Thursday, March 15, 2012

Human Resource Management Case Studies

Sources:

Framework for Human Resource Management (3rd Edition) by Gary Dessler (Author)
Human Resource Management (9th Edition) by Gary Dessler (Author)
Human Resource Management: A Strategic Approach by William P. Anthony
The Complete Idiot's Guide(r) to Human Resource Management by Arthur R., Ph.D. Pell, Ph.D., Arthur R. Pell
Applications in Human Resource Management: Cases, Exercises and Skill Builders by Stella M. Nkomo


CASE STUDY 1
Misplaced Affections: Discharge for Sexual Harassment

Peter Lewiston was terminated on July 15, 1996, by the governing board of the Pine Circle Unified School District (PCUSD) for violation of the district's sexual
harassment policy. Prior to Lewiston's termination, he was a senior maintenance employee with an above-average work record who had worked for the PCUSD for
eleven years. He had been a widower since 1989 and was described by his co-workers as a friendly, outgoing, but lonely individual. Beverly Gilbury was a fifth-
grade teacher working in the district's Advanced Learning Program. She was 28 years old, married, and had worked for PCUSD for six years. At the time of the
incidents, Lewiston and Gilbury both worked at the Simpson Elementary School where their relationship was described as "cooperative." The following sequence of
events was reported separately by Lewiston and Gilbury during the district's investigation of this sexual harassment case.

Gilbury reported that her relationship with Lewiston began to change during the last month of the 1995-1996 school year. She believed that Lewiston was paying her
more attention and that his behavior was "out of the ordinary" and "sometimes weird."He began spending more time in her classroom talking with the children and
with her. At the time, she didn't say anything to Lewiston because "I didn't want to hurt his feelings since he is a nice, lonely, older man." However, on May 25, when
Lewiston told Gilbury that he was "very fond" of her and that she had "very beautiful eyes," she replied, "Remember, Peter, we're just friends." For the
remainder of the school year there was little contact between them; however, when they did see each other, Lewiston seemed "overly friendly" to her.
June 7, 1996. On the first day of summer school, Gilbury returned to school to find a dozen roses and a card from Lewiston. The card read, "Please forgive me for
thinking you could like me. I played the big fool. Yours always, P.L." Later in the day Lewiston asked Gilbury to lunch. She replied, "It's been a long time since
anyone sent me roses, but I can't go to lunch. We need to remain just friends."Gilbury told another teacher that she was uncomfortable about receiving the roses
and card and that Lewiston wouldn't leave her alone. She expressed concern that Lewiston might get "more romantic" with her.

June 8, 1996. Gilbury arrived at school to find another card from Lewiston. Inside was a handwritten note that read, "I hope you can someday return my affections for
you. I need you so much." Later in the day Lewiston again asked her to lunch and she declined saying, "I'm a happily married woman." At the close of the school day,
when Gilbury went to her car, Lewiston suddenly appeared. He asked to explain himself but Gilbury became agitated and shouted, "I have to leave right now."
Lewiston reached inside the car, supposedly to pat her shoulder, but touched her head instead. She believed he meant to stroke her hair. He stated that he was only
trying to calm her down. She drove away, very upset. 

June 9, 1996. Gilbury received another card and a lengthy letter from Lewiston, stating that he was wrong in trying to develop a relationship with her and he hoped
they could still remain friends. He wished her all happiness with her family and job. June 11, 1996. Gilbury obtained from the Western Justice Court an injunction
prohibiting sexual harassment by Lewiston. Shortly thereafter Lewiston appealed the injunction. A notice was mailed to Gilbury giving the dates of the appeal
hearing. The notice stated in part, "If you fail to appear, the injunction may be vacated and the petition dismissed." Gilbury failed to appear at the hearing and the
injunction was set aside. Additionally, on June 11 she had filed with the District's EEOC officer a sexual harassment complaint against Lewiston. After the
investigation, the district concluded that Lewiston's actions created an intimidating, hostile, and offensive employment environment for Gilbury. The investigative
report recommended dismissal based upon the grievous conduct of Lewiston and the initial injunction granted by the Justice Court. *This case is adapted from an actual
experience. The background information is factual. All names are fictitious.


Questions:
1. Evaluate the conduct of Peter Lewiston against the EEOC's definition of sexual harassment.
2. Should the intent or motive behind Lewiston's conduct be considered when deciding sexual harassment activities? Explain
3. If you were the district's EEOC officer, what would you conclude? What disciplinary action, if any, would you take?   


