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 solve problems and address specific human resources needs while learning real world HR skills. These projects offer a tremendous opportunity for students to experience “HR on the ground” as projects often mirror actual challenges experienced working in organizations such as aggressive timelines, resource limitations, and expanding project scope. The capstone projects this year introduced an unprecedented additional challenge with the sudden appearance of the mid-semester pandemic, shifting all learning and client project work into a virtual format. The students had to navigate additional complexities, but the group persevered and successfully completed their projects, including presenting their final recommendations to their client organizations and peers.
Berenice and Olivia worked with TASC, Total Administrative Services Corporation, the nation’s largest privately held third-party benefits administrator with a mission to improve the health, wealth and well-being of its customers, employees and communities. TASC asked the team to analyze employee and past employee perceptions of TASC as an employer. Their goal was to recommend ways to improve employer brand and identify ways to enhance the employee experience to help TASC meet their goal of achieving a “Best Places to Work” designation. The team reviewed themes in the company’s Glassdoor and Indeed reviews as well as data collected during exit interviews to review perceptions of the company in areas such as culture, physical work environment, salary and benefits, training, manager effectiveness, team dynamics, and trust in leadership. They developed a set of recommendations for responding to employer social media reviews, reviewing salary and benefits packages, increasing opportunities for employee training & development, and enhancing leadership development and feedback. They also provided suggestions on metrics to watch to determine progress on the company’s improvement areas.
Joe, Paul, and Ambika worked with CUES, Credit Union Executives Society, an organization whose mission is to educate and develop credit union CEOs, executives, directors and future leaders. CUES requested help creating resources for credit unions to use for fostering internal development of employees looking to find career paths within their organizations. The team researched career pathing and competency models with a goal of creating a simple reference guide of skills and competencies for various credit union roles. In addition to meeting with professional development leaders at CUES, the team also had the opportunity to meet with HR leaders from various credit unions served by CUES to gather information on needs. They developed a set of strategic level and managerial level competencies and skill categories, then created reference guides and a template to track and score proficiency levels so development needs could be better identified.
Joshua and Kayla partnered with the HR leaders at Unity Point Health-Meriter, a local hospital and healthcare system. Their project focused on identifying best practices in using exit interviews in a healthcare environment with a goal of developing recommendations to improve the existing process. Their research and efforts resulted in a comprehensive recommendation for improving the data collected in exit interviews, how the data could be better categorized, changes to the privacy of the data, and improvements in the timing of exit interviews to potentially retain key talent. They also offered additional recommendations such as the implementation of pulse surveys and stay interviews for employee retention, as well as suggestions for better use of data analytics.
Rebecca and Megan worked with Organic Valley, a leading producer of organic dairy under a unique cooperative business model of independent farmers. A key piece of Organic Valley’s workforce strategy was to develop role-based competencies that would help set direction for their talent management efforts by better identifying skill gaps and ensuring appropriate development opportunities to ready employees for next-level roles. Through their work with the client, they also identified a need for a job analysis process, and helped Organic Valley by recommending a 10-step process for conducting job analysis, providing a template showing role based competencies, KSAO’s and behavior statements. They also recommended a process for getting leadership buy-in as well as developing a communication plan for rollout of the initiative.
Will and An partnered with Extreme Engineering Solutions, a Madison-based leader in the design, manufacture, testing, and support of high-quality, cost-effective, hardware and software solutions for the embedded computing market. They had the opportunity to work with an alumnus of the UW MBA HR program, Brad Zemp, who works in human resources at Extreme Engineering and was the client contact on the project. An and Will were tasked with analyzing the talent acquisition process and employer brand with a goal of making recommendations to enhance the applicant experience and attract talent through developing a stronger employer brand. The project included conducting an analysis of the company’s career site as well as conducting brand analysis and comparison on companies both in and outside the Madison area that may compete for similar talent. Their efforts resulted in numerous suggestions for enhancing the structure of career pages and reflecting a more attractive employer brand to potential applicants.
The HR Capstone Applied Learning Projects provide an opportunity for students to understand and apply effective consulting and project management skills, research HR practices and build HR skills and knowledge, 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, all while helping local organizations address their human resources challenges. Kudos to this year’s project teams for an outstanding job serving your client organizations during very challenging times!
If your organization is interested in supporting the program by submitting a potential HR project for next year’s class, please email Tracy Nelson to express interest at email@example.com by October 15, 2020. Additional details will be provided. The projects will run for approximately 12 weeks from February through April 2021.
Tracy Nelson, MSOD, SPHR, CPLP, teaches the MBA HR Capstone course.