Friday, December 01, 2006

My Blogging Experience

Developing my own blog was a unique and interesting experience for me, as it totally threw me out of my comfort zone. Inept with the Internet and uncomfortable writing journal entries or opinion pieces, I knew this class would be a challenge from the outset. This, in combination with my lackluster major and confusion over my future career path—the two subjects intended to be the inspiration for our blogs—made for a valuable learning experience that forced me to really consider my interests and potential careers.

With an interest in business and psychology, I chose industrial psychology to be the topic of my blog, as it incorporates both of my interests. In the process of writing each essay, I learned more about the profession and my likes and dislikes relating to the field as a whole. After writing my first essays about blogging workers and grassroots efforts for psychology, I began shifting my research toward the human resources field. This is evident with the essays on Monster.com and Steve Ulrich that followed.

Throughout these essays, I think I did a good job of choosing appropriate subjects to write about and exploring each subject. It was difficult, particularly toward the beginning when I was focusing on industrial psychology, to find blogs and news relating to the topic. When I wrote the Monster.com essay, I had the opposite problem of having an excess of information to work with. I think I did a good job of narrowing it down and really focusing on the human relations portion. With the final essay, it was difficult finding someone within the human resources field that would represent a whole university at commencement. I think where I struggled throughout the process was with technical issues, like links and photos. I had problems on a few of the essays with links that led to the wrong web site, and with either the wrong amount of photos or the wrong size. It has definitely been a learning process for me as far as technology goes, and I have come a long way since the beginning of the semester.

This has been a rewarding experience for me on so many levels. Not only can I make my own blog and navigate through the blogosphere, but I also have a better idea of what I want to do when I graduate. Finally, I feel more comfortable exerting my opinion in a public forum, which is something I am very proud of.

David Ulrich: Why He Deserves an Honorary Degree from USC

In choosing a recipient for an honorary degree, a university strives to find an individual that represents the university’s values. James O. Freedman, the former president of Dartmouth College, confirms this in his essay, Education and the Public Interest, as he writes, “In bestowing an honorary degree, a university makes an explicit statement to its students and the world about the qualities of character and attainment it admires most” (117). In a broad sense, the primary value and mission at the heart of every university is virtually the same: to inspire excellence on a personal, academic, and professional level. David Ulrich, currently a professor of business administration at the University of Michigan, does just that. Ulrich has not only revolutionized the human resources field over the course of his career, he has also made valuable contributions to the academic community as well. In taking a deeper look at the purpose of an honorary degree as outlined on the university’s policy, it becomes increasingly clear that Ulrich is a perfect candidate, as he embodies the qualities valued by the university.

A recent HR Magazine article states, “Today’s common model of just what is expected of a modern human resources function is distilled from Ulrich’s thinking—effectiveness; strategy; added value; and delivery. These are all central to any dynamic HR professional’s approach.” With this in mind, consider the first purpose of Honorary Degrees as outlined by the USC Honorary Degrees Committee: “To honor individuals who have distinguished themselves through extraordinary achievements in scholarship, the professions, or other creative activities, whether or not they are widely known by the general public.” Ulrich has undoubtedly distinguished himself in his profession, not only for the work he has done as an HR professional, but for the contributions his ideas have made to the field as a whole.

Through his innovative thinking, he has introduced a more action-oriented approach to the HR profession that elevates the value of the field as a whole. And considering the common criticism from the business community that the HR function lacks true value, Ulrich’s teachings are vital to the future and sustainability of the field itself. Ulrich has essentially improved the HR profession in the same way HR professionals improve individual companies. Furthermore, he presents his ideas and solutions in a way that is understandable and applicable to his peers. He communicates these ideas through the more than 90 articles and book chapters he has published throughout his career. In his books, which include HR Scorecard: Linking People, Strategy, and Performance and The HR Value Proposition, his ideas are easy to understand and apply. A Fast Company article published last year acknowledged his inspirational teaching style as it stated, “Ulrich inspires others because he brings zeal and hands-on experience to human resources, a subject generally buried in bureaucracy.” B. Joseph White, Ulrich’s former dean at the University of Michigan Business School, added, “Bridging theory and concept to practice and application -- no one does that better than Dave.”

By enhancing the value-added by the HR field, Ulrich has heightened the morale and sense of accomplishment of HR professionals. Ulrich encourages employees to become aware of their personal growth and to strive for a feeling of purpose and sense of community in the workplace. This emphasis on the human element of human resources is one of the primary factors that distinguishes Ulrich in his community. Martin Moore, head of HR at the British Museum, verifies this as he says, “For me, he helped to bring into being the view that HR could not only contribute to the organization’s bottom line, but also provide a source of competitiveness. The fact that many of us feel more confident about the future of our function than we did 20 years or so ago is, at least in part, thanks to the work of Ulrich.”