CASE STUDY 2
Microsoft: Hiring the Super Smart

At Microsoft, the preeminent software developer based in Redmond, Washington, human resources are truly the company's most important asset. Working on the
cutting edge of technology in a fast-paced industry, top managers at Microsoft are quick to acknowledge that their success rests primarily on the intellectual talents of
their employees. Essentially, Microsoft depends on employees who are learners rather than knowers. Microsoft wants people who understand current technology,
who ask questions, and who possess the potential to continue to learn about tech-nological changes. Microsoft wants its people to be able to think flexibly so they
can adapt to the changing nature of the industry. As a result, the software company makes significant effort to ensure that they have the right people in their organi-
zation. The primary mechanisms they use to accomplish this are innovative recruitment and selection techniques.

Like most organizations, Microsoft relies upon a variety of tools to reach potential applicants. The software company places advertisements in newspapers, accepts
applications on their Microsoft World Wide Web page, and recruits at college job fairs. However, to complement these basic practices, Microsoft has developed a
reputation for relying upon hiring techniques that mirror the innovative and creative nature that drives the company's success.
All applicants, regardless of recruitment source, go through a rigorous recruiting process. This is a time-consuming task considering that Microsoft receives roughly
12,000 resumes a month. Each resume is logged into a computer database, which recruiters sort through, using keyword searches that indicate skills and abilities
valuable to Microsoft.

In addition to this database, there is significant employee involvement in the recruitment process. To help match prospective employees with Microsoft,
recruiters are involved in business meetings and solicit feedback from current employees about the needs of jobs throughout the organization. As a result, the
recruiters are familiar with the needs of each position. Because Microsoft's goal is to have the smartest employees possible, regardless of their previous experiences,
background, and education, the top managers also get involved in recruiting. Even Bill Gates, the highly visible chief executive officer, has been known to
occasionally call potential employees to let them know that Microsoft is interested in bringing them on board.

Microsoft's selection techniques are equally creative. The company does not place a lot of emphasis on traditional selection tests, and recruiters do not usually conduct
reference checks or drug tests. Instead, after sorting through resumes and identifying potential employees, recruiters schedule candidates for intensive interview sessions.
Rather than using the interview to verify information or seek answers to basic questions, the interviewers at Microsoft are primarily concerned with understanding
how potential employees think and learn. For instance, an interviewer may ask an applicant how much water flows through the Mississippi on a daily basis, or why
manhole covers are round. The interviewers are not looking for correct answers but are trying to understand an applicant's ability to solve problems by examining how
the applicant thinks and what information the applicant requests.

Do these recruiting and selection practices work for Microsoft? It appears so. The individuals who are selected seem to be a good fit for this company. Indeed, the
turnover rate for employees is roughly 7 percent a year, a rate far below the industry average. Microsoft is always looking for potential employees who will continually
advance the organization. By pushing employees and recruiters to challenge interviewees to assess their true capabilities and potential, Microsoft continually
recruits the best talent it can get.

Questions:
1. What are the costs and benefits associated with using such innovative hiring
techniques?
2. How successfully would these practices transfer to other firms in the same
industry? How successfully would these practices transfer to firms in other
industries?
3. What type of training, career development, performance appraisal, and
compensation initiatives should be used to complement Microsoft’s unique hiring
techniques?


The two case studies taken are Misplaced Affections: Discharge for Sexual Harassment, and Microsoft: Hiring the Super Smart. In both cases, human resource management and the capability of making decisions play a vital role.

Human Resource Management is based on ideas and techniques developed to enhance worker motivation, productivity and performance. The HRM model emphasizes the need to search for new ways of working, the central role of managers in promoting change, the treatment of workers as individuals rather than part of a collective workforce, and the encouragement of workers to consider management as 'partners' rather than as opponents  'us and us', rather than 'us and them.'

In the 21st century managing people is one of the most critical aspects of organizational management. No matter whether an organization is a non-profit, start-up enterprise, or mature business employees are crucial to achieving objectives, delivering results and being successful. The activity once known as personnel and now more commonly described as human resource management (HRM) is seen as a fundamental aspect of successful management. HRM focuses on the theory and practice of managing human resources. These are both to be implemented for the case studies mentioned earlier.

Part of the confusion comes from the indistinct boundaries between  HRM and a plethora of other fashionable management programs. Often HRM is used as a label for a collection of different people management techniques, as 'symbiotic buzz-words'. A specific people management initiative may be regarded as HRM or, alternatively, bundled up with total quality management, customer care, business process re-engineering and so on.

We can justifiably ask if the uptake of HRM has been driven by practitioners, people involved in practical people management, and then attracted wider attention, or if it is the creation of academics and consultants, with some (and only some) practitioners following on. That the practitioners involved in the introduction of HRM are often line or general managers rather than personnel managers is what is apparent.

