The second part of the book is about the business case for human resource management. It shows that strategical investments in human resource management can contribute to the performance of individuals, teams and organizations. The case about Resurrexit describes an organization facing all kind of performance challenges. The study questions at the end of the case will guide students in applying the theories of the chapters Investing in people and business performance, Knowledge management, and Performance under conditions of change.
The renowned language institute Resurrexit has been based in Brussels for over 90 years. Due to the presence of the headquarters of the European Union and the NATO, Brussels is considered the language capital of Europe. Nowhere else in Europe so many different languages are spoken.
Resurrexit began as a small language school for religious travelers who wanted to spread Catholicism worldwide. Today it has become the leading language institute in Europe, with clients from all over the world. The institute is known for its high-quality language training. The training approach exists of immersing clients in a foreign language. A standard course takes two times five consecutive working days. From day one until to the last minute, clients are expected to express themselves in the language to be learned, regardless of their entry level. The immersion method is extensively researched and a proven for learning to master a foreign language. Resurrexit trainings are always personalized towards the learning goals of the client. Teachers take care of the intake with their clients and take responsibility for their client’s learning paths. The approach has hardly changed over the years.
Teachers at Resurrexit must master at least two languages at the highest level (native speaker). Eighty percent of all teachers have a permanent contract. The remaining twenty percent concerns the deployment of teachers on an on-call basis. Many of the on-call teachers have also already been involved with Resurrexit for a long time. Senior Language Teacher Veronique (French) from Resurrexit: “It is truly unique what we do here. I put a lot of time into the preparation of a client. I live up to his or her wishes and needs. During the intake, I want to know everything about the world in which the client must express himself in the foreign language and how he is accustomed to learning. I mainly guide clients who follow language lessons because they are going to work for the EU. This means that I have to get to grips with the subject language, legislation, the functioning of the Union, and desired manners. There is a whole world in the use of words and how you pronounce them. Take for example the English word ‘interesting’. If a native English speaker says he finds something ‘interesting’, an ignorant listener may think that he likes it. However, the way in which and when it is said can change the meaning to ‘strange’ or even ‘weird’. I must be able to teach clients about the nuances of the language. It is also important that I can properly assess the level of the client. The higher the level, the more refined the lessons. I love those challenging courses. Entry-level courses can be challenging as well, if you have to consider how you convey the basis well if you are very advanced in a language. Often, this profession can be a challenge!
The beauty of our approach here is that after three or four days you usually see something change in the client’s level of mastering the language. Because clients stay here for 10 days, together with fellow clients, and they cannot speak in their own language, they are really immersed in the new language. That is exactly what makes us always achieve such good results. This also accounts for the high costs. Clients really get value for money. I am so proud that we do this already from the time that the nuns were still teaching here.
I regularly share my teaching approach and dilemmas with my permanent colleagues. We discuss questions concerning clients’, specialized professional language and the use of new exercises. Together, we determine our teaching methods and we are very creative. Each language team also has one employee who is responsible for the quality of the trainings. He or she pays special attention to the results of our lessons and the experience of our clients. This way we monitor our quality, and we contribute to our knowledge and development. We do not have much time for consultation because our schedules are very tight. If you want to do your preparation well, it is almost always partly in your own time. Clients pay a lot of money, so you want to offer them the best you can. I have no idea how freelancers do that. We hardly see them. It worries me a bit.”
In the past years there have been increasing fluctuations in the demand for Resurrexit’s excellent but expensive courses. New players in the field increase the competition and changing needs of customers challenge Resurrexit’s business strategy. While management wants to maintain Resurexit’s unique strength in offering high-quality courses, they are considering strategies to improve the financial performance of the institute.
The majority of customers are in business and politics. These are mainly expats who want to learn a high level of language in a relatively short time and who have to master specific professional language. Clients are Belgians who work abroad as well as foreigners who come to work in Belgium. This type of client increasingly demands for flexibility in time and location in following the lessons, without any loss of quality in education.
The number of freelancers who offer language lessons has risen sharply. Although quality and reliability of these teachers vary greatly, it is clear that these emerging self-employed trainers take of some of the clients. They provide for a large part to the need for flexibility of customers, and are sometimes even willing to offer lessons abroad on location.
Several translation apps - often simply accessible for free - decrease the number of potential clients. Although the practical use of advanced translation apps is still minimal, in the future translation apps may be used directly in real-life conversations, whereby the need for language knowledge would be reduced greatly. The extent to which this technological development affects the business model of Resurrexit cannot yet be predicted.
The challenges pose a dilemma for the management of Resurrexit. Profit remains the main goal, but providing quality remains important. The good name of the institute lies in its quality, which is its most important asset. Investments can and should be made for this. Management does not shy away from difficult choices to be prepared for the future.
Answer the study questions using evidence from the theory and research described in each chapter.
Find examples of physical, organizational and human capital that determine the unique capabilities of Resurrexit.
Find an example of individual differences that predict employee performance in Veronique’s description of how she goes about to design a tailored individual language training. How could Resurrexit guarantee that all their employees have this knowledge, skill or ability?
Which of the dimensions of social capital - structural, relational or cognitive social capital - comes forward most clearly in Veronique’s explanation of how she works together with her colleagues?
Have a look at what Veronique says about what she likes about her job. Indicate which parts of her job evoke social exchange and indicate which extra-role behavior(s) she displays in return.
Give examples of explicit and tacit knowledge that are addressed in a language training.
Explain how the learning methods used at Resurrexit ensure transfer of training.
According to the knowledge-based theory, which organization characteristics (social structures, organizational design) facilitate or hinder language teachers to use their knowledge to work together with individuals on the common goal of the organization.
Give examples knowledge in Resurrexit that is difficult to transfer. Which knowledge in Resurrexit can be reshared easily?
What could the management of Resurrexit do to increase the knowledge transfer between all trainers, both permanent and freelancers?
Management and teachers of Resurrexit struggle with the use of new technology (language apps, for example) in individual training programs. Some teachers have started using apps, while others are weary to change their way of working. Use the knowledge flows of the knowledge creation theory to explain how knowledge on the use of new technology in language trainings can be created in the entire organization.
Think of a procedure for Resurrexit to store the semantic as well as episodic knowledge that is developed in projects for large client organizations.
The management of Resurrexit wants their trainers to adjust more to their client’s need for example through training on location and training in weekends. Given that trainings normally happen at the beautiful premises of Resurrexit and during weekdays only, this new strategy implies a change in the way trainers work. Use Lewin’s theory of planned change to indicate the conditions for a successful implementation of this change.
Evaluate the level of dynamic capabilities of Resurrexit by finding evidence on organizational processes that contribute to having dynamic capabilities in the case description. How do you rate the current i) adaptive capacity, ii) absorptive capacity and the iii) innovative capacity of Resurrexit? In your opinion, which of the following human resource aspects would reap the dynamic capabilities of Resurrexit most directly: i) human resources scalability capability, ii) organizational learning capability, or iii) organizational capability for innovation? Explain why.
Who are the core and peripheral workers in Resurrexit?
How would you rate the current innovative capability of Resurrexit? What could management do to increase Resurrexit’s innovation capability?
If you look at Veronique’s quote from the perspective of the theory on contested versus sponsored careers, is it possible to recognize an elite group of employees at Resurrexit?
Give some arguments in favor and against the assumption that freelancers have a Protean mindset than permanent employees.
Compare the employability of permanent and freelance teachers working for Resurrexit on the dimensions: i) employability radius, ii) employability competences, iii) contextual constraints and opportunities.