National Academy of Human Resources Ram Charan HR Essay Contest

Announcing the Winners of the 2015 NAHR Ram Charan HR Essay Contest

First Place: Suetta Miller, Houston Baptist University and Brenda Barros-Rivera, Texas A&M University

Second Place: Matthew Olson, ILR School, Cornell University

Third Place: Khushboo Jain and Lia Yanis, ILR School, Cornell University

2015 Winning Essays:

The 2016 NAHR Ram Charan HR Essay Contest will be announced in March 2016.

2015 NAHR Ram Charan HR Essay Contest Topic:

Public Policy – To Be or Not To Be in the Game?

You are a relatively new employee in the HR department of a multi-national company, with thousands of employees located at multiple R&D and manufacturing facilities in the United States, Germany, and China. You picked this company, in part, because of its locations outside of the United States, with the hope that you will someday earn an international assignment.

Late one afternoon the Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) comes to your cube, clears off a chair, and sits down. She’s there to give you an assignment.

“You know that we’ve got employees scattered around the world. In each of the countries where we have a presence and, in some cases in each location, there are different sets of employment laws (for example, federal ‘leave’ laws can be different than state ‘leave’ laws in the U.S.). Historically, we’ve simply relied on attorneys, both internal and external, in each country to make sure we were in compliance with whatever the laws and regulations might be. This means we’re often reacting to the changes in laws, policies, and trends, sometimes rushing to be sure we’re in compliance. Some of these changes require significant work on our part to change policies and handbooks, train managers on changes, update system applications and reports…the list of implications goes on and on. Think about the time we’ve spent in the United States on the new health care mandate or the draft “one company, one union” bargaining rules approved by the German Cabinet last year.

Recently, I’ve begun to wonder if this is the best strategy. We’ve been surprised on occasion when new laws are put into place, often discovering too late that the new law makes it more expensive or more difficult to operate in a given country or location. We’ve also seen that some simple changes could have been made to the law to make it much easier to administer. Multiple laws in multiple jurisdictions mean that our compliance costs continue to escalate without a corresponding increase in value being added to the business or to the shareholders. Additionally, sometimes these policies make us and other companies less competitive in the global environment, which is not good for us, other companies or the countries in which we do business!

Here’s what I’d like you to do. Please prepare a paper outlining options for how we, as a multi-national enterprise, might become more involved in the development of public policy. Prepare an option paper of no more than 20 pages that outlines some of the considerations in this matter and that offers recommendations based on your analysis. For this purpose, if you want to dig deeper into one country or one policy (such as U.S. immigration reform) and use it to further explain your recommendations if you so choose, go ahead and do that but don’t lose sight of the complexity of our operations in multiple geographies. Some dimensions of the question that you might consider include:

  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of becoming involved in the process?
  • Is such involvement even a possibility for the countries in which we operate?
  • How would we decide which issues we would become involved with and how would we determine a corporate position?
  • What are the risks and advantages from the public being aware of our efforts?
  • How would we mitigate the risks and enhance the advantages?
  • Are there other global companies or other organizations or associations that are doing this and, if so, should we partner with any of them?
  • Who from our organization should get involved and why?

You don’t need to be constrained by these questions and I certainly don’t want you to boil the ocean on this. Let’s reconvene in three weeks to discuss.”

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Essays are evaluated and judged by a panel of distinguished HR professionals who are Fellows of the National Academy of Human Resources (NAHR). NAHR is an honorific organization where individuals and institutions of distinction in Human Resources are recognized for exceptional professional achievement by election as “Fellows of NAHR”. In addition, NAHR furthers the HR profession through the Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) Academy and other philanthropic and educational activities.

Essay contest winners were announced at the NAHR annual installation of new Fellows on November 5, 2015 in New York City.

The award is named for Dr. Ram Charan, a Distinguished Fellow of NAHR and a world renowned author, speaker and business advisor. For over 35 years Dr. Charan has consulted with some of the world’s most successful leaders and companies.

Cash Prizes of $20,000.....$10,000.....$5,000 (U.S.)
Awarded for the best three essays

Essay evaluation criteria:

  • Addresses the topic
  • Provides original thoughts
  • Adds value
  • Readable and persuasive
  • Based on academic or other research with references


Minimum 5 pages, maximum 20 pages (Number of pages refers to essay, not reference material. Those pages should be numbered). Double spaced. 12 point font.

Additional Information:

Students must be enrolled in an HR, Industrial/Labor Relations or related field degree concentration at the time of the contest deadline (August 1, 2015) -- or graduated in May or June 2015.
The contest is open to undergrad and grad students worldwide majoring in a Human Resources related field. If the major is not Human Resources related, the essay will not be considered.
Maximum of 3 authors per essay; must split award.
Entrants may submit more than 1 paper.
Essays can be submitted directly by students with or without a faculty sponsor/adviser. In the former case, the faculty sponsor/adviser will provide a brief statement (less than 100 words) about why he/she is serving in this capacity, and will attest to a statement included as part of the Contest stating: "I have played no role in writing this essay and will not share in the financial award should this student's essay win such an award."
If in the judgment of the Selection Committee no essay meets the high standards of NAHR, then no awards will be given that year.