Ulrich practices what he preaches in his own personal life as well. He demonstrated the importance of personal growth when he stepped back from his successful career in human resources to dedicate time to his spiritual roots: the Mormon Church. In 2002, Ulrich left his successful career to work as the Quebec mission president for the Mormon Church. For three years, Ulrich oversaw 32 wards, 9,000 members, and 150 19- to 25-year old missionaries spread across 600,000 square miles. As a mission president, "There are no vacations. There are no weekends. Ulrich act(s) as parent, boss, and spiritual leader to his missionaries. The indices of his leadership are individuals, and victories and setbacks are personal." Through his work, he was able to apply his Human Resources skills to help further the Mormon Church. His emphasis on community service supports the second purpose of awarding honorary degrees, as proposed by the Honorary Degrees Committee, “to recognize exceptional acts of philanthropy to the university and/or the national or world scene.” Most importantly though, through enriching his personal life and spirituality, Ulrich added a whole new depth to his professional work. Mike W. Martin, Professor of Philosophy at Chapman University , discusses how personal commitment and ideals contribute to whether an individual's work is meaningful. In his book Meaningful Work: Rethinking Professional Ethics , he writes “By providing specific goals and by shaping character—personal ideals contribute to the coherence of entire lives. Personal ideals serve as organizing principles that motivate, discipline, structure, and integrate activities. In doing so, they contribute to the overall coherence and significance of professional endeavors” (21). The meaningful work Ulrich does in his personal life, transfers to his professional life as well. Ulrich acknowledged this as he wrote, “As I return to the ‘real’ world, I wonder which world is more real: the world I live in now – focused on a caring community – or the world I left (and return to) of building a competitive community. Hopefully, we can find ways to build a competitive community through caring.”

Not only has he made valuable contributions to his professional and spiritual communities, but his most relevant contributions in this case, stem from his work in the academic sphere. At the peak of his career and success, Ulrich decided to enter the academic community and devote his life to teaching others the knowledge he has gained throughout his career. As a professor of business administration at the University of Michigan, Ulrich is highly involved with the university, where he is also on the core faculty of the Executive Program, and he is co-director of both the Human Resource Executive Program and the Advanced Human Resource Executive Program. Through his various roles there, "He studies how organizations change fast, build capabilities, learn, remove boundaries, and leverage human resource activities. He has helped generate multiple award winning national data bases on organizations that assess alignment between strategies, human resource practices and HR competencies." While it might seem unlikely for The University of Southern California to award a professor from another university an honorary degree, I think it would be making a bold and effective statement--that USC sees beyond petty lines and has a bigger sense of what it means to make a valuable contribution to a community as a whole. USC would thus establish itself as an integral part of the academic community, as it would demonstrate that it places higher value on bettering the community, than it does in bringing attention to itself as an individual university. It recognizes that in raising the bar for the academic community as a whole, Ulrich is directly effecting and increasing the academic integrity of the university itself. This brings us to the third purpose for awarding honorary degrees, which is, “to honor alumni and other individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the welfare and development of USC or the communities of which they are a part.” Ulrich is an active member of every group he is a part of--the HR profession, the Mormon Church, and academia--and he adds tremendous value to each one.


Ulrich has worn many different hats in the HR world, with experience as a professional coach, consultant, author, teacher, and public speaker, and his success and innovation in each of these facets has led to high regard and recognition for his achievements. He has received an extensive amount of honors and awards acknowledging his exceptional work. Among these awards are, as previously mentioned, the number one spot on HR Magazine’s 2006 “HR Top 100: Most Influential” list. Also, in 2001, Business Week ranked him the #1 management educator, and in 2000, Forbes listed Ulrich as one of the “World’s Top Five” business coaches. Awards are not the only indicator of how well regarded Ulrich is in his field, as his resume reveals that his expertise are valued by some of the world’s top companies, including AT&T, General Motors, and General Electric. This recognition for his work fulfills the fourth and final purpose of awarding honorary degrees, “to elevate the university in the eyes of the world by honoring individuals who are widely known and highly regarded for achievements in their respective fields of endeavor.” For the University to recognize an individual who is so highly regarded in his field would undoubtedly elevate the University in the eyes of the world.

Moreover, the fact that the Human Resource field is so vital to the business world, yet so under-recognized on a larger scale, makes awarding a leader in that field an even more admirable choice. This is enhanced by the fact that the USC Marshall School of Business, of which Human Resource studies are a part, is a strength for USC. This is evident as the School was recently ranked #10 in the Wall Street Journal list of Top 2006 American Business Schools. According to the USC Honorary Degrees Committee, “The Committee is particularly interested in candidates from diverse backgrounds, and whose own accomplishments might serve to highlight areas in which the University has developed exceptional strength.” The Business School is a source of pride for USC, and in highlighting a key figure in the business world today, such as Ulrich, the university will bring attention to the fact that it has developed exceptional strength in this area.

According to the Role and Mission statement of USC, “The University’s mission is to cultivate and enrich the human spirit through teaching, research, artistic creation, professional practice, and selected forms of public service.” Ulrich’s life work and his contributions to every community he is a part of parallels this mission. As a fellow educator, his has spent his life teaching others. Whether educating CEOs on how to more efficiently run their companies, or HR Professionals on how to better the field, or the Mormon community, or college students on how to reach their potential, Ulrich has devoted his life to bettering others and that is deserving of recognition.

If awarded an honorary degree, Ulrich would offer a commencement speech that is applicable to every student, regardless of their field of interest. His primary concern is ensuring that every person lives up to their potential and offers the most value possible in both their professional and personal lives. This is a universal message that everyone can relate to and benefit from.

