Real-Life Practice in Human Resources

PROVO, Utah – Oct 01, 2021 – Seniors in the human resource management (HRM) program at the BYU Marriott School of Business will gain valuable industry experience through a unique class this fall. HRM 421: HRM Implementation pairs students with companies and asks the students to help solve workplace problems. This hands-on approach to learning is designed to help seniors sharpen résumés and learn valuable skills.

At the beginning of the semester, professor of HRM 421 Gibb Dyer—the O. Leslie and Dorothy Stone Professor of Entrepreneurship and academic director of the Ballard Center for Social Impact—divides students into teams of four to six. Each team in this seniors-only class is then assigned a company, which provides a problem happening in their workplace. “My students work with companies all over the world,” Dyer explains. “The teams gather data about their assigned problems and prepare presentations for the clients at the end of the semester.” Students present on why the issue occurs and offer potential solutions.

Dyer says working with real companies on meaningful projects is a valuable way for students to gain experience and improve their résumés. Students tackle projects designed specifically for the world of human resources, which helps them learn industry specific skills. Projects include topics such as recruiting, training new hires, and creating positive work culture.

Many students taking the class this semester will concentrate their efforts on an important and relevant topic for workers today: remote work options. In light of lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies want to find the balance between remote and in-person work moving forward. While this issue is unique to current situations, Dyer says students will still work on the problem through proper HRM frameworks, effectively sharpening their skills for any future assignment. “These projects focus on ensuring students understand how companies should have the right structures, systems, and processes in place for proper workflow,” he adds.

While the class is required for graduation from the HRM program, students in the course are focused on the skills they will build for their future careers as opposed to just fulfilling a requirement. “I’m excited to learn how to integrate different people-centered solutions to make a business more effective,” says Carson McCracken, an HRM senior from Alpine, Utah, who is enrolled in the course. “Learning the strategy behind organizational alignment interests me. I expect to leave the class feeling more confident in my ability to align the people of a company with the organization’s mission and strategy.”

Dyer says students taking HRM 421 also receive valuable experience in other ways because he asks participating companies to offer mentorship. BYU Marriott HRM alumni and other high-level human resource managers provide guidance and career advice as well as share industry knowledge. This mentorship allows seniors to receive direction as preparations begin for full-time jobs after graduation.

In order to have companies to work with each semester, Dyer uses an established network of businesses familiar with BYU Marriott. “Because our students do a quality job, BYU Marriott has a well-established reputation,” he says. Dyer adds that many companies choose to host projects for HRM 421 because these businesses have BYU Marriott alumni in their offices. Impressed with the work performed by these alumni, companies come back to the school in hopes of finding more quality results. Past participant businesses in HRM 421 include Dell, LinkedIn, Vivint, and American Express.

One of Dyer’s favorite aspects of the class is the unique curriculum. HRM 421 is designed entirely by the students. Each team prepares a proposal at the start of the semester that outlines what students will be graded on, what exams—if any—will be required, and more. The class then votes on which proposal is best along with which topics they want Dyer to teach. “I tell my students at the start of the semester, ‘Your job is to identify what you as seniors still need to know and the skills you need to develop. You need to decide what you will learn in this class and the topics you receive,’” Dyer explains. The goal behind this teaching method is to help students be as prepared for the field as possible while also learning new skills to implement in their various projects.

Dyer feels grateful his classes have made an impact, both in projects for various companies and in the lives of his students. He looks forward to another exciting semester watching his students take the lead with the class and their projects. “I like that the students have to figure out the course,” Dyer adds. “The students are responsible for the class, and I put learning in their court because they’re seniors. This approach is more fun and better for gaining experience.”

Students in HRM 421 take an active role in the class, both through participation and leadership.
Students who enroll in HRM 421 take an active role in the class, both through participation and leadership.

Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Mike Miller