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The first written assignment for this course is due in Week 3 and requires you to draw upon what you have learned in the first 3 weeks of class to analyze the total rewards system offered by two well-known organizations, L.L. Bean and Aflac.

To complete the assignment, you will need to read the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) case study, Benefits and Business at Aflac and L.L. Bean, that is posted at the bottom of this page. After reading the case study, you are to answer the questions below. Be sure to incorporate appropriate scholarly and practitioner references to support your key ideas. The total length of your assignment should be no more than 5-6 pages, not including the cover page and reference list. The assignment is worth 100 points and 20% of your total grade. It will be scored according to the corresponding grading rubric that is posted at the end of this page.

Case Study Questions. Pick one of the companies presented in the SHRM case study, either Aflac or L.L. Bean, and answer the following:

  1. Think about the internal strengths and weaknesses of the company. How, if at all, did the firm respond to these factors from a total rewards perspective? 25 points
  2. Consider the external opportunities and threats of the company. How, if at all, did the firm respond to these factors from a total rewards perspective? 25 points
  3. Given the corporate values of the organization, what revisions would you make to its benefits program in order to better align it with the accomplishment of the company’s organizational goals and values? 50 points

1st Assignment Benefits at AFLAC and LLBean.pdf

Written Assignment Rubric.doc

 

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Research and Writing

 

Throughout this semester, in addition to the content of the material you will learn in the course, it is equally important that you demonstrate your analytical, research and writing skills.  Your ability to be critical/analytical, and in conducting research on authoritative sources is exceptionally important for your career and education and for formulating sound professional and personal opinions and values.  If you are not a critical and skilled consumer of information, you will fall prey to those that will take advantage of the reader’s ignorance and leanings towards certain opinions.

 

In the Discussions, you will be initiating discussions and responding to issues that other students bring up.  In addition, you will be completing assignments that will challenge you to address issues in compensation and human resources.  To address issues, you should attempt to be as objective and as free from bias as possible.  In addition to learning the course materials, you will also need to use three skills, which are addressed separately below in no particular order of importance.  I should also note that graduate school is not simply a continuation of undergraduate work by taking more courses.  Obtaining a Master’s degree requires you to develop and display your expertise at a much higher level than what was required of you at the undergraduate level.

 

CONDUCTING RESEARCH

 

Learning is NOT simply the acquisition of knowledge by reading books and articles, and then restating the ideas of those scholars in an assignment.  A primary purpose of conducting research is to synthesize your findings and critically interpret those findings in order to draw sound logical conclusions.  It is important that you are able to analytically and critically examine issues and then draw sound conclusions using the weight of your arguments and the evidence you have found to support those arguments.  While it is okay to take a position in writing an assignment, you cannot ignore evidence or arguments contrary to your position.  In conducting research and writing your assignment, you cannot put on “blinders” so as to only focus on and use evidence that supports your position.  This is especially true for issues that are polarizing or controversial (e.g., equal pay, the impact of immigration on wages, etc.,).

 

The first place for you to start examining issues is to be skeptical of ANYTHING that someone will tell you or that you read (ESPECIALLY those things that you really believe are true) – until you check the veracity of that individual and/or can confirm the validity of their statements.  Being skeptical of things that you don’t believe is easy.  Being skeptical of things that you DO believe in will keep you honest.

 

The bottom line is that the ability to conduct objective unbiased research is exceptionally important for you in this course.  Do not simply state your opinion – you need to back it with sources and sound reasoning.

 

AUTHORITATIVE SOURCES

 

Related to conducting research is the practice of using authoritative sources.  It is important that you are aware of where you are getting your information and the validity of the information in order for you to make correct decisions on important issues.  In this age of the internet where anyone can write and post virtually anything, you have to be even more vigilant and thoughtful of the information you obtain.  It is important because your ability to identify, evaluate, and use authoritative sources will directly impact your life and the lives of others.   The place you will find authoritative sources is in books and periodicals, and you will need to properly acknowledge your sources (using APA format).

 

There is a lot of information and data that is unreliable and much of it reflects people’s opinions. Also, anecdotal “evidence” is often used in trade journals and the news media (NOTE: Anecdotal evidence is usually when the author relates to you their – or others’ – personal experiences or observations.) Certainly, as a manager, you want to make business decisions based on your knowledge of the limitations of information you have researched. Likewise, in your research you want to critically assess the nature (reliability and validity) of your sources to determine whether conclusions, arguments, and opinions that an author presents are valid.  In many cases, organizations and writers may have their agenda in promoting certain information and perspectives – be wary of those.

