Read fellow MBA student Yu Chen’s (’17) related post “Measuring People the Right Way” on the MBA Student Voice blog.
By Britney Sussman
The function of human resources within companies today is experiencing a shift. With talent becoming more of an asset, HR practices must be more data-driven and pragmatic than ever before. For decades, companies have been making strides in improving operations with a focus on costs, quality and productivity. But as many of the traditional industries become automated, and everything else shifts status to “as-a-service,” the employee must be put at the center if companies want to continue to see costs go down and productivity go up. It is a problem of business outcomes driven by people operations.
This is especially true in the tech industry, where the fight for top talent is fierce. With all of the M&A activity happening in tech right now at very high prices, executives have a keen eye on talent in order to achieve the assumed benefits of each deal. It’s possible that one tech company is buying another for its IP or user base; however, the promise of acquiring a more capable workforce is another key driver of many transactions. And if the people are not made a priority, the long-term value of the acquisition diminishes greatly.
Given this potential to impact business outcomes through employees, the demand for MBAs in HR is skyrocketing. But top companies with innovative HR practices don’t necessarily know that Anderson is a place to look for new HR talent.
In February, the UCLA Anderson High Tech Business Association (HTBA) seized the opportunity to internally educate and externally demonstrate Anderson’s excitement for HR by producing the campus’ first-ever human capital case competition. The T-Mobile Technology & People Strategy Case Competition challenged students to quantify the “quality of hire” and analyze in a 15-minute pitch how that metric can contribute to T-Mobile’s overall business strategy. Lizeth Chiprez (’17) said her team took into consideration T-Mobile’s consumer-facing practices when brainstorming their ideas. “One member had used T-Mobile for many years so he had deep knowledge about T-Mobile as a consumer,” she said. “This helped us better tailor our presentation to T-Mobile.”
The “Uncarrier” was the official sponsor of the event, providing $5,000 in prize money to the first, second and third place teams, plus first round interviews to the winning team. HARRT at UCLA was another official sponsor, guaranteeing the winning team the opportunity to present their recommendations at the HARRT Day of Learning on April 7, 2016. HARRT at UCLA, or Human Resources Roundtable, is an organization of senior HR executives from top corporations that is dedicated to the advancement of organizational management through a partnership with prominent academics and thought leaders. It is through this unique collaboration with HARRT at UCLA that Anderson students are able to gain real exposure to the HR function in different industry forms. HARRT has over 50 Fortune 500 company members, including Alcoa, BCBGMaxazria, Boeing, City of Hope, Deloitte, Disney, Fox Entertainment, Hulu, Mattel, Nasty Gal, Sempra Energy and more. In addition to T-Mobile executive judges, HARRT also provided judges from Guthy-Renker and JPL to decide the winning teams.
Over 55 students from both the full-time and Fully Employed MBA programs formed 11 teams to participate in the inaugural human capital case competition. On Sunday, February 21, after six hours of presentations and much deliberating by the judges, a winning team was announced. Chiprez and fellow Class of 2017’s Zoe Cai, Lucia Ehimika, Ahmar Reza and Lucerna Huayanay walked away with first place and the big check worth $2,500 for their “T-Mojo” pitch. “One team member had won a previous competition with an outside-the-box solution, and she insisted we use this approach. I think that was unique about our presentation,” said Chiprez. “We changed our ideas many times, and it helped that we didn’t become tied to one in the beginning. We were all very open to hearing each other. When we were practicing our presentation, we also gave each other direct feedback around presentation style and the content.”
The second-place team from the Class of 2016 included Kelsey Gorman, Jessica Mowry, Chad Kunert, Kristin Zeke, and Kirby Ryan. Most important, participants gained a new, applied view of people operations and how they will impact not only their future roles as managers, but also business strategy more broadly. One first-year student was overheard saying, “I always thought this HR/people stuff was easy, but I guess it can get really complicated. I learned a lot today.”
It’s not easy to shift perceptions, but HR represents a huge opportunity and UCLA Anderson is well positioned to grab it.