Academic journal article Journal of the International Academy for Case Studies

Time for a Change? A Human Resource Education Program in Flux

Academic journal article Journal of the International Academy for Case Studies

Time for a Change? A Human Resource Education Program in Flux

Article excerpt


The focus of this case is a university department head's dilemma as he decides whether or not to invest time and other resources to change an academic program that has a solid performance history but has seen has a recent decline in enrollment. Secondary issues presented in this case include leadership techniques, team dynamics, resource allocation, and organizational politics. Although this case is set in a university environment, the types of challenges portrayed in this case are faced by managers in all types of settings. This case has a difficulty level of three and above (appropriate for juniors, seniors, and graduate level). This case does not require the use of statistical analysis so it is accessible to students at all levels. This case is designed to be taught in two or three class hours in a management, education, or curriculum development course and is expected to require one to two hours of outside preparation for students.


The department head in this case is faced with the decision of whether or not to revise an academic program that has had a solid history but recently seen a decline in enrollment. He is challenged by limited resources, demands on the program curriculum from an outside professional group, and a faculty that has many outside interests and demands on their time.


Chris Williams gazed out the window in his office. As the head of the Management Department at Warren State University (WSU) he had a problem that needed to be solved very soon. The future of the Human Resource Management (HRM) program was hanging in the balance and he was unsure which direction the program and the department should go. The HR program had always been an important part of the Management Department. However, declining enrollments, professional society guidelines for curriculum that did not align with the current course plan, and stretched faculty resources were dominating his thoughts. He had been an academic for a very long time, a department head for over 10 years and had never faced a dilemma quite like this. "What should I do?" he asked himself. His thoughts drifted back to the beginning of the HR program at WSU and the past and current states of the HRM profession, hoping they could give him guidance for the future.


Human resource management (HRM) has been defined as "the policies, practices and systems that influence an employee's behavior, attitudes and performance (Noe, Hollenbeck, Gerhardt, & Wright, 2011). Modern day HRM originated a few years before World War 1 under the name "personnel management" and was known as the "employer's solution" to labor problems. This early perspective used scientific principles to manage people, recognized the human factor in labor, and identified the primary cause of labor problems to be largely management-initiated (Kaufman, 1999).

The field was stagnant for many years but began to rise in stature during the 1970s and 1980s. Several trends influenced this growth. First, the long-term decline of the unionized sector of the economy meant that organizations needed to use methods other than union contracts to manage their workforces. Second, changes in how people worked occurred as technological advances and globalization created an information economy and changed how organizations maintained a competitive advantage. Third, the growth of employment law in the United States (Civil Rights Act of 1964, Employee Retirement and Income Security Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act) required that those entrusted with an organization's human capital knew how to maintain compliance and keep the organization from being sued by disgruntled individuals. Finally, there was a shift in thinking in that organizations now viewed employees as organizational assets. This different management philosophy gave rise to high performance work systems and total quality management and called for using people to develop a strategic advantage. …

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