Human Resources: Leading Talent Development

Note: Written memo should be about 5 double spaced pages, 12 pt type, 1 inch margins.

Preparing for Case Discussion or Written Memo — General Guidelines

  1. Skim the entire case once, to get a sense of the gestalt.
  1. Read the case slowly, taking time to determine:
  2. The main story line (What is this case about?)
  3. The main players or stakeholders (Consider both their names and their organizational positions and titles; make a list.)
  4. The main organizations and units involved (List them by name and function.)
  5. The main events and their chronology (Establish a timeline with dates if possible.)
  6. Critical dilemmas, problems or issues
  1. Consider the assigned readings and ask:
  2. Do they help you better interpret the facts of the case?
  3. How can they help you frame your understanding of the dilemmas or issues?
  4. How can they help you frame your understanding of the causes of the dilemmas?
  5. Do they suggest potential solutions?
  1. Return to the case and identify:
  2. Immediate and more distant causes of the dilemmas or issues
  3. Secondary or more distant causes
  4. Potential solutions

Draw on both readings for this week. 

  • “The New Volunteer Workforce” gives a great overview of how volunteer programs should be conceptualized and implemented (see especially the graphic on page 37.)  Consider using the framework to structure your memo, though if you do so, don’t cover all eight steps: that’s too many and not all are equally relevant.
  • “From the Top Down” fleshes out the article by giving a host of detailed recommendations that could provide useful starting points for your own. 

Note also that previous readings and topics from the course could be useful here. 

  • Recruitment: what have we learned about recruiting employees that might be relevant to the process of recruiting volunteers? 
  • Job design: There are a number of different concepts from job design that might be applicable to thinking about how to design a volunteer’s “job” as well as the job of those staff who recruit or oversee volunteers.
  • Career development: How can volunteer “careers” be developed and enhanced? How about the careers of staff working with volunteers?
  • Performance appraisal: How might some kind of performance evaluation be used, either with volunteers or with employees working with volunteers?
  • Individual and/or team learning: How could the volunteer program take a learning approach to its work?  

Specific Questions for either class discussion or the written memo:

Assume that Generations Incorporated has decided to expand the Leaps in Literacy program in its current locations as well as bring it to new cities and schools. Then, drawing on the readings, think about these questions:

  1. What was Generations Incorporated doing right (in recruitment, training, planning, etc)? What was it missing or doing wrong?
  2. If it is going to expand – either in its current locations or new locations — what key issues would it need to address?
  3. What solutions would you suggest?

Written Memos: Criteria for Grading:

  • Succinct summary of the case, with a focus on one or more key problems, issues or dilemmas (as well as, if relevant, things that the organization appears to be doing right or elements that are working.)  Be careful to include the background information necessary to make your argument (and only that information – don’t include a lot of detail if it isn’t relevant to your particular point.)
  • Thoughtful consideration of immediate and, if relevant, more distant causes of these problems.
  • Specific solutions that are clearly linked to the problems and causes of the problems.  Make very explicit the connections you make between problems and solutions.  Why will this specific solution solve this particular problem, given the cause of that problem?  The connections may well not be as obvious to me as they are to you.
  • Clear connection to the facts given in the case: name the data you are using from the case, what assumptions you make based on that data, and, therefore, what solutions you recommend.  Often, cases won’t have all the data you need, and you will have to make some assumptions in order to proceed.  That’s fine, but be very clear when you are going beyond the facts of the case.
  • Clear linkage to the readings.  This linkage could be made in the discussion of problems, causes or solutions (or preferably all three).  If the reading (for this class or an earlier one) provides a theoretical framework – a linked set of concepts that provide a way of analyzing a given situation – then consider using that framework as a way to structure or organize your analysis.  In that case, the framework could guide your discussion of problems, causes and solutions, which is a nice way to create a more coherent argument.  However, make sure that you adapt or tailor the framework to fit the details of the case.  (If you do not do this adaptation, then I can’t see whether you really understand the frameworks or whether you could use them in the future to diagnose and solve organizational problems, which is one of the points of the paper.)
  • Specificity is key.  Many students will, for example, call for better communication.  What kind of communication?  From whom? To whom? With what specific content?  When?  Exactly how will this solve the problem?   Or, you may want to suggest meetings as a solution.  Again, what kinds of meetings, with whom, with what kind of agenda, how should these meetings build on each other, etc.  Your suggestions should be actionable, which means that they are something that the decision-maker has control over and that someone could carry them out, with no further information.  Consider them equivalent to a recipe.
  • Also, with any complex problem, most solutions will have downsides.  This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t suggest them, but consider them in the memo.  How could this solution potentially backfire?  What should managers consider in implementing the solution?  How could you mitigate the problematic side effects?

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