Steven G. Allen 
132 Nelson
Phone: 515-6941
Fax: 515-5073
Office hours: 11-12 a.m. Tu Th
and by appointment
Fall 1998

BUS 532
Strategic Human Resource Management



 This is an introductory course in human resource management. It focuses on the key issues involving human resources that every manager is likely to face -- staffing, compensation, performance management, and employee voice -- and takes the perspective of the general manager, as opposed to the HR specialist. Special emphasis is placed on how human resource decisions are influenced by forces internal and external to the firm, including business strategy, global competition, technological change, unionization, workforce characteristics, and government regulation. This course will not cover the operational details of HR departments (how to design a performance appraisal system) or the minutiae of administering HR policies and processes (e.g., doís and doníts of interviewing).



  1. To analyze HR issues and develop the ability to think about the tradeoffs involved in HR decisions.
  2. To understand how business strategy, competition, labor markets, technology, unions, and government regulations affect HR decisions.
  3. To appreciate how the interdependencies between HR policies create HR systems where "the whole is greater than the sum of the parts."
  4. To demonstrate how HR systems support the firmís business strategy. 
  5. To become proficient in case analysis and discussion.



 BUS 531. Any student taking this course whom has not taken BUS 531 must consult with the instructor. A thorough understanding of the following subjects is expected; consult the relevant chapters or pages in Daft, Organizational Theory and Design (6th ed.) as needed:

Structural and contextual dimensions (15-19)
Porterís competitive strategies (53-55)
Models of effectiveness values (64-68)
Impact of external environment (ch. 3)
Organizational life cycle (173-183)
Fundamentals of organizational structure (ch. 6)
Horizontal corporation (250-256)
Organizational culture (ch. 10) 



 Grades in the course will be based on the following factors:

  Class participation 20%

Two short case write-ups 10 (5 each)

Exam, Nov. 23 35

Course project 35

The format of the class will be 1/3 lecture with discussion and 2/3 discussion of cases. Lectures focus on issues that are either (1) analytically demanding or (2) not covered in the readings. You are responsible on the exam and in class discussions for material in the text that is not covered in lecture.


Participation Managers communicate primarily through verbal interaction, either one-on-one, in small groups, or in meetings. Your effectiveness as a manager depends on your ability to communicate verbally, so it is important that graduate-level training in management helps cultivate such skills. Participation will count a lot more in your career than it will in this class.

Your evaluation on class participation depends on your attendance, your preparation, and your contributions. The class and I will especially appreciate learning how your work experience or your knowledge of the experience of others relates to the issues we are covering. Do not worry about getting inadequate "air time;" even in a large class of 50 to 60 people, the class period is sufficiently long that everyone can contribute two or three times.

Attendance will be taken at every class session. I will use a sign-in sheet for the first class or two and then rely on a seating chart. These sheets also will be used to track participation. It is hard to learn from cases if you are not in the classroom. Attendance is graded nonlinearly; your participation grade will be lowered by one letter grade for every absence after the first two. You will get at least one progress report on participation during the course. I reserve the right to base the final participation grade on both peer evaluation and my own evaluation.

Class discussion will be conducted in both small groups and the class as a whole. The following behaviors will be positively correlated with participation grades in this class:

Class preparation means more than reading the case and the text. You should attempt to answer the questions that will be distributed in advance of each case on the course home page. I recommend forming a study group to meet before each class to make sure you understand what the key issues are and have thought about various ways of approaching them.


Short case write-ups You will be assigned two cases during the semester and write a short paper (about three pages) that (1) explains what the key issues are in the case and (2) recommends a particular course of action.


Exam The exam will be in class on November 23. Part of it will be based on case analysis; part will be short answer questions based on lecture material and the readings.


Course project The course project should be a case study of a HR decision or the HR policies of a company. Some guidance on topic selection is provided at the end of this handout. The paper will allow you to explore an issue in depth and to interact with local HR professionals.





Any act of academic dishonesty will automatically result in a grade of F in the course.





Harvard Business School cases, NC State bookstore.

