Introduction: Brad and Kerry
The case study that is written by Mento et al. (2012) observes a human resource management issue at a construction company named NewBuild. Jason, a senior project manager in the company, faced a classic human resource dilemma about choosing an employee to keep and promote while also potentially sacrificing another. In this case, he should choose between Brad and Kerry to be assigned to the next project. He had to choose one, while also potentially terminating the other due to unfavorable economic circumstances.
Mento et al. (2012) described that the company was actually having a healthy financial performance, and great cash reserves, while also having no long-term liabilities. However, the financial crisis in 2008 really impacted the company. If the crisis continued, the company will quickly drain its cash reserves, and downsizing in staff would be inevitable. This is how Jason came to the conclusion that there will be a high possibility of termination for either Brad or Kerry especially if they are not assigned to a significant project.
This article will examine the case study from a human resource management perspective. It will identify the main problem and diagnose the causes. It will also evaluate the proposed solution and other possible alternatives, followed by a recommendation on the plan of action. As a further insight, the paper will also state the importance and relevance of the case study to the overall business studies.
The main problem in the case study is the staffing dilemma faced by Jason, the senior project manager. The situation forced him to choose only one of his subordinates, Brad or Kerry, to be assigned to the next construction project. The other one that is not chosen will most likely be terminated due to the declining financial situation of the company.
The company was actually avoiding employee layoffs. The human resource motto of the company portrayed the company as a place to seek a career, instead of a mere job (Mento et al., 2012). It means that it values those employees with a long-term commitment to work for the company for a long time. The high turnover was never because of termination, but because of voluntary resignation due to the lower average salary compared to the industry benchmark. The fact that termination is not usual in the company added to the uneasiness of Jason to decide who to promote and who to possibly be terminated.
Diagnosing the Causes of the Problem
The main causes of the problem are rooted in several issues. The first one was the financial crisis that forced the company to drain its cash reserves and would eventually put the company at risk. The financial crisis also decreases the number of projects that the company receives, which put the employees, such as Brad and Kerry, in a less productive state since there are fewer projects to be handled. The company had only one project to be assigned to Brad or Kerry.
The second problem is the company’s high overhead expenses, which result in high fixed costs. It will eventually force the company to cut costs in its human resource by downsizing the staff. This is how Jason concluded that between Brad and Kerry, the one that doesn’t handle a project will most likely be terminated for the company to save operational costs.
Jason’s additional responsibilities are related to the company’s financial performance. Hence, he was concerned about the situation. However, he also had a difficult time deciding who is the one to be assigned to the next project. Brad had better technical skills that can make him a better project manager in the technical aspect, but his introverted and passive attitude may hinder him to become an effective service provider for the clients. On the contrary, Kerry had lower technical skills that may give her a difficult time as a project manager, but her extroverted and active attitude can make her a better project manager in terms of her relationship with the clients. Furthermore, both of them had the exact same result in performance appraisal, scoring three out of five on 15 aspects of job performance.
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Evaluating the Proposed Solution and Other Possible Alternatives
Jason’s strategy to create several criteria in assessing Brad and Kerry is the correct way to structurize the decision-making process. While both are having the same result in performance evaluation and psychological contract, Brad and Kerry are very different in other criteria, such as the ability to manage up, performance on negotiation, VABEs (values, assumptions, beliefs, and expectations), and emails about lessons learned. A better understanding of VABEs is that it helps leaders in understanding the identities and behavior of their employees and, as a result, helps them choose a customized course of action (Clawson, 2008). These criteria can give him a better picture of Brad and Kerry’s profile so that he can select the one that has a better profile for the job.
Kerry is better at managing up compared to Brad. While she may have the less technical skill, she is more active to keep Jason informed and is a better colleague to work with. Brad is not a poor performer either, but his passive style of communication may hinder better teamwork which is really important in project management. The passive style would also hinder the performance of negotiation with the clients. His VABEs also show that he may lack focus on others. The email about lessons learned shows evidence that he is more self-centered and directs mistakes to external aspects, while Kerry tends to be more reflective and honest in assessing the lesson.
Another possible alternative that can be used by Jason is to openly talk about the issue with both, Brad and Kerry so that both of them would acknowledge the situation. The pros of this alternative are that there may be better solutions that can keep both in the company while also allowing the company to save costs and survive the financial crisis. Talking openly would also address both employees in terms of their strengths and weaknesses. Brad can work on his communication style, while Kerry can work on his technical aspects.
The cons of this alternative are that it may not be possible to find better solutions. If one of them is not satisfied with the solution, their disappointment can turn into conflict. However, this risk can be mitigated by Jason using his authoritative privilege. In the end, human resource combination is a combination of people-oriented management practices that views people as vital assets, instead of costs, and its main objective is to provide and maintain a skillful and committed workforce to establish competitive advantages (Senyucel, 2009).
Recommendation on the Plan of Action
The first plan of action for Jason is to talk openly about the matter with Brad and Kerry separately. Brad and Kerry have the right to know and to share their opinion about the issue that the company is facing. If there is no other solution, Jason should make them understand that the one that is not assigned to the next project will have a high probability to be terminated. The next action is to ultimately decide between Kerry and Brad.
Based on the criteria that were used previously, it can be concluded that Kerry is the better choice for the role in the next project. She has the right attitude and mentality to excel in the role. Her extroverted nature and ability in managing would give her a better chance of providing better performance in the long run. Her reflective traits would also help her improve her performance over time. While Brad is not a bad employee, his passive attitude would be more difficult to handle and it would be more difficult to change, compared to Kerry’s weaknesses in technical aspects.
Nevertheless, Kerry’s weaknesses should be addressed. It is great that Jason had Dixon fill the role of a coach for Kerry. He can fill in the need for technical skills in upcoming projects while also improving Kerry’s skills in the long run. Jason can also get into the role of a coach, aside from being a supervisor to Kerry.
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The Importance, Relevance, and Limitation of the Brad and Kerry Case Study
The case provides a classical staffing dilemma that is faced by managers in various circumstances. This issue will always be important and relevant for business studies that emphasize performance in human resource management. Business students will most likely become managers that may end up in such a situation. This case study shows how Jason structurize his decision-making process in selecting the employee that will better fit the job and the team. It aligns with the main objectives of employee selection, which are to find a person-job fit and a person-organization fit (Dessler, 2020), as well as a person-team fit (Torrington et al., 2020).
The limitation of the case study is that it sees the choice between Brad and Kerry to be a “keep and throw” situation. Jason did not look for any way to keep them both by assessing the budget that he will need to maintain for it to happen. The case study needs to better portray the financial constraints that Jason is facing.
References Clawson, J. G. (2008). Leadership as managing energy. International Journal of Organizational Analysis, 16(3), 174-181. https://doi.org/10.1108/19348830810937943 Dessler, G. (2020). Human Resource Management. Pearson. Mento, A. J., Cougnet J. E., & de Vader, C. L. (2012). Now what do I do with Brad and Kerry? Journal of Business Case Studies, 8(1), 51-66. https://doi.org/10.19030/jbcs.v8i1.6738 Senyucel, Z. (2009). Managing Human Resources in the 21st Century. Bookboon. https://bookboon.com/en/hrm-managing-the-human-ressource-ebook Torrington, D., Hall, L., Taylor, S., & Atkinson, C. (2020). Human Resource Management. Pearson.