Monster.com: A Valuable Human Resources Tool

Companies generally turn to human resources professionals to deal with hiring and firing, as well as training employees. Yet it is becoming increasingly common to resort to the Internet for services that people generally offer—even employment related assistance. According to a survey conducted by Pew Internet and American Life, 60 million Americans use the Internet to help them make big decisions. Of that population, 50% said the Internet played a major role as they pursued more training for their careers, and 14% said the Internet was a valuable tool as they switched jobs. In the realm of employment web sites, Monster Career Advice is the forerunner, as it won the 2006 Webby Award for Best Employment Web Site. Strangely enough, the web site even offers human resources information for those interested in working in the human resources field. While the web site could improve its graphics and could integrate more advanced technology, it effectively covers every aspect of the human resources field, from basic information, to actually helping its members find a job through the Monster network.

While the content on the Monster web site is very extensive, and covers each step of the employment process for every career, it is simple to zero-in on human resources. Located under the “Targeted Advice” section on the left side bar, the “Human Resources” link reveals information covering every aspect of the human resources field. It accommodates individuals seeking general information, those searching for a job in HR, and HR professionals who simply want career advice. This exemplifies commendable navigation for a web site, as according to the Webby Awards Criteria, “Good navigation gets you where you want to go quickly and offers easy access to the breadth and depth of the site’s content.”

Once on the human resources page, different sections apply to individuals in the various stages of employment. For those who are considering getting into the HR field, the section titled “Break into HR”, offers tens of articles that help members, “Learn about the opportunities in human resources and how to position yourself for success.” One of these articles includes descriptions of the basic career paths within human resources, including HR Generalist and Compensation Professional, and it lists the skills necessary for each. Compensation professionals, for example, "design reward systems that help companies attract, retain and motivate their employees. This work requires number crunching and creativity." Another article gives tips on how individuals can position themselves to enter the human resources field if they lack experience, for instance by emphasizing related skills and downplaying their work chronology. All of the articles are written by professionals in the specific fields, who are well versed on the topics, so readers know they are receiving well-informed advice.

Articles are not the only resource Monster offers, though, as Monster members are able to actively practice the skills they learn. For example, interactive approaches such as the “Virtual Interview,” allow members to practice interviewing. According to the web site, “The Virtual Interview contains interview questions ranging from puffball to killer that are typically asked of candidates in the human resources profession.” In this quiz, participants are asked questions such as “Tell me about the most difficult assignment you had in your last job.” The member is then given a choice between three responses, and after submitting a response, the program explains why that is a correct or incorrect answer. In simulating an interview specifically for human resource professionals, Monster members will be prepared for the real thing. While this is an effective technique for improving interviewing skills, this quiz is not very technologically advanced. Considering the widespread use of web cams, the web site could figure out how to offer some type of interactive interview, where members would be able to employ their skills in a real life situation.

On the other hand, the extensive “Job Search” portion, with resume and job postings, demonstrates a strong use of technology. Once individuals are ready to actually apply for a job in the human resources field, they are able to post their resumes on the site. Employers can list job opportunities on Monster as well. By using “Search Agents,” Monster will quickly notify someone looking for a job in human resources when a local opportunity becomes available. Current listings for human resources occupations in the Los Angeles area include Vice President of Human Resources for Company Confidential and VP/Director of Human Resources for CB12 Human Capital Services. Monster also takes measures to connect its members to others in the human resources community who might be able to provide them with useful services. With the “People Search Agents” tool, individuals are given pages of contacts—listed by their name, feedback rating, location, and job title. By including feedback rating, it gives members incentive to participate and provide value in the Monster Community.

The virtual interview and search agents both demonstrate the high level of interactivity Monster offers its members. According to the Webby Awards Criteria, is defined as “Input/Output, as in searches, chat rooms, e-commerce and gaming or notification agents, peer-to-peer applications and real-time feedback. It’s make your own, distribute your own, or speak your mind so others can see, hear, or respond.” Interactivity enables the user to actively participate in the web site. Monster achieves this, not only by connecting people to companies, but by linking them to each other as well. An additional tool that facilitates interaction is the HR Discussion Board . Through this community forum, members can compare tips, ask questions, and share personal experiences related to human resources. Individuals post questions from how to transition into human resources as a lawyer, to questions regarding entry level human resources opportunities. This interactive approach allows members to get advice and enter discussions with their peers. Members can therefore learn different perspectives on topics, and truly experience a sense of community. By enabling members to share experiences and offer each other support, the discussion board appeals more to the emotional side of the job process.

This represents a change in the rhetorical structure of the web site, as it typically appeals to reason more so than emotion. Because it is a business-oriented web site used by corporate-minded people, having a logical and analytical tone is appropriate for the content. Experts who have researched the subjects disseminate information and give professional advice, and the web site offers direct definitions of subjects and how to go about them. Yet it is important for Monster to address the emotional aspect as well, considering the employment process can be emotional for some. In a thread on the HR Discussion Board entitled "rude recruiter," a member writes, "I was calling to ask for more information about the job. What I got was a very rude critique of my resume as well as several statements about my 'unimportant' clerical experience." This individual is able to vent frustrations through the forum, and get feedback and emotional support from others who might have been through similar situation. By catering to the emotional needs of its members, Monster contributes to the community-like feeling of the web site, which distinguishes it from other strictly job search engines.

