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MGT 302: Human Resource Management Case Study

Case Study 1

Old Fashioned Baggage

Whether you can be overlooked for a job because you are not young and beautiful is at the heart of a case being heard by the Queensland Anti Discrimination Tribunal. Eight women claimed Virgin Blue had unlawfully discriminated against them on the grounds of their age in 2002. They sought damages for lost earnings. The women, who were all aged over 35 and had worked with another airline as flight attendants, were eliminated during the employee selection process. Virgin Blue claimed they had been rejected after being assessed for teamwork and communication skills, assertiveness and ‘Virgin flair.’ The women’s counsel claimed that in the two years after the company’s inception in 2000, only two women over 35 had been employed. The company denied the women’s rejection had anything to do with age but was because the women did not display the competencies required for employment with them. But while the case remains with the Ant-Discrimination Tribunal, academics warn this will not be the last of its kind unless a huge shift in employer and cultural attitudes occurs – and occurs quickly. Australia’s Population is aging: in 40 years, more than one in four Australians will be aged over 65. Director at the University of Queensland’s Australasian Centre on Ageing Professor Helen Bartlett says society still suffers from an inbuilt prejudice against aging. ‘No matter how much it is denied, society still harbor’s this notion that aging is something to be fought, that to become older is to become decrepit and unattractive,’ Bartlett says. ‘Older people are either presented in the media as falling apart or acting young – abseiling or competing in extreme sport – and neither is particularly accurate or particularly healthy. I am a bit optimistic, though, because with the baby boomer generation has come to a small shift in attitude. It seems they are a little more conscious of healthy aging than previous generations, so there is hope’. Bartlett says industries that favour younger people may be forced to change. ‘It’s very simple, really,’ she says. ‘Industries like these that have shown a preference for young staff is going to find it harder to fill positions. They will simply have to employ older women because soon there will not be enough younger applicants’. Director of the University of Queensland’s Centre for Women, Gender, Culture and Social Change Associate Professor Carole Ferrier says the prevalence of judgment of a woman’s physical appearance was most obvious in professions with a public face. “The bigger issue is how much particular occupations are sexualized,’ Ferrier says. ‘What needs to be considered is how relevant gender is and what part conventional notions of physical attractiveness plays in employment?’ Bartlett says in cases such as the action against Virgin, issues of sexism overly those of ageism. Ferrier points out that some airlines employ older women as flight attendants, just as some bars employ old bar staff. ‘But for a large part, old-fashioned thinking still prevails,’ she said ‘Men are still thought of as the traditional breadwinner, the manager, and the pilot. Women are still the support, the decoration in the traditional model. ‘And no matter how much is denied, women’s work still features a component of sexualization. Women in the workforce are still subjected to sexual violence as part of a long chain of differential treatment’. ‘No business is going to put in writing that they want, say slim and attractive women on their staff, but in practice, this is often what they are seeking. In practice, it is hard to argue that women aged 35-40 couldn’t do the same job as or better than a younger woman’. Regardless of the outcomes of the women’s action against Virgin Blue, there seems little doubt ageism is on the rise.

MGT 302 Human Resource Management Case Study

McDonald, who recently completed a study for the Queensland Working Women’s Services on discrimination, found that over three years, the service received 337 reports of age-based discrimination. Of these, 66 percent were reported by women older than 45, and a third were younger. Bartlett says there is a danger in any workplace or social group limiting itself to one demographic. ‘One of the biggest things that feed this prejudice against aging is separating out the groups. This polarises people of different ages and it is not a good way to promote harmony’, she says. ‘In an ideal world, we should aim for a society and a social landscape that embraces all ages.’

Questions

  1. What might have been some of the ultimately unsuccessful arguments of Virgin Blue in their defense of the discrimination complaint? (10 Marks)
  2. Why might it be important for an organization such as Virgin Blue to be mindful of equal employment opportunity issues in their recruitment and selection? (5 Marks)
  3. How does an aging population affect employers? Employees? Explain using examples.            (5 Marks)
  4. ‘Equal employment opportunity is just legalized discrimination.’ Critically discuss this statement. (5 Marks)

(Total = 25 Marks)

 

Case Study 2

A Letter

 “Dear ….,

I am the Marketing Manager of a regional bank. The bank is currently undergoing a process of restructuring, and personnel consultants have been hired to do a ‘Stocktake’ of the tasks staff carry out on a regular basis, as well as the skills and knowledge they possess. This ‘stocktake’ is conducted in the form of a job analysis involving an interview plus a half day of observation of every employee in the organization. By now, I have started to question the point of the exercise. Is such a bureaucratic approach to jobs still appropriate? To what extent can an outsider understand the complexities of a job by observing the job holder for half a day?

