For this assignment, please read the case and answer each questions in 300 words for each question. Students should type their answers in docx format and upload it into the related Turnitin inbox. Please do not email your assignments as they will not be marked.
- Just listing ideas will not get the good mark.
* Each question will be evaluated based on the accuracy of the answers and the extent to which you have thoroughly explained your thought process while supporting them with examples. *
Margaret Jefferson, general manager for a professional performing arts company, could not quite believe what she had just heard. Her administrative manager had confided in her that an intern had been doing the work for special events recently, while the newly hired special events manager, Guy Hart, looked on. In her view, this could be a symptom of a serious performance problem. Jefferson had personally recommended that the company hire Hart, and she wondered whether or not she might have made a mistake.
Jefferson had hired Hart, despite some misgivings about his basic administrative skills, largely on the strength of his charm and interpersonal skills. At the time, she reasoned that being likeable and socially sophisticated were very important in the cultural sector, particularly for people engaged in development work. Hart also reported an impressive record of relevant experience and was full of bold and exciting new ideas.
After just a few weeks, she had to admit that things were not going well. Plans for important new special events that would generate the capital her organization needed to survive were already well underway, and she was concerned about whether or not the events would come off as planned. Jefferson feared that disaster was looming, and made a note to investigate the situation carefully.
ABOUT THE COMPANY
The company was a medium-sized performing arts organization in a major metropolitan area. It had been operating for less than 25 years, and was considered young in comparison with more widely known, well- established performing arts companies. It held charitable not-for-profit status and was governed by a board of 20 volunteers. The company employed six permanent employees, three contract employees and between 80 and 100 seasonal workers.
An annual operating budget of around $2.5 million was generated through ticket sales (40 per cent), voluntary donations (40 per cent) and grants (20 per cent). Administrative activities (including marketing) accounted for around 25 per cent of costs, with the balance going to production.
As general manager, Jefferson was charged with responsibility for all aspects of administration in the company, including human resources, financial management, fundraising, artistic administration, marketing, public relations and board relations. The artistic vision of the company and its production of creative works were the responsibility of the artistic director, with whom Jefferson had a close working relationship.
In Jefferson’s experience, administrative staff tended to work at the company for an average of around two years. For Jefferson, this highlighted the importance of robust administrative practices, careful record keeping and following well-documented procedures.
Jefferson developed a protocol for hiring that included behavioural description interview questions that were linked to work performance in specific roles (see Exhibit 1). She had also compiled a table describing responses to these questions at different rating levels, based on some discussions between her and the administrative manager, as well as actual interviewee responses. For the special events manager role she had questioned Hart on his experiences dealing with high-profile volunteers. These people had high expectations and were often donors to the company, so it was important that they be approached with great tact and social sensitivity. The hiring protocol also included work sample tests. These tests asked applicants to perform simple, job-related tasks in writing, proofreading and data management.
In Hart’s case, he had handled the behavioural questions so well that Jefferson had neglected to administer the work sample tests. As she later admitted, this was against her better judgment, but the fit on interpersonal aspects had been so good, and the need to hire was so urgent, that she was eager to bring Hart on board and get him working.
Hart had been hired in the beginning of March and plunged immediately into the task of organizing the company’s busy special events calendar. An event was slated for mid-April that would raise around $40,000, and four subsequent events were in various stages of planning.
Planning and organizing these events was an enormous logistical challenge. A further complication was that the volunteers for this organization tended to be experienced business people who brought with them expectations that the company would be well-organized and efficiently run. There was little margin for error in the planning or execution of these events, as poorly run events would create spillovers affecting the willingness of both donors and volunteers to contribute to the company.
MARGARETJEFFERSON’S FINDINGS ON GUYHART’S PERFORMANCE
During the planning of one of the events, Jefferson joined a walk-through at the venue to get a sense of how her newly hired manager was doing. Typically, these meetings served as an opportunity for the event planner and the site staff to iron out the details. Jefferson was careful not to interfere, but was surprised when Hart missed some fairly obvious issues that surfaced during the walk-through. Overall, her impression was that he had struggled to run the meeting and had left important points of coordination unaddressed.
Conversations with other members of her staff also raised red flags in relation to Hart’s performance. It was clear that he did not understand the in-house computer system on which the company relied, and letters had been sent out to donors and volunteers that lacked the company’s customary attention to detail. Jefferson and Hart had weekly meetings in which she went over problems. During an early meeting, Jefferson reminded Hart that she needed to sign off on draft letters that he was preparing for donors before they left the company. She was adamant, saying that “mistakes that happen twice are definitely not OK.”
A JUDGMENT CALL?
By mid-March, Jefferson felt as though she had reached a critical point. Scheduled fundraising events were looming, and she was not confident that they would be conducted as expected. She felt strongly that if the decision to hire Hart was in fact an error, it was her error, as she had been the manager responsible for hiring him. In her mind, it came down to two options: she could try to salvage the situation by training Hart through these issues, or she could cut her losses and let him go. Coaching Hart would take up valuable time and would likely distract Jefferson from her own development responsibilities. On the other hand, letting Hart go would take Jefferson back to the start of the staffing cycle, as she would need to find a replacement.
If Hart were let go, someone would have to step into his role and quickly learn the job. Jefferson could think of two possibilities along these lines, including the intern (who to some extent had been carrying much of the load all along) and the administrative manager (who was capable and well-organized). Either of these choices would have financial and administrative consequences, particularly for such a small organization.
On the legal front, employment contracts were typically constructed to include a probationary period, during which time the employer could end the employment relationship without incurring many of the required costs and obligations associated with termination. Hart was still in the probationary period of his employment with the company.
Jefferson considered all these factors in weighing her decision. She looked over her calendar and scheduled a meeting with Hart for next week.
MARGARETJEFFERSON’S HIRING PROTOCOL (INCLUDING STRUCTURED INTERVIEW QUESTIONS)
- All applications are in writing and delivered by hand or by No online applications. This tests the applicant’s ability to perform simple, everyday admin tasks accurately (writing a business letter and addressing an envelope).
- I ask them to tell me what they know about the company — this demonstrates ability to use the Internet and exposes connections that the candidate may have to the
- I provide additional information about the company, as well as why we are hiring for this position and what we are looking for. This is a specific thing I do to see if they mirror it back in the interview — picking up on social
- I ask them to tell me what they would bring to the position as outlined — can they do this concisely, and can they sell themselves and hit the points in the job requirement?
- I ask them the following questions:
- “What is the biggest mistake you ever made on the job?”
- “Why did it happen?”
- “How did you fix it [sometimes the interviewee may admit that they didn’t take action to fix things] and what did you learn?”
These questions tap maturity and willingness to accept responsibility. I want to know if the applicant tends to be focused on the job or on themselves.
I tell them there are tests — one is a writing test and the other is a proofing test. The writing test is that they are given a template, basic information about a sponsor, and asked to put together a pitch using the template — this tests their ability to use word processing software and to write accurately. They typically have a weekend to do this.
1. How do you imagine Jefferson feels as she contemplates the decision to end Hart’s employment with the company? How do you expect this might affect her judgment in this case?
2. What is your impression of Jefferson’s basic hiring procedure? How might it be improved, bearing in mind the resource constraints under which she operates?
3. Is the decision to fire Hart the correct one? Alternatively, What might Jefferson have done to salvage him?
4. What effect did the decision to fire Hart likely have on the organization, both positively and negatively?
5. In the epilogue, Hart reacts to the firing decision with relief. How else might employees in this situation react? How should managers handle more challenging employee responses?
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