In an effort to remain consistent, the format and structure of the website reflects the same reason-oriented emphasis. According to the Web Style Guide, “The fundamental organizing principle in web site design is meeting users’ needs.” Members exploring the HR portion of Monster primarily need information. The main body of the page contains well-organized links related to human resources, including “HR Career Advice,” “HR Resources,” “HR Job Search,” and other specialty sections which include “Break into HR,” “Hiring and Retaining,” “Manage Your HR Career,” “Sticky Situations,” and “HR Watch.” They are in a clearly laid-out, functional format. Additionally, the left side bar contains the main links from the content page, so it is easy to scroll back and forth between the main monster page and the targeted advice pages.

Another reason why it is easy to navigate through the pages is because the visual design is soothing and does not distract the reader from the information. Visually, Monster is simple and organized, and it manages to express a large amount of information without overwhelming the reader. The web site has not always been this way, as the layout has greatly improved since 1999, when the web site began. The evolution of the site, documented by Internet Archive: Wayback Machine, reveals that Monster has become progressively more organized and easier to use. The main body of the previous version is wordier and exceedingly difficult to navigate. It gives similar sub-topics, such as “Sticky Situations” and “HR Watch,” but rather than listing concise links for each section, the web site gives lengthy descriptions that are inappropriate for the main page. The main body is now far more extensive, making the page increasingly functional and professional. Additionally, the left side bar is difficult to read on the former version, as the background colors of blue, turquoise, and purple distract from the actual links. With the current white background and purple and orange color scheme, the reader is able to stay focused without becoming distracted from the actual material.

While neither the past nor present visual design formats emphasize graphics, they both use them for advertising. According to the Web Style Guide, “Graphic design creates visual logic and seeks an optimal balance between visual logic and seeks an optimal balance between visual sensation and graphic information. Without the visual impact of shape, color, and contrast, pages are graphically uninteresting and will not motivate the viewer.” The advertisement on the current Monster page accomplishes this, as the picture is large and gives the viewer a break from the information on the page. In contrast, in the past, the advertisement was not big enough to make an impact. As a result, the graphic is distracting. While the limited amount of visuals seems appropriate for the site, considering its straightforward, business-like nature, I think the web site could have integrated more graphics. Pertinent support, such as charts and visual data, would enhance the content, as opposed to advertisements whose sole purpose is visual relief.

In both form and function, Monster demonstrates a thorough understanding of its audience and their needs, as it provides them with all the necessary tools and resources and does so in an efficient way. While it could still make some improvements in areas like technology and visual design, as a whole, Monster has distinguished itself as the most effective web site of its kind.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

David Ulrich: Why He Deserves an Honorary Degree from USC

In choosing a recipient for an honorary degree, a university strives to find an individual that represents the university’s values. James O. Freedman, the former president of Dartmouth college, confirms this in his essay, “Education and the Public Interest,” as he writes, “In bestowing an honorary degree, a university makes an explicit statement to its students and the world about the qualities of character and attainment it admires most.” In a broad sense, the primary value and mission at the heart of every university is virtually the same: to inspire excellence on a personal, academic, and professional level. David Ulrich, currently a professor of business administration at the University of Michigan, does just that. Ulrich has not only revolutionized the Human Resources field over the course of his career, he has also made valuable contributions to the academic community as well. While it might seem unlikely for The University of Southern California to award a professor from another university an honorary degree, I think it would be making a bold and effective statement--that USC sees beyond petty lines and has a bigger sense of what it means to make a valuable contribution to a community as a whole. USC would thus establish itself as an integral part of the academic community, as it would demonstrate that it places higher value on bettering the community, than it does in bringing attention to itself as an individual university. It recognizes that in raising the bar for the academic community as a whole, Ulrich is directly effecting and increasing the academic integrity of the university itself. In taking a deeper look at the purpose of an honorary degree as outlined on the university’s policy, it becomes increasingly clear that Ulrich is a perfect candidate, as he embodies the qualities valued by the university.

In a recent HR Magazine article listing the top 100 HR Professionals in the world, Ulrich was the number one pick. The article states, “Today’s common model of just what is expected of a modern human resources function is distilled from Ulrich’s thinking—effectiveness; strategy; added value; and delivery. These are all central to any dynamic HR professional’s approach.” With this in mind, consider the first purpose of Honorary Degrees as outlined by the USC Honorary Degrees Committee: “To honor individuals who have distinguished themselves through extraordinary achievements in scholarship, the professions, or other creative activities, whether or not they are widely known by the general public.” Ulrich has undoubtedly distinguished himself in his profession, not only for the work he has done as an HR professional, but for the contributions his ideas have made to the field as a whole.

Through his innovative thinking, he has given HR Professionals a more action-oriented way to approach their work—a way that elevates the value of the profession as a whole. And considering the common criticism from the business community that the HR function lacks true value, Ulrich’s teachings are vital to the future and sustainability of the field itself. What Ulrich has done is he has essentially taken a human resources approach to improving the human resources profession, in the same way human resources professionals improve individual companies. Furthermore, he presents his ideas and solutions in a way that is understandable and applicable to his peers. He communicates these ideas through the more than 90 articles and book chapters he has published throughout his career. In his books, which include HR Scorecard: Linking People, Strategy, and Performance and The HR Value Proposition, his ideas are easy to understand and apply. A Fast Company article published last year acknowledged his inspirational teaching style as it stated, “Ulrich inspires others because he brings zeal and hands-on experience to human resources, a subject generally buried in bureaucracy.” B. Joseph White, Ulrich’s former dean at the University of Michigan Business School, added, “Bridging theory and concept to practice and application -- no one does that better than Dave.”

