7011EHR –HRM & ER Strategy Assessment 3: Case Study Analysis

Task Description:

  • This assessment features ‘two case studies’ and each case study has ‘three questions’ (six questions in total).
  • The answer to each question should be ‘minimum 250 words and maximum 300 words’, excluding references).
  • For each question, you MUST use at least 1 contemporary refereed journal article (published post 2000) to support your analysis.

Case Study 1: University of the Future

ABC university is a forty-year-old public university in Australia. By Australian standards, it is a medium-size university with 4,000 academic staff offering 200 degrees to 50,000 students, across its five campuses spread around a major Australian city. It is ranked in the top 3% of universities globally. Its vision is to be one of the most influential universities in Australia and the Asia-Pacific region.

The university recognises that Information technology (IT) is now ubiquitous within higher education, which has created both challenges and opportunities. It has led to potentially ‘game changing’ initiatives in higher education, such as massive open online courses (MOOCs). By leveraging on emerging technologies, it aims to gain a distinct competitive advantage in a highly competitive global knowledge economy.

Accordingly, it wants to broaden and deepen its commitment to IT to make it the very essence of the university’s functions of knowledge creation, preservation, synthesis, and dissemination. It believes that the innovative development, use and application of IT in research, learning and teaching could be a strategic advantage. However, it is cognisant of the fact that the emerging global digital world is about ‘connection rather than location’ and that innovation in university practices and processes, not IT itself, will offer strategic differentiation with its local, regional and global competitors.

To meet the challenges of the unfolding digital world, the university aims to overhaul its processes and systems to facilitate agility, connectedness, and sustainability. It also aims to put its people at the centre of the change process and wants its academic workforce to be flexible and adaptable and undertake deliberate experimentation in the application of IT in their teaching and research. In other words, its aim is to be an agile university of the future.


  • Question 1.1: Explain how the external environment has an impact on the university’s way of working.
  • Question 1.2: Explain how the university’s internal environment needs to respond to external demands, in terms of McKinsey’s 7-S Framework of hard elements (strategy, structure and systems) and soft elements (shared values, skills, style, and staff).
  • Question 1.3: As the Head of HR of this university, design an appropriate HR Digital Strategy in line with its external realities and strategic intent.

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Case Study 2: Recruiting at Southwest Airlines

To ensure that the company hires the right people, Southwest is extraordinarily selective in recruiting. Because of the company’s outstanding reputation as a great place to work, it does not need to rely on head-hunters or employment agencies. The company receives a lot of resumes over the transom, and its employees also encourage their friends and families to apply. In 1998, Southwest had almost 200,000 job applicants. Of these, roughly 35,000 were interviewed and over 4,000 hired. The company recruits primarily for attitude, believing that skills can be learned.

To ensure fit, there is an emphasis on peer recruiting. For example, pilots hire other pilots, baggage handlers hire baggage handlers, and so on – even if this means coming in on their day off to do background checks. Teamwork is critical. If applicants say “I” too much in the interview, they don’t get hired.

The hiring process consists of an application, a phone screening interview, three additional interviews (two with line employees), and a consensus assessment and a vote. During the interview process, the applicant will come into contact with other Southwest employees. These people are also invited to give their assessment of whether the person would fit in at the company. To further screen for the Southwest spirit, Southwest will let its best customers become involved in the interviewing process for new flight attendants. The entire process focuses on a positive attitude and teamwork.

As befits a company where selection is important, Southwest has spent a lot of time identifying the key components comprising effective performance and behaviour. It uses a hiring approach developed by Development Dimensions International, Inc. (DDI):

  • Use past behaviour to predict future behaviour
  • Identify the critical job requirements (target dimensions) for the position
  • Organise selection elements into a comprehensive system
  • Apply effective interviewing skills and techniques
  • Involve several interviewers in organised data-exchange discussions
  • Augment interview with observations from behavioural simulations

The company does not use personality tests, but instead emphasises previous actual behaviours. Southwest believes that most skills can be learned and doesn’t screen heavily for these except for certain specialist jobs, such as pilots and mechanics. Attitudes are what count.

An important awareness on the part of the People Department is that the company rejects literally tens of thousands of applicants each year. These are all potential customers. Therefore, the recruiting process is designed to not make any applicants feel inferior or rejected. Some applicants who were turned down have claimed that they had a better experience being rejected by Southwest than they did being hired by other companies.

The company hires very few people with MBAs, and even those that do get hired are selected for their fit, not for their credentials. In fact, Southwest prefers people without extensive industry experience. For example, 40% of their pilots come directly from the military, 20% to 30% from small commuter airlines, and the rest from major airlines.

Southwest also actively encourages nepotism and has 820 couples who work for the company. One woman described how she had gotten her son a job with the airline, but then described how he had been fired. “He didn’t deserve to work here”, she said. Thus, when these people describe the company as “family”, a common reference throughout the airline, they really mean it.


  • Question 2.1: To attract the best talent, employers need to create a ‘compelling place to work’. How does Southwest Airline go about it?
  • Question 2.2: In the light of the case study, explain why recruitment strategy is a key component of any HR
  • Question 2.3: Southwest Airlines is heavily unionised (over 80%). As per the company website,  ‘In contract negotiations,  our philosophy is to reach agreements   that   are rewarding for Employees, have scheduling flexibility that allow the Company to operate efficiently in a highly competitive marketplace, and provide long-term job security’. In your view, what are the implications of the company’s philosophy towards trade unions in terms of attracting talent?

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