One perspective sees HRM as a reflection of Thatcherite and Reaganite policies which were translated into a wave of managerialism, first in industry and then in the public sector. Managerialism's new legitimacy is most clearly seen in the public sector where government has imposed 'market conditions' and new management structures. Ironically business concepts such as HRM have been adopted most widely in organizations which are not true 'businesses' at all.

The strategic nature of HRM, conventionally owned and driven from the top, has been of great interest to senior managers. It is compatible with the power needs of top managers who want the reins in their own hands. HRM is part of the fashionable 'ideas industry' which fuels modern management in effect.

Market forces have given academics an added interest in HRM. HRM has become an academic cottage industry, churning out degree courses, collected papers, journals, texts and professorial chairs.

Personnel practitioners have long held ambiguous views on the subject of HRM (...). Generally, the human resources label has been presented as a move from a personnel (low-status) to a central (high-status) function.

What is clear is that the central tenet of 'soft' HRM, the belief that employees are valuable assets and not just costs, is rarely translated into action. The practices associated with HRM are often introduced for reasons of expediency rather than any serious belief in its principles. Indeed it is arguable that the practice of HRM is rife with hypocrisy and rhetoric.

There are a few hopeful signs of disillusion with simplistic approaches - a call for pragmatism which recognizes the complexities involved in managing people. But 'pragmatic management' implies experience, expertise and common sense. It sounds boring. It is not likely to satisfy the ambitious. Sooner or later, HRM will find itself replaced by a new flavour of the month.

Will HRM survive as a distinct organisational discipline? The trend is towards integrated and diversified organisations without rigid functional hierarchies. Old-fashioned functions, such as the human resource or personnel departments in many organisations, are likely to be re-engineered out of existence in the same way as production and distribution. Most of the HR function consists of 'administrivia' that can be outsourced to specialist providers or delegated to line managers.

For HRM practitioners to have a distinct organisational role, they need to look at their own effectiveness - especially as it is perceived by other people in the organisation. This may provoke something of a transformation. A 21st century human resource specialist must understand the connections between HRM and all the other processes in a business. It is not enough to be an expert on the technicalities of selection or performance assessment. HRM as a discipline must develop ways of measuring its own worth and achieving added-value for the organisation through benchmarking and a positive commitment to the use of information technology.

The employment relationship is a problematic one. Regarded by neo-classical economists as an exchange of labour for pay, it is also a power relationship in which the employer has the formal authority to direct effort towards specific goals, whereas the employee can - informally - frustrate the achievement of those objectives (if they so choose). 'Industrial relations' has been associated with conflict between trade unions and employers and conveys a picture of acrimonious strikes and lock-outs in the past.

A philosophy of people management based on the belief that human resources are uniquely important to sustained business success. An organization gains competitive advantage by using its people effectively, drawing on their expertise and ingenuity to meet clearly defined objective. HRM is aimed at recruiting capable, flexible and committed people, managing and rewarding their performance and developing key competencies. 

Nevertheless, the concept of HRM is not straightforward. There is a considerable debate about its distinctiveness and definition, while evidence for the extent of its adoption remains contradictory. Some commentators regard HRM as a major advance; others dismiss it as a passing fad.

HRM owes a great deal to older models of people management but its orientation is consistent with other modern management techniques. Often HRM is associated or even confused with initiatives such as total quality management (TQM), culture change and business process re-engineering. Each has its own rationale but there are underlying themes in common with HRM. They are all products of a late twentieth-century re-evaluation of management thinking. They reflect criticisms of western business practices, the impact of Japanese competition and the emergence of dynamic new industrial economies such as Singapore and Korea.

The conduct of Peter Lewiston against the EEOC's definition of sexual harassment was out of place, and not according to the company’s procedural requirements. The intent or motive behind Lewiston's conduct is not as important as the conduct itself, and this should be considered when deciding sexual harassment activities. If I were the district's EEOC officer, I would conclude according to the charges pressed and the disciplinary action would only be taken if necessary, because it could be bad publicity for the company.

In the Microsoft case study, the costs and benefits associated with using such innovative hiring techniques are high but can be overcome if they improve the performance to such a degree that investors and customers are interested and benefited and the company is benefited in publicity and investments.The success with which these practices would transfer to other firms in the same industry depends strongly on the industry they are being transferred to. The type of training, career development, performance appraisal, and  compensation initiatives that should be used to complement Microsoft’s unique hiring techniques, are strict surveillance of the employees and thorough briefing before hiring and each assignment.