By offering this new perspective in an applicable way in which results are visible, Ulrich has not only increased the value of the Human Resources function within companies, he has also made professionals within the human resources community feel better about their personal value added to their company. The same Fast Company magazine article argues that through his books and teachings, “He has empowered HR executives with the idea that 50% of their firms’ market value comes from things they control – thinks that aren’t mentioned in the accounting statement.” As a result, they not only feel better about their personal contributions, they feel better about the value of the human resources profession as a whole. Martin Moore, head of HR at the British Museum, verifies this as he says, “For me, he helped to bring into being the view that HR could not only contribute to the organization’s bottom line, but also provide a source of competitiveness. The fact that many of us feel more confident about the future of our function than we did 20 years or so ago is, at least in part, thanks to the work of Ulrich.”

It is no coincidence that so many of his peers experience a feeling of personal impact from Ulrich’s teachings, as his emphasis on the human element of Human Resources is one of the primary factors that distinguishes him in his community. He encourages employees to become aware of their personal growth, and he emphasizes striving for a feeling of purpose as well as a sense of belonging and community in the workplace. Ulrich also lives his own life by these standards. This is reflected in his decision to take a step back from the human relations world to give back to his spiritual roots: the Mormon community. In 2002, Ulrich left his successful career to work as the Quebec mission president for the Mormon Church. For three years, Ulrich oversaw 32 wards, 9,000 members, and 150 19- to 25-year old missionaries spread across 600,000 square miles. As a mission president, "There are no vacations. There are no weekends. Ulrich act(s) as parent, boss, and spiritual leader to his missionaries. Their schedules, apartments, vehicles, medical--everything falls under his jurisdiction. The indices of his leadership are individuals, and victories and setbacks are personal." Through his work, he was able to apply his Human Resources skills to help further the Mormon Church. His emphasis on community service supports the second purpose of awarding honorary degrees, as proposed by the Honorary Degrees Committee, “to recognize exceptional acts of philanthropy to the university and/or the national or world scene.” Through this experience, Ulrich was not only able to better the Mormon community, but he also gained a new perspective and new ideals that he plans to use to better the Human Resources community. He acknowledged this as he ended his mission and prepared to return to the corporate community, “As I return to the ‘real’ world, I wonder which world is more real,” he writes, “The world I live in now – focused on a caring community – or the world I left (and return to) of building a competitive community. Hopefully, we can find ways to build a competitive community through caring.”

Not only has he made valuable contributions to the Human Resources community and the Mormon Community, but his most relevant contributions in this case, stem from his work in the academic community. At the peak of his career and success, Ulrich decided to enter the academic realm and devote his life to teaching others the knowledge he has gained throughout his career. As a professor of business administration at the University of Michigan, Ulrich is highly involved with the university, where he is also on the core faculty of the Executive Program, and he is co-director of both the Human Resource Executive Program and the Advanced Human Resource Executive Program. As a part of the academic community, "He studies how organizations change fast, build capabilities, learn, remove boundaries, and leverage human resource activities. He has helped generate multiple award winning national data bases on organizations that assess alignment between strategies, human resource practices and HR competencies." His teachings and research helps to better the community at the University of Michigan, and therefore the academic community as a whole, as his is raising the bar of education. This brings us to the third purpose for awarding honorary degrees, which is, “to honor alumni and other individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the welfare and development of USC or the communities of which they are a part.” Ulrich is an active member of every community he is a part of, including the HR, Mormon, and academic communities, and he adds tremendous value to each one.

In his book Meaningful Work: Rethinking Professional Ethics , Mike W. Martin, Professor of Philosophy at Chapman University , discusses how personal commitment and ideals contribute to whether an individual's work is meaningful. In his book he writes, “By providing specific goals and by shaping character—personal ideals contribute to the coherence of entire lives. Personal ideals serve as organizing principles that motivate, discipline, structure, and integrate activities. In doing so, they contribute to the overall coherence and significance of professional endeavors” (21). The meaningful work Ulrich does in his personal life, transfers to his professional life as well.

Focusing on his career alone, Ulrich has distinguished himself as a leader in his community. He has worn many different hats in the HR world, with experience as a professional coach, consultant, author, teacher, and public speaker, and he has worked with companies including AT&T, General Motors, and General Electric. He served as editor of the Human Resource Management Journal (1990-1999), he is a member of the editorial board of 4 other Journals, and he is a fellow in the National Academy of Human Resources. He is also co-founder of the Michigan Human Resource Partnership. With his pioneering ideas and contributions, it is no surprise that he is so highly regarded and widely recognized within his field for his achievements. He has received an extensive amount of honors and awards acknowledging his exceptional work. Among these awards are, as previously mentioned, the number one spot on HR Magazine’s 2006 “HR Top 100: Most Influential” list. Also, in 2001, Business Week ranked him the #1 management educator, and in 2000, Forbes listed Ulrich as one of the “World’s Top Five” business coaches. Awards are not the only indicator of how well regarded Ulrich is in his field, as his resume reveals that his expertise are valued by some of the world’s top companies. Most notably, Jack Welch, the former Chairman and CEO of General Electric, who is widely regarded as one of the top businessmen of our time, hired Ulrich to help design a program to cut the workload and bureaucracy at GE. Ulrich’s program “Workout” was an unprecedented success, and Welch commented on its effects, “Workout helped to generate an openness we never had before in the company. We needed smart, independent people like Ulrich so that our hierarchy wouldn’t get in the way.” This recognition for his work fulfills the fourth and final purpose of awarding honorary degrees, “to elevate the university in the eyes of the world by honoring individuals who are widely known and highly regarded for achievements in their respective fields of endeavor.” For the University to recognize an individual who is so highly regarded in his field would undoubtedly elevate the University in the eyes of the world.

