They created a comprehensive resource list and framework for implementing succession for key critical roles and high potentials, including recommending metrics for measuring success of the succession initiatives.

Kudos to this year’s project teams for an outstanding job serving your client organizations! The HR Capstone applied learning projects provide an opportunity for students to research HR practices and apply their learning, expand their professional networks, gain real experience on the ground solving talent challenges in their client organizations, and provide valuable professional experience to bolster their resumes while serving local organizations in addressing their human resources challenges. 

Interested in submitting a project for the Spring 2023 semester? Contact Strategic HR Management Center Director Tanya Hubanks.

Tracy Nelson, SPHR, CPLP, Adjunct Lecturer at Wisconsin School of Business, has taught the MBA HR Capstone course since 2017.