Is Looking at GPA Lazy HR? The Role of Grade Inflation

by Matthew Stollak on Wednesday, August 27, 2014

As a professor, I am vigilant in examining my grading practices to ensure students are receiving a fair and deserved grade.  I want to ensure that the grade reflects the work and performance a student demonstrated over the course of a semester.  Last semester, I taught two sections of the same course - one section earned an average grade of 3.12 (on a 4.0 scale), the other a 2.67.

Unfortunately, grade inflation has been a major problem at many colleges and universities.  As Libby Nelson at notes:

By 2007, 83 percent of all grades at a sample of 200 four-year colleges and universities were A's and B's. And research from a former Duke University professor found that A's have been the most commonly awarded grade at four-year colleges since the 1990s:
grade inflation

One school, Wellesley College, attempted to combat grade inflation by enforcing an average grade for an introductory class: a B+.  If a faculty member exceeded this grade, he or she had to explain, in writing, why the higher grade was justified.

What was the impact of such a policy shift?  Research by Kristin F. Butcher, Patrick J. McEwan, and Akila
Weerapana in the Journal of Economic Perspectives

found that results were immediate; average grades were brought down in previously high-grading departments.

Further, not only did it impact choice of major, but evaluation of teachers; with tougher grades, teachers received lower ratings...SHOCKING!

However, where HR should take note is how GPA is used for hiring decisions.  Wellesley students were obviously concerned that lower grades would impact hireability, particularly if they were the only college instituting such a change.   As Butcher, et al, note:

"They point to examples of web-based job application systems that will not let them proceed if their GPA is below a 3.5," the authors wrote. "The economist's answer that firms relying on poor information to hire are likely to fare poorly and to be poor employers in the long run proves remarkably uncomforting to undergraduates."

In the absence of other universities replicating Wellesley en masse, is using GPA as a criterion for hiring lazy HR?  Do firms have evidence that the higher GPA is not only necessary for the job being performed, but distinguishes good performers from poor performers?  Further, if all colleges (other than Wellesley) engage in grade inflation, is the GPA really meaningful for hiring purposes?


"The Leftovers" and HR

by Matthew Stollak on Wednesday, August 13, 2014

I'm 100% in on HBO's "The Leftovers." 

The basic premise is that three years ago, 2% of the world's population simply vanished without a trace.  Three years later, there are no answers for what happened, and much of society is still coping and grieving over the loss of friends and loved ones.  A hierarchy of sorts develops (as well as a hidden backlash) based on the number of people one lost.  It is grim, but fascinating viewing (aside: I haven't yet read Tom Perrotta's novel for which the show is based).

Of course, I couldn't resist putting on my HR hat and imagining what the world of work looks like in the aftermath of the event.

The world's economy continues unabated (or does it?)

No mention is made of the initial economic impact of such an event.  Was GDP disrupted?  Three years later, grocery stores are still stocked with the usual array of cereals and other durable goods.  Pharmacies are still stocked to address appropriate medical needs.  People are still working and earning an income.

Of course, we see the rise of new businesses that attempt to profit from the situation.  There are conferences that host discussions on the possible causes of the event.  One company produces lifesize replicas of the departed for up to $40,000 (depending on how detailed you want the body to resemble the person you lost) that can be used as substitute body in a casket for a funeral.

Is it a recruiting boon or bust?
If 2% of the world's population disappeared, it is likely that, on average, organizations lost 2% of their employees.  Some may have lost more than others.  How do organizations replace that lost talent?  Does it thus lead to a war on talent?  Does it give recruiters a little more job security?  There are also many more individuals who decide to drop out of working altogther, but more on that later.

How are bereavement and leave policies applied?

With so many now "gone," how do organization deal with people taking time off from work to deal with the loss(es) they are grieving?  Do they apply sick leave?  Are EAP investments increasing?

How are survivors benefits handled?

The show noted that insurance companies are refusing to pay as there is no evidence the individuals actually died.  The government has stepped in and created "departure" benefits.  Bureaucrats go to the survivors homes and ask them a detailed 150+ question survey (in part to see if there is some commonality or correlation among those who left) to sift out frauds.

Is there career planning?

It doesn't appear to be a major concern for Generation Z, as there has been little to no discussion of career plans or college.

Your most engaged individuals will not necessarily be working for your organization

Perhaps the most fascinating part of the show is a group created in the aftermath of the departure called the Guilty Remnant.  They are comprised of individuals who essentially have dropped out of family and societal obligations; who feel guilty for not being chosen to be one of those who departed.  They do not speak.  They dress in all white (to set them apart).  They chain smoke (ostensibly because they believe the world ended on that fateful day three years ago, and so, why not smoke, since they believe they are likely to be raptured long before the smoking kills them).  They are 100% committed to their cause (though I em not sure where there economic support comes from).

What are your HR thoughts if 2% of the population disappeared?


Yield Ratios, NASCAR, and the National Guard

by Matthew Stollak on Friday, August 8, 2014

If you are responsible for recruiting at your organization, I hope you are paying attention to your yield ratios.  At its core, yield ratios tell you how the various sources you target for recruiting (i.e., newspaper ads, job postings, college job fairs) are delivering candidates that you hire at what cost.  

The National Guard has been under fire of late for its excessive spending.  One area what the National Guard has been particularly profligate has been its sponsorship of NASCAR.  According to Justin Boyer in yesterday's Washington Post:

USA Today reported the Guard spent $26.5 million to sponsor NASCAR in 2012, “but failed to sign up a single new soldier to its ranks,” according to Senate documents. Between 2011 and 2013, the Guard spent $88 million, but “it is unclear how many new recruits, if any, signed up because of it.”
“How can you justify the fact that nobody is getting recruited?” said Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) in hearings. “The facts speak for themselves. The data is very clear. You’re not getting recruits off of NASCAR.”

 Tom Vanden Brook at USA Today noted:

The Guard received 24,800 recruiting prospects from the program in 2012, documents show. In those cases, potential recruits indicated the NASCAR affiliation prompted them to seek more information about joining. Of that group, only 20 met the Guard's qualifications for entry into the service, and not one of them joined. 

In 2013, the number of prospects associated with NASCAR dropped to 7,500, according to briefing materials for the Senate subcommittee on Financial and Contracting Oversight led by McCaskill. The National Guard needs 1 million leads to meet its annual recruiting goal of 50,000 soldiers.

Landing only 20 potential candidates out of nearly 25k, and actually hiring none of them is a yield ratio no one should be happy about.

So, what might be responsible for generating such poor return on that recruiting investment?  Age of the audience:

"The Army, the Navy, the Marines and the Coast Guard all canceled their sponsorships with NASCAR due to cost, ineffectiveness and difficulty in measuring results," according to the briefing document. "The Army specifically stated that NASCAR was declining against the Army's core target audience and that NASCAR sponsorship had the highest cost per engagement in the Army's portfolio of sponsorships — three times the next highest program."

About one-third of NASCAR's audience is aged 18-35, the Guard's target audience for recruiting, according to the document.