Moreover, the fact that the Human Resource field is so vital to the business world, yet so under-recognized on a larger scale, makes awarding a leader in that field an even more admirable choice. This is enhanced by the fact that the USC Marshall School of Business, of which Human Resource studies are a part, is a strength for USC. This is evident as the School was recently ranked #10 in the Wall Street Journal list of Top 2006 American Business Schools. According to the USC Honorary Degrees Committee, “The Committee is particularly interested in candidates from diverse backgrounds, and whose own accomplishments might serve to highlight areas in which the University has developed exceptional strength.” The Business School is a source of pride for USC, and in highlighting a key figure in the business world today, such as Ulrich, the university will bring attention to the fact that it has developed exceptional strength in this area.

According to the Role and Mission statement of USC, “The University’s mission is to cultivate and enrich the human spirit through teaching, research, artistic creation, professional practice, and selected forms of public service.” Ulrich’s life work, and his contributions to every community he is a part of, parallels this mission, and awarding him and honorary degree would prove USC’s dedication to our mission.

If awarded an honorary degree, Ulrich would offer a commencement speech that is applicable to every student, regardless of their field of interest. His primary concern is ensuring that every person lives up to their potential and offers the most value possible in both their professional and personal lives. This is a universal message that everyone can relate to and benefit from.

As a fellow educator, his has spent his life teaching others. Whether educating CEOs on how to more efficiently run their companies, or HR Professionals on how to better the field, or the Mormon community, or college students on how to reach their potential, Ulrich has devoted his life to helping others and that is deserving of recognition.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Monster.com: A Valuable Human Resources Tool

Companies generally turn to human resources professionals to deal with hiring and firing, as well as training employees. Yet it is becoming increasingly common to resort to the Internet for services that people generally offer—even employment related assistance. According to a survey conducted by Pew Internet and American Life, 60 million Americans use the Internet to help them make big decisions. Of that population, 50% said the Internet played a major role as they pursued more training for their careers, and 14% said the Internet was a valuable tool as they switched jobs. In the realm of employment web sites, Monster Career Advice is the forerunner, as it won the 2006 Webby Award for Best Employment Web Site. Strangely enough, the web site even offers human resources information for those interested in working in the human resources field. While the web site could improve its graphics and could integrate some more advanced technology, it effectively covers every aspect of the human resources field, from basic information, to actually helping its members find a job through the Monster network.

While the content on the Monster web site is very extensive, and covers every step of the employment process for every career field, it is very simple to zero into the human resources field. Located under the “Targeted Advice” section on the left side bar, the “Human Resources” link reveals information covering every aspect of the human resources field. It accommodates those seeking information about the human resources field, looking to enter the human resources field, and those who are already involved in human resources and simply want career advice. This exemplifies commendable navigation for a web site, as according to the Webby Awards Criteria, “Good navigation gets you where you want to go quickly and offers easy access to the breadth and depth of the site’s content.”

Once on the human resources page, different sections apply to individuals in the various stages of employment within human resources. For those who are considering getting into the HR field, the section titled “Break into HR”, offers tens of articles that help members, “Learn about the opportunities in human resources and how to position yourself for success.” One of these articles includes basic descriptions of the basic career paths within human resources, including HR Generalist and Compensation Professional, and lists the skills necessary for each. Another gives tips on how individuals can position themselves to enter the human resources field if they lack experience in the field, for instance by emphasizing related skills and downplaying their work chronology. All of the articles are written by professionals in the specific fields, who are well versed on the topics, so readers know they are receiving well-informed advice.

Articles are not the only resource monster offers, though, as Monster member are able to actively practice the skills they learn. For example, interactive approaches such as the “Virtual Interview,” allow members to practice their interviewing skills. According to the web site, “The Virtual Interview contains interview questions ranging from puffball to killer that are typically asked of candidates in the human resources profession.” In this quiz, members are asked questions such as “Tell me about the most difficult assignment you had in your last job.” The member is then given a choice between three responses, and after submitting a response, the program explains why that is a correct or incorrect answer. In simulating an interview specifically for human resource professionals, Monster members will be prepared for the real thing. While this is an effective technique for improving interviewing skills, this quiz is not very technologically advanced. Considering the widespread use of web cams, the web site could figure out how to offer some type of interactive interview, where members would be able to employ their skills in a real life situation.

