Monday, April 16, 2012

You Be the Judge

(L) Donna Rogers, John Sadilek, Diane Kim,
Tara A. Fournier, Lynn Li and  Jordan Whicker (R)
Yesterday I judged the 2012 North Central Student HR Case Competition. With this experience I feel I have come full circle having been a room monitor, for HR Games in Purdue, Speaker for 2011 State HR games at Roosevelt University, and team advisor for some of my UIS students earlier this year at ISU for the IL State HR Case Competition. This experience has helped me to grow professionally as well as be personally rewarding that I am contributing to the growth and development of the next generation of HR professionals. Based on these experiences, I have some suggestions for undergrad and grad teams, for advisors, for State Conference planners, SHRM, and Volunteers.

For UNDERGRAD's: Review the HR basics which include definitions, employment laws, available reaources for HR research in your text, exams and class notes. Use governmental webpages such as,,, for fact based research and statistics to support your ideas. It seems the questions specific to this group was more similar to Assurance of Learning/PHR type questions. The bottom line is never make generalized recommendations without the backup or proof that you know your recommendation is solid. 

For GRAD's: Follow advice above im addition to reviewing and solving several different case studies. Your job is to know everything the undergrads are required to know as well as how best to apply the knowledge. It seems the questions for this group is more similar to the SPHR. The bottom line here is be sure to answer the graduate level questions in both your presentation and your written report. Point them out and don't assume the judge will be able to find your response. 

For ADVISOR's: Set the team up for success from the beginning.  Strongly suggest, hand pick or talk with students privately so your best writers take on the paper portion of the case, your best Power Point or Prezi developers take on that responsibility and your best speakers take the lead on this. Otherwise you don't know who will end up doing each role and when you find out you may actually cringe because you know that so and so does not have the best skill set for xyz.  It comes down to planning ahead and coaching for optimal performance as a team. 

For STATE Conference Planner's:
There was a rumor going around late last year/early this year that we had to duplicate what national SHRM was doing in terms of Case Studies vs the preciously popular HR Games. I was so disappointed when I heard because we went from 14 teams to a handful this year because students did not find it quite as exciting. While I agree that the regional games should be a closer reflection of what it's like to be in HR, I now (especially after this weekend) find great value in continuing HR Games at the State level as prep. The reason I say this is because almost all of the undergraduate teams did not know the HR basics. A solid foundation is a much better predictor of higher level of success than what I witnessed. The students need the basics. The only downside for planners is that a much greater number of volunteers are needed to run such an event. The result is many more HRPros for students to meet and network with. 

For SHRM: Regardless of the NeySayers you must continue this wonderful opportunity for students which is ultimately a feeder into this profession. I understand the bumps that have occurred over the past 12 months but it seems the road to success is ahead as long as the focus does not change. I do agree that the direction your heading is a good one with both student success and the profession in mind. As was stated this weekend there should eventually be a separate competition for the grads and undergrads. Regardless of how different and tougher the questions are for grads (and they are) the perception is still out there that it's unfair for undergrads. Sure those with the perceptions may not be considering all the facts but the problem is there will always be folks out there without all the facts. It is better to seperate them and eliminate the potential for misunderstanding in the first place. 2) improve communications before the event and/or state events.  This is both a personal experience as well as from those I have heard from which include advisors, participants, and volunteers. And 3) increase support of the state initiatives in this area regardless of the type of event they try to facilitate. The state events are a great way to get students excited and act as a feeder into the region case competition. 

For VOLUNTEER's: If you have not volunteered for a state or regional student event in the past - you should. It is a wonderful experience and I do believe there are some roles you can earn HRCI credit for. I challenge you to volunteer at the next event in your state or region and you be the judge of wether or not you walk away a better person for having shared with the next generation of HRPros. 

Pictured at the top pf the post, are the winners of this years north central regional competition. Grad students from my alma mater UIUC. 

By Donna Rogers, SPHR, ISC SHRM State Director


  1. Some good points here, and I'm still debating writing my own blogpost on the flaws of the case competition. That being are just a few comments:

    1. Advisors and State College Relations Volunteers did learn some disconcerting news at their session. Not only will SHRM no longer provide questions for a state competition (they'll provide a template), but they will not provide a case for competition either (just the template). So, if you are going to run a state competition next year, be prepared to find a person (or persons) who will take on that mantle of responsibility. Nor sure how this will

    2. The naysayers you speak of are not complaining about having the case competition, but in its administration. This is not, per se, the 2nd year of the case competition. It was piloted for several years in the Pacific Northwest, and it is troubling that even after all this time that SHRM is still working the kinks out.

    3. I still argue that having grads v. undergrads is THE major fly in the soup. We emphasize the importance of structured interviewing when comparing candidates. We don't give a work sample test to candidates for the same job and ask different questions to one group and a "harder" set of questions to another. How SHRM can defend it in this instance is stunning.

    Further, just because only 1 out of 5 graduate teams won the region last year does not necessarily mean the differential works; rather, a stronger case could be made that it reflects poorly on those graduate schools who competed and didn't win. Let me know which schools those are so I don't send my undergraduate schools there after graduation.

    This is the 2nd year that a graduate school has won the North Central Region. I'm sure that both graduate schools who competed were well deserving of being in the finals. However, by your own admittance, if the undergraduate teams were not strong, pitting them against graduate teams is even more egregious and wrong.

    As I watched the final rounds of the competition, I heard two students in front of me (I won't mention the school) say, "how are we supposed to compete with that?" That was extremely disheartening to hear from an event that is supposed to be enriching students (and something I never heard in 10 years of the HR Games). Does SHRM really want students walking away with a negative perception as they try to build their young professional network?

  2. Donna, good post but to give credit where credit is due, the NC Regional Student Conference and Games was held at Lewis University in Romeoville, IL.

  3. Thanks Matt and John for your input!