James Baron and David Kreps, Human Resource Management for General Managers, Wiley, forthcoming, chapters to be circulated in class





Fortune, Wall Street Journal, Business Week








Oct. 14

Introduction and overview

1, 2

New Technology and Job Design in a Phone Company

Oct. 19

HR systems


Southwest Airlines (A)

Oct. 21

Internal labor markets


United Parcel Service (A)

Oct. 26

Recruiting and selection


Vermeer Technologies (A-1): Hiring the CEO

Oct. 28

Promotions and careers


Accountants and Business Advisors, Inc.: City Office

Nov. 2

Performance management


Eli Lilly and Co. (A) and (B)

Nov. 2

Short case write-up I due



Nov. 4




Christie Knittel Mabry, Director of Education and Development, GE Capital Mortgage

Nov. 9

Incentive plans


Lincoln Electric

Nov. 11

Pay for performance


Merck & Co., Inc. (A)

Nov. 16



Webster Industries (A)

Nov. 16

Short case write-up II due



Nov. 18



Lotus Development Corp.: Spousal Equivalents (A)

Nov. 23




Nov. 25



Time off to work on course project

Nov. 26




Nov. 30

Collective bargaining


Washington Post (A)

Dec. 2

Employee participation


PPG: Developing a Self-Directed Work Force (A)

Dec. 7








The best approach is to do a case study that looks at a particular organization. You will be studying cases all semester, so this should give you a good idea about what type of format to use. In thinking about choosing a particular topic, consider one of the following approaches:


a) An overall summary of the firm's HR policies and practices. In this type of paper you would act as an outside consultant and describe what the company is doing, noting any major changes that have taken place over the last few years. You would then try to explain whether these policies are consistent with (a) each other and (b) the business strategy of the firm. In the last part of your paper you should point out changes that the firm needs to consider making or, if little or no change is needed, what types of challenges the firm is likely to face in the future.


b) An in-depth examination of one particular set of HR issues either (1) within one company or (2) comparing two or more similar companies. Here you should document what the firm is currently doing in terms of a key HR decision, such as recruiting, selection, training, performance measurement, base pay, incentive pay, benefits, workplace diversity, industrial relations, employee voice, or job security. Then you should evaluate the company's approach. What things are they doing right? Where is there room for improvement? Why? (Eli Lilly is a good example of a case dealing with performance measurement.) Make specific recommendations of changes that will fit the firmís environment and strategy. A comparison of two companies in similar markets could be very instructive, e.g., Midway and American Airlines, FedEx and UPS, or a for-profit and a non-profit hospital.


c) A study of an important incident or problem at the company that involves HR issues. One possibility is to examine what happened when the company introduced a significant change in the workplace, e.g., a major shift in technology, use of teams, or a new pay system. What process did the company use to decide to make a change? Who was involved with the decision? How was it implemented? What were the results? Another approach is to examine how the firm responded to something like a discrimination case or a union organizing drive. You also might consider dealing with a well-publicized issue, such as turnover among teachers in the public schools.



All of these approaches require you to obtain some information about a particular organization. This could be a firm that you work for or have worked for or a firm that is willing to spend some time with you (maybe one where a friend, parent or spouse works). Some MSM alumni also may be willing to help provide information. This is a good opportunity to network with local companies.


Treat all information you receive directly from companies as confidential. HR information is extremely sensitive; all companies have some HR data that they do not want their employees or their competitors to know about. The formula for Coca-Cola may be that companyís most important trade secret, but their HR policies, practices and data will not be far behind. If you need me to provide a letter, e-mail, fax, or phone to assure someone that you are working on a course project and that no one will see the information except me, please let me know.


You also can get information the old-fashioned way Ė through research. DH Hill has a good collection of business magazines, practitioner journals, government statistics, academic journals, and databases. The Internet also has a great deal of useful information; some useful links are available on the course home page.


You must work in a group with three or four people. Groups must be formed and submit proposals to me about what topic they are going to cover on October 28. The paper should be about 15 pages long, typed, and double-spaced. It is due at 5 p.m., Monday, December 7. Grading will be based mostly on organization and content, but grammar, spelling, and neatness also count -- just as they do in the business world. It is particularly important that you successfully apply concepts that you have learned in this course.