On the other hand, the extensive “Job Search” portion, with resume and job postings, demonstrates a strong use of technology. Once members are ready to actually apply for a job in the human resources field, they are able to post their resumes on the site. Employers are able to post job opportunities on Monster as well. By using “Search Agents,” Monster will quickly notify a member looking for a job in human resources when a local job becomes available. Current listings for human resources occupations in the Los Angeles area include Vice President of Human Resources for Company Confidential and VP/Director of Human Resources for CB12 Human Capital Services. Monster also takes measures to connect its members to others in the human resources community who might be able to provide them with useful services. With the “People Search Agents” tool, members are given pages of contacts—listed by their name, feedback rating, location, and job title. By including feedback rating, it gives members incentive to participate and provide value in the Monster Community.

These two search agents offer Monster members a high level of interactivity, which, according to the Webby Awards Criteria, is defined as “Input/Output, as in searches, chat rooms, e-commerce and gaming or notification agents, peer-to-peer applications and real-time feedback. It’s make your own, distribute your own, or speak your mind so others can see, hear, or respond.” Interactivity allows the user to actively participate in the web site. Monster achieves this, not only by connecting people to companies, but by connecting people to each other as well. In doing this, Monster goes beyond helping its members find jobs, as it helps them become a part of larger human resources community.

With additional tools such as the HR Discussion Board , members are offered other ways to interact with the web site as well. This community forum allows members to interact, compare tips, ask questions, and share personal experiences related to human resources. Members post questions from how to transition into human resources as a lawyer, to questions regarding entry level human resources opportunities. This interactive approach allows members to get advice and enter discussions with their peers. Members are therefore able to gain a different perspective on topics, and it truly gives them the feeling of being in a community. By enabling members to interact with each other and share experiences, the discussion board appeals more to the emotional side of the job process.

This represents a change in the rhetorical structure of the web site, as it typically appeals to reason more so than emotion. Because it is a business-oriented web site used by business-oriented people, having a logical and analytical tone is appropriate for the content. People who have researched the subjects disseminate information and give professional advice, and the web site offers direct definitions of subjects and how to go about them. Yet it is important for Monster to address the emotional aspect as well, considering the employment process can be emotional for some. It is therefore commendable that Monster caters to the emotional needs of its members as well as their professional needs. It contributes to the community-like feeling of the web site, which distinguishes it from other strictly job search engines.

In an effort to remain consistent, the format and structure of the website reflects the same reason-oriented emphasis. According to the Web Style Guide, “The fundamental organizing principle in web site design is meeting users’ needs.” Members exploring the HR portion of Monster primarily need information. The main body of the page contains well-organized links related to human resources, including “HR Career Advice,” “HR Resources,” “HR Job Search,” and other specialty sections which include “Break into HR,” “Hiring and Retaining,” “Manage Your HR Career,” “Sticky Situations,” and “HR Watch.” They are all in a clearly laid-out, functional format. Additionally, the left side bar contains the main links from the content page, so it is easy to scroll back and forth between the main monster page and the targeted advice pages.

Another reason why it is easy to navigate through the pages is because the visual design is very soothing and does not distract the reader from the information. Visually, Monster is very simple and organized, and it manages to express a large amount of information without overwhelming the reader. It has not always been this way, as the layout has greatly improved since 1999, when the web site began. By watching the evolution of the site with the Internet Archive: Wayback Machine, it is clear that as time has progressed, the site has become visually more organized and easier to use. The main body of the previous version is far wordier and more difficult to navigate through. It gives similar sub topics, such as “Sticky Situations” and “HR Watch,” but rather than listing concise links for each section, the web site gives lengthy descriptions that are inappropriate for the main page. The main body is now far more extensive, making the page more functional, and it appears more professional. Additionally, the left side bar is difficult to read on the former version, as the background colors of blue, turquoise, and purple distract from the actual links. With the current white background and purple and orange color scheme, the reader is able to stay focused without becoming distracted from the actual material.

While neither the past nor present visual design formats emphasize graphics, they both use graphics for the advertising on the page. According to the Web Style Guide, “Graphic design creates visual logic and seeks an optimal balance between visual logic and seeks an optimal balance between visual sensation and graphic information. Without the visual impact of shape, color, and contrast, pages are graphically uninteresting and will not motivate the viewer.” The advertisement on the current Monster page accomplishes this, as the graphic is large and gives the viewer visual relief from the information on the page. In contrast, in the past, the advertisement was not large enough to make an impact on the viewer. So instead of offering relief, the graphic is distracting. While the limited amount of graphics seems appropriate for the site, considering its straightforward, business-like nature, I think the web site could have integrated more graphics. Pertinent graphics such as charts and visual data to support their information and advice would enhance the content, as opposed to advertisements whose sole purpose is visual relief.

In both form and function, Monster demonstrates a thorough understanding of its audience and their needs, as it provides them with all the necessary tools and resources and does so in an efficient way. While it could still make some improvements in areas like technology and visual design, as a whole, Monster has distinguished itself as the most effective web site of its kind.

Monday, September 18, 2006

The Solution for Harmful Blogging Workers: Better Communication

For my third post, I took a different angle than in my previous two posts. I decided to take a deeper look at the implications of blogs themselves by exploring the role of blogs in the business world from a human resources perspective. In order to do this, I sought out the viewpoints of two experienced bloggers.