My interview was conducted last week. I am the only person in charge of marketing. From writing special occasion cards to customers to decorating the branch offices for the different seasons, preparing press releases, print and radio advertisements, liaising with local businesses and public administrators, organizing the bank’s representation at local and regional events, and being in charge of all-members assemblies of up to 400 people. It is all one job. No day is the same; there are constantly new challenges and complex situations that need unique solutions. My budget is one-quarter of that of the market leader, and I recently attended a seminar on ‘Guerrilla marketing’ that just about sums up the craziness of my job. And, technically, I am only meant to work 30 hours a week because at this stage of my life I want to spend more time with my husband, adult children, and ageing parents. In reality, I work almost full-time hours, plus weekends and evenings.

On top of this, my role within the organization is ambiguous. I have no permanent staff working for me and for all the various marketing events and campaigns that are run during the year I need to recruit ‘volunteers’ from the general pool of staff. These volunteers do not get paid for their extra efforts. Even worse, I’ve worked with the managing director for almost 35 years and have become one of his closest allies. This often puts me in very tricky situations. While I am not officially part of the senior management team, I am often consulted for strategic decisions. All this does not help with popularity among colleagues.

When I finished my ‘stock take’ list, the young consultant looked at me in disbelief and said: ‘I can’t believe you are putting up with all this. Your job is a nightmare from an HR perspective! You are working about three jobs in one’ I could only smile at her and think: yes and this situation has only gotten worse over the last couple of years. I’m not convinced that standardized job description can even begin to capture people’s everyday work experiences and form the basis for the creation of a more safe and effective work environment. But we shall see.

By a marketing manager

Questions

  1. What do you understand by the term ‘Stocktaking’ in this letter? (5 Marks)
  2. What are the HR issues associated with the writer? (5 Marks)
  3. What are the criticisms that the writer put forward about the Job Description and Job Analysis? (5 Marks)
  4. What may have contributed not to assign permanent staff to work under the writer? (5 Marks)
  5. If you were the ‘young consultant,’ what information would you wish to see together with the ‘stocktake’? (5 Marks)

(Total = 25 Marks)

 

Case Study 3

Sacked with no notice after 26 years

A dozen retrenched port workers have told of their dismay at being given 15 minutes to leave their work site after up to 26 years of service. Twelve men, who have worked for between 17 and 26 years at Vopak Terminals Sydney in Port Botney, were told by management yesterday that their services were no longer required for operational reasons. The men say casual staffs will replace them. They say they were given 15 minutes to clean out their lockers before they were marched off the site without being able to have showers first. ‘Everyone was pretty stunned.’ It just came out of the blue’, said Warren Copper, an operator with 17 years experience at the chemical and petroleum products terminal. Mr. Copper, 49, who has a mortgage and two young children, said he felt ‘sick in the guts.’ He and the other 11 retrenched workers had sought through the Australian Industrial Relations Commission to begin a bargaining period to arrange a collective union agreement. They say Vopak Terminals Sydney wanted them to sign Australian Workplace Agreements and challenged their application to begin a bargaining period. Last Friday, the ruled that a ballot is held about the matter next Monday. But yesterday the company handed the workers letters notifying them that their services were no longer required due to operational reasons. Vopak Terminals Sydney managing director Ron Dickson said the workers had been made redundant because of a company restructure brought about by a change in customer base and a drop in profit. He said the company had been negotiating with workers on a collective agreement for more than a year until talks broke down. ‘They have not been sacked because they refused to sign individual agreements,’ he said today. Mr. Dickson said new workers would not be casual. He said that staffs would now be sought through a labour-hire company and the redundant workers could apply for positions through that firm. ‘The type of business we are in is cyclical.’ He said. ‘We need the flexibility to work on that basis. Ultimately it will be a self-directed workforce based on activity levels’. Mr. Dickson said safety at the Port Botany site was paramount and new staff would go through training programs when they started work and throughout their time at the company. ‘Safety is very critical at the site’ he said.  ‘It’s something we focus on continuously, and everyone is geared to achieving a high level of safety.’ He said workers had all been given redundancies worth between $96000 and $136,000. He said had workers agreed to sign Australian Workplace Agreements, only three or four staff would have needed to be retrenched. National Union of Workers NSW Branch spokesman Mark Brown said Vopak had opposed a collective agreement from the start. ‘They knew that they would not get their way if it went to a ballot so they have taken advantage of the new IR laws and sacked the union members.’ This is a simple cost-cutting exercise. This is a multinational that axed the jobs of highly skilled workers. All in the name of short-term profits. John Davis, 56, who has been with the company for 17 years, said he was annoyed by the way he had been told to leave the work site and was trying to come to terms with looking for a new job to pay his rent of $325 a week. ‘I would have to go back to school to learn everything I have missed in the last 17 years’ said Mr. Davis, a former licensed electrical mechanic. ‘I don’t think my job prospects are good as I would like them to be,’ Asked how he felt about yesterday’s announcement, Paul Blake, 60, who had worked as a leading hand on the site for the past 26 years, said: How would you feel?’. I was planning to finish off soon but not this way. ‘It’s different if you finish on your own terms.’

