The Wisconsin School of Business HR Summit was once again a huge success. Our eighth year of hosting alumni and other leaders connected to the MBA’s Strategic Human Resources Management (SHRM) specialization saw us benefitting from four speakers on varying topics such as employee financial wellness and performance management. Two alumni presented on their real-world experience alongside two professors who presented their research findings. Current SHRM students and alumni were in attendance as well as professionals from throughout the university and the community.
The first speaker was Dan Corry of Cisco Systems. Dan is a 2012 SHRM alumnus who spoke with us from his current post in Lisbon, Portugal. Dan’s presentation was about the performance management evolution at Cisco, where they moved through three different systems of evaluation in very short order in an attempt to make the process as efficient and valid as possible. He walked us through the reasons for each change the organization undertook and what prompted each change, while describing the current state of performance management and why it works for their organization. He was also open to answering questions from current students about the pros and cons of working internationally and his prior experience in Brazil.
Our second speaker was instructor Jim Sesil, who teaches Compensation in the second year of the SHRM specialization. He presented his research on Artificial Intelligence and the importance of framing questions properly to reduce bias. He explained how artificial intelligence can assist with solving problems with routine HR processes, and how to assure the best information and procedure informs all the algorithms used. We then broke for a catered lunch and break-out session, giving all parties an opportunity to expand their networks.
Following was the presentation by Professor Jirs Meuris about employee financial wellness. Professor Meuris brought us through his research projects that were well-linked: employees’ financial worries lead to decreased job performance; a person’s financial worries vary with their financial status; and a person does not typically learn much about personal finance unless they have received formal training on the topic. Through one project, Professor Meuris proposed a “compulsory” savings plan for employees. Then, when employees encountered financial burdens, they would find themselves in a more comfortable situation. The proposed “safety net” resulted in a positive impact on employee’s performance.
Our final presentation was an intriguing glimpse into international labor law by Dan Waldman, a SHRM alumnus who is now a Partner at Seyfarth Shaw, LLP. Dan started with a statement that most countries consider labor contracts as a social contracts, which is starkly different from the US’s employment-at-will view. To illustrate this point, Dan walked us through several real-world HR problems he has faced while advising his clients who have offices overseas. In the end, we came to the conclusions that (1) in some countries, specific reasons for firing must be met, and (2) the company must be transparent and share information should there be any lay-off.
This engaged talk concluded a fruitful HR Summit. We met and learned from HR professionals and faculty, discussed emerging issues, and drenched ourselves with HR knowledge and best practices.