 

Authoritative materials typically have a reference page (at the end of the article) which allows you to check their sources in order to judge the validity of the arguments, evidence, etc.  For example, newspapers, news magazines (e.g., Newsweek), and some “trade journals”, are not considered to be authoritative (and, if you review them, you will find they don’t cite sources, so you are left to only believe what the article reports). For example, the trade magazine, Human Resources Administrator, has some interesting articles in which an author may relate some of the author’s experiences. While it may be interesting, this is considered anecdotal evidence which has very little persuasive appeal. As another example, a training “journal” reports on the percentage of organizations which use “Management-By-Objectives”, yet it does not identify the source of its statistics. You have no way to check the validity of the numbers, thus it has no “authority”. Another example is that Time magazine reports that the Economic Institute found that federal employees are “paid more” than private sector employees. I don’t care if you identify the person in the Economic Institute who made the statement – you need to see the results of the survey or report that allowed the person to come to that conclusion. Furthermore, you have no way of determining what “paid more” refers to – pay or total compensation, etc. The persuasiveness of any argument or evidence is based on the validity and veracity of the source (Not to the reputability or authoritativeness of an individual).   Thus, popular publications such as, newspapers, news magazines, articles contained in internet services (e.g., Yahoo, Comcast, Google, etc., news), blogs (no matter by whom), and even professional trade magazines (e.g., HR Executive, Personnel Administrator, etc.,) are not sufficiently authoritative for assignments in a graduate program.

 

Review this link for great information on evaluating authoritative web sources:

http://www.virtualsalt.com/evalu8it.htm

 

 

Some additional IMPORTANT points are:

 

–  Do NOT EVER use Wikipedia, a dictionary, encyclopedia, textbook, or any other reference book as a source citation for a graduate paper – I don’t consider those authoritative. If you see something in a textbook of interest, look up the source at the end of the chapter and read the original source before citing it.

 

–  Do not use “internet only” sources (that is, you can only find it on the internet). Do not confuse “internet only” sources from sources you use the internet to research. For example, you may access the UMUC library via internet to obtain authoritative material contained in the library – this is certainly acceptable and encouraged.

 

–  Do not ever use a blog as a reference source.

 

–  Do not use newspapers, news magazines (e.g., Time, Business Week, Newsweek, etc.,) or trade magazines (HR Executive) as reference sources.

 

–  Do not rely on only a few sources from which you paraphrase extensively. Even though you may have several sources, if you use and cite only a few principal sources throughout your paper, there will be questions regarding how thorough you were in your research. While I don’t expect an exhaustive review of the research and literature on your topic, you need to demonstrate that you have been relatively thorough in objectively examining various perspectives on your topic.

 

–  Use primary sources and avoid secondary sources, unless it is impossible to obtain the original source document.

 

–  You should be researching and using, on average, 2-3 different sources per page for an assignment.  Thus, for example, at the end of a 7-8 page paper you submit for an assignment, you should have used and cited 14-24 sources.   Obviously, the more relevant authoritative sources you use in your papers, the more it shows you did research and used those sources.  I have seen students hand in an assignment with only 2-3 sources and expect an A or a B.  Do not do a minimal amount of research and writing and then expect an A or a B.

 

WRITING SKILLS AND THE USE OF AMERICAN PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION (APA) FORMAT (NOTE: THE TERM “PAPER” IS THE SAME AS AN “ASSIGNMENT”.

 

Let me make the following points about writing skills and the use of APA format.

 

  • IMPORTANT: You may receive assignments in the form of a set of questions (e.g., 1. 2., 3., 4.)  Do not simply answer them by listing the questions, then your answers.  You are to write your responses to the questions in an organized cohesive paper.

