DuuniExpo (DE) is a recruiting and networking event organized annually in January by the students of Lahti University of Applied Sciences (Lahti UAS). DE is one of the learning environments where human resource management (HRM) practices can be learned. This article describes the role of the HR manager based on the experiences of the author when working as a HR manager in DE.
Authors: Riikka Karplund & Marja Leena Kukkurainen
The Lahti UAS curriculum for 2016-2018 builds on elements of transformative learning. One of the main elements of the study programme is learning by doing in real environments like projects, expecting to acquire real expertise and strong professional identity (Lahti UAS 2017). Professional expertise will develop by combining theory and practice (Tynjälä, Välimaa & Sarja 2003). Experiences in combining theory and practice in project learning environment have been reported in earlier studies as well (Kukkurainen 2017; Kukkurainen, Laisi & Tuominen 2016; Kukkurainen & Tuominen 2015).
DE is a learning environment where the students of Lahti UAS are able to complete several courses. The students of a HRM course accomplish each stage by themselves, including recruitment, budgeting, event planning, sales and marketing. The tasks are assigned within teams that are led by team managers, who form the management group together with the project manager and the HR manager. During the project, the students receive constant supervision and advice from the line manager group that consists of the personnel of the university. (Figure 1.)
FIGURE 1. Organization structure in DuuniExpo project
HRM in project context
According to Medina and Medina (2014), “HRM consists of the organizational activities aiming to manage the pool of human capital and ensure that the human resources are used to fulfil the organizational goals”. HRM as a competitive advantage is also recognized. According to Keegan, Huemann and Turner (2012), project-oriented organization is considered an agile way to organize resources, and applying projects is increasing constantly. However, as Medina and Medina (2014) state, project operations have special HRM needs.
Keegan et al. (2012) state that there are a wide range of HRM policies in the project organizations. Furthermore, there are differences in how the HRM procedures occur in different contexts. Despite this, line managers should play the key role in the implementation of the employment practices. Also Bredin and Söderlund (2011) point out the importance of the line managers’ role in HRM.
HRM practices in DuuniExpo
The line manager group participates in the selection of the DE project manager. The recruitment process starts every year around December-January and selecting the project manager is one of the first major tasks in project’s HRM. The process starts when the students on the HRM course make a recruitment plan. The line manager group steps in at the selection phase, as they all make the decision together.
Keegan et al. (2012) suggest that the most important HRM responsibility is the appointment of project personnel. This is the next big step in DE as well, right after the appointment of the project manager. Immediately after starting in the position, the project manager selects the HR manager of the project. They will then create a HRM strategy plan, which consists of planning the key practices for the project. These include HR planning, organization model planning, assessment, development, negotiation, compensation, occupational safety and health and systems in use (Valtiokonttori 2007). The main DuuniExpo HRM practices are described in Figure 2.
FIGURE 2. Main HRM practice categories in DE project
The HRM strategy planning process for DE produced the structure and procedures for project worker recruitment. The meetings and festivities schedule for the project was also planned, as well as the incentives. In addition, motivation, well-being and professional development issues were considered.
Since the project workers in DE project are students, they are not actually employed by the line organization. Even though project work always aims at learning and getting experience, it is crucial to acknowledge the special characteristics of DE and its dual substance and purpose. Firstly, the aim of the project is to produce an event while gaining zero profit or loss. Secondly, the project is a learning experience for the students, who achieve ECTS credits by working in the project.
From the HR manager’s point of view, rewarding and motivating the students are some of the greatest challenges for HRM in a student-run project organization. Students are not rewarded by a paycheck but ECTS credits that are based on the time consumption reported by the students themselves. This can result in granting study credits for minimal or poor quality of work and the students may report their working hours carelessly. A low level of motivation and input are common problems. On the other hand, the motivated workers can constantly show high performance and flexibility.
The evaluation of project work performance could be developed further. At the moment, the assessment of the project outcome and the performance level of the whole project team is done as a group. However, for individual professional development, evaluation of personal aims and performance should be included.
In a project-oriented organization, it is crucial to put all effort in maintaining motivation and team spirit. Consequently, as Bredin and Söderlund (2011) emphasize, co-operation between the project organization, line managers and the project workers is one of the key factors for the success of the project in the HRM field. Further investigation of HRM policies in student projects and student organizations is necessary in future.
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About the authors
Riikka-Emilia Karplund has studied Business and Administration at Faculty of Business and Hospitality Management at Lahti University of Applied Sciences and has graduated and received a BBA degree in April 2018.
Dr Marja Leena Kukkurainen works as a Lecturer at Lahti University of Applied Sciences, Faculty of Social and Health Care.
Reference to this publication
Karplund, R. & Kukkurainen, M. L. 2018. DuuniExpo as a learning environment of human resource management. LAMK Pro. [Electronic magazine]. [Cited and date of citation]. Available at: http://www.lamkpub.fi/2018/05/02/DuuniExpo-as-a-learning-environment-of-human-resource-management/