Questions

  1. What are some of the key controversial Human Resource issues highlighted in the case study? (5 Marks)
  2. Do you support the actions taken by the organization Vopak Terminals Sydney against its employees? If you were the Manager of Vopak Terminals what would you have done to deal with this situation? (10 Marks)
  3. Is there any case for the 12 employees? What could they possibly do? Explain in detail. (5 Marks)
  4. The Employment Relations Act (ERA) of 2007 states that employees can be made redundant due to three major reasons even if they are not at fault. Explain these three reasons for using examples. Why do employers choose to take up this step? (5 Marks)

(Total = 25 Marks)

 

Case Study 4

China – Preferential policies

Entry of China into the World Trade Organization (WTO) in December 2001 indirectly affected the HR climate in the country. Changes include the competition for the limited talents in the China labour market. As the competition further intensifies between the local Chinese firms and foreign multinationals, many foreign multinationals pursuing the option of recruiting from different geographical locations in the region to meet their labor needs.  However, this strategy significantly increases the recruitment cost for these companies. Companies that employ expatriates also need to acknowledge the challenges in cultural differences faced by their foreign recruits, as the local Chinese employees may lack the ability to communicate in English and will not be familiar with Western practices.

To manage this issue, local Chinese companies have started to coax professionals who had left China for education or career development to return to fill the labour void for skilled employees. These returning professionals are ideal candidates for employment as they have native fluency in many areas as well as possess conversational abilities in English. Also, most of them have experience in Western countries and understand Western business practices.

To further encourage this initiative, the Chinese government has implemented “Preferential Policies” in order to make returning to China attractive to this group. These policies include financial funding, the establishment of industrial or high-tech parks throughout China and various other incentives to convince these highly skilled and educated professionals to return and contribute to the country. Many returnees from top universities in the USA contribute to Chinese firms to excel out of this incentive.

However, as local talents becoming more and more competent through better education systems and job opportunities in multinational companies, the advantage of returnees continue to diminish. Local candidates have acquired language skills through learning at work and on-the-job training in multinational companies, which enable them to gain a much higher fluency. Returnees need to display more or differentiated skills that are in short supply in order to justify higher compensation. Besides the higher compensation package, the employers face the challenge with managing the returnee’s possible attitude of superiority resulting from their experience abroad. Such an attitude not only creates resentment but also tension at the workplace, which has a detrimental effect on the overall company culture.

Questions

  1. What do you understand from the case study about the supply and demand of HR in the Chinese labour market? (5 Marks)
  2. What can be the incentives offered to returnees? (5 Marks)
  3. What could have been the reason(s) for many professionals from universities in the USA to return? (10 Marks)
  4. What kind of skills of returnees will be outdated after some time? What kind of skills of returnees will remain valuable and cannot be copied? (5 Marks)

(Total = 25 Marks)

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