 

  • Make sure your assignment has, at a minimum, an introduction, a body, and a conclusion.  Make sure your introduction specifies, in as much detail as possible, the purpose of your paper and how you intend to fulfill that purpose (This is only an example: “….. Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to . . . . . . In examining this issue, the paper first discusses the research on . . . . Second, the paper examines the research on . . . . These two lines of research will be compared and contrasted to . . . . Finally, based on the research, a set of recommendations will be presented which . . . .”).  Your introduction tells me the purpose of the paper, why your topic is important/relevant, and how you will accomplish the purpose. Then, in the remainder of the paper (the body) do what you said you were going to do in the introduction.  Finally, in the conclusion summarize your findings and/or give recommendations you garnered from your research.

 

 

  • DO NOT QUOTE. Quoting refers to taking the words of another author and putting it into the text of your paper.  What you should be doing is paraphrasing – putting it into your own words, which indicates you understand the source materials.  Once you have paraphrased from the source, you do need to cite the source from which you paraphrased.  Furthermore, paraphrasing eliminates any possibility of accusations of plagiarism.

 

  • Please ensure that your grammar, syntax, vocabulary, spelling, etc. are at the graduate level of writing. If you have difficulty with your writing skills I suggest you contact the Writing Center.  If I refer you to the Writing Center, please take the advice – there is no shame in not being able to write. The shame is in ignoring an inability when there is room for improvement.

 

  • Be particularly sensitive to source citations. Examples of appropriate and inappropriate citations:

 

INAPPROPRIATE: Professor Ulysses S. Grant of the prestigious Harvard School of Economics wrote in 1995 in his seminal book, “The Politics of Selection”, that ……..

APPROPRIATE: “Grant (1995) wrote that . . .. . . .. . .. . ”

Note: I don’t care about his title, first name, who he’s affiliated with (or where he’s from), the name of the book, etc. – these are not relevant to the immediate topic of discussion in your paper – they do not establish the validity of an argument.

 

INAPPROPRIATE: “Research done in the late 1980’s by some leading scholars, Howard Smith, Richard Longfellow, Jeanine Wonder, and Frank Wanderlic, found that in general, . . . . ..”

 

APPROPRIATE: “Research by Smith (1986), Longfellow (1987), Wonder (1988, 1989), and Wonderlic (1989), found that in general …” OR: “Researchers (Smith, 1986; Longfellow, 1987; Wonder, 1988, 1989; Wonderlic, 1989) found that in general . . ……..”

 

INAPPROPRIATE: “Research by Smith (Smith, 1986) . . ……..”

 

APPROPRIATE: “Research by Smith (1986) . .. . . .”  OR  “Research (Smith, 1986) has found. .. . . .”

 

INAPPROPRIATE: “Research by Smith found that the issue is much more complex than it seems (1986).”

 

APPROPRIATE: “Research by Smith (1986) . .. . . .”  OR  “Research (Smith, 1986) has found. .. . . .”

 

  • Reference Page: Again, consult the APA manual. Sources listed on your reference page should match only what is cited in the text of your paper. Likewise, if you cite an author in your paper, there must be a corresponding source on the reference page. Do not list every source you consulted or read in writing your paper: some stuff you will read and “toss aside”. I only care about the sources you used in the text of your assignment to make your arguments or present evidence.

 

  • Do not break or subdivide your assignment into headings and subheadings. The only heading I want to see is the title of the assignment.

 

  • Do not include an abstract nor use a paper heading at the top of each page.

 

  • Do not include a Table of Contents.  A Table of Contents is useful for a book or monograph but your papers are not going to be long enough to justify a Table of Contents (besides, you are NOT to subdivide your paper into sections necessary for a Table of Contents).

 

  • Do not use lists or “bullets”. Lists and bullets explain nothing.  If you use charts, graphs, etc., make sure you explain them and refer to them in your paper.

 

  • Use only Word software with the doc. or .docx suffix. Any other format will be returned unread and the paper will be considered late.  I will not on any assignment accept spreadsheets.

 

  • Indent paragraphs and double space between paragraphs.

 

  • Do not use the first person (e.g., I, we) or second person (e.g., “You should first . . .”) pronoun in writing your paper.

 

  • Proofread your paper. You don’t want your grade lowered because of some error that easily could have been caught had you proofread your paper. While this may seem an elementary point, it is amazing how such a simple point is overlooked.

 

 

Finally, I do check papers and, at times, discussions for plagiarism and academic dishonesty.  It is much too easy in this age of online academia for students to be tempted to engage in copying and pasting materials.  It is unfair to the vast majority of students who put forth a great deal of effort in completing assignments for me to ignore it.

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