In an article titled, “Blogging Workers: My Boss is a Jerk,” one blog outlined the popularity of blogs today and the dangers of disgruntled employees using blogs as an avenue to vent about problems at work. In an article titled “MySpace Didn’t Invent Disgruntled Employees,” another blog described how young employees and interns have been using social networking sites like MySpace to vent about incompetent co-workers, bosses, and general issues with their companies. While a number of companies have taken measures to ban interns from blogging, the writer of this blog supported having an open venue to discuss one’s thoughts.

The issue of harmful employee blogging, while in the business realm, reflects underlying human resource issues. At the root of the issue is a lack of communication within the companies themselves, which can lead to dissatisfied and disgruntled employees.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Psychologists Demonstrate Effective Grassroots Advocacy

The United States prides itself on being a democracy. Americans enjoy constitutional freedoms such as the freedom of speech and the right to assembly, and it is the individual responsibility of each American to learn how to exercise his and her rights to the fullest extent. This is particularly relevant when legislators are voting on an issue that directly affects a group of people or when there is an injustice in our society that some feel should be addressed through legislation. According to an article by the American Psychological Association, when “groups interested in specific issues and legislation that come before congress,” take measures to have their voices and ideas heard, their efforts are known as “grassroots advocacy.” These efforts often include becoming involved in debates on legislation with policy makers, as a way of communicating their opinions. Americans have taken this bottom-up approach throughout our country’s history, from Ella Baker and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s, to the anti-nuclear movement of the 1980’s. This method of effecting change is more prevalent now than ever as, according to the Grassroots Advocacy Training Exchange, “every American is provided nearly unlimited access to government institutions and the people who run them.”

In order for a grassroots advocacy campaign to be successful, advocates nationwide must have an understanding of how the procedures work, and they must be, “decisive in their approach,” and unified in their action. As experts in organization, teamwork, and communication, it is no surprise that industrial psychologists and psychologists as a whole, have proven to be very effective in grassroots advocacy efforts. This was evident in a recent case when Kay Bailey Hutchinson proposed an amendment that would instruct the National Science Foundation to give priority to other sciences besides psychology when considering grant proposals. The American Psychological Association immediately sent out e-mail action alerts to advocates nationwide, and by the following day, half of the Commerce Committee was contacted by psychologist-constituents, and eventually a compromise amendment was drafted. By utilizing their resources (namely the Internet) in combination with their expertise in teamwork, they effectively accomplished their goals. They serve as good role models of how to change policy, which is important today considering our current national atmosphere. With a president who recently hit a record low approval rating of 33%, and our country in the midst of a war that only 23% of Americans approve of, it is important that the American people learn how to bring about change and be heard in the most effective way possible.

Many groups are in fact taking grassroots measures to mobilize nationwide action toward stopping the war in Iraq, and by utilizing the Internet, they have made strides in attracting a critical mass of supporters. The Howard Dean campaign in 2004 is a good example of how a movement can build momentum with web based tools, as he utilized blogs and online fundraising in his campaign for the 2004 presidential election. Yet it is also one of the many examples of grassroots campaigns based primarily on the Internet that have ultimately failed in achieving their goals. Even though they utilized their resources, the Internet, these campaigns did not have all the necessary ingredients demonstrated by the psychology efforts, and without a truly network-based effort, a grassroots movement is unlikely to succeed.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Radio Shack: You've got questionable practices, industrial psychology has answers.

With the heightened presence of private equity firms in the retail market, it is no surprise that large retailers are taking measures to make their businesses more efficient. This is evident with the recent downsizing in companies that are susceptible to a take-over, like Home Depot and Radio Shack. While lay offs can help a company improve its efficiency, the recent firing tactic used by Radio Shack could ultimately cause even more problems within the company.

In a dehumanizing move, Radio Shack fired more than 400 employees on August 30 with an e-mail notice that stated, “The work force reduction notification is currently in progress. Unfortunately your position is one that has been eliminated.”

From a human resources standpoint, this tactic could have a substantial negative impact on the company. Human resource professionals and industrial psychologists emphasize that the treatment of the employees who are laid off has a direct impact on the surviving employees. If remaining employees feel the lay offs were handled in an unfair or uncaring manner (as sending out a mass-e-mail could be interpreted), it could negatively affect their work performance. They could become guilt-ridden about their former co-workers and bitter toward their superiors. Therefore Radio Shack is now vulnerable to a divided work environment and less corporate loyalty among its employees.

This predicament could have been avoided if Radio Shack had chosen to allow an industrial psychologist or human resource specialist to play a larger role in the process. As an expert in managing organizational change and dealing with group dynamics within an organization, an industrial psychologist surely would have encouraged senior management to choose a healthier method of laying off employees that would have resulted in reduced trauma and higher morale amongst the survivors. There are several more sensitive and dignified ways of handling lay offs that Radio Shack neglected. Among these is a policy of making company leaders visible and accessible during a lay off. In firing employees by e-mail, leaders were certainly neither accessible nor visible, making the experience impersonal and cold. Additionally, in anticipation of discontent among surviving workers, management could have included employees in the decision-making process, whether it be the planning, implementation, or recovery, leading them to be more supportive of the company after the lay off. By ignoring these precautions, backlash is inevitible for Radio Shack. Only time will tell just how extensive the damage will be.