HRC West Competition: A Proving Ground for HR Students


Unreal things can happen in real-time. Case in point, case competitions can bring the professional experience to life well before the workplace experience itself begins.

Case competitions, like the most recent 4th Annual HRC West Competition, hosted by the School of Business and Economics at Thompson Rivers University, in Kamloops, B.C., provide an opportunity for emerging talent to work in “real-time” on true-to-life case studies to hone their skills.

Teams are presented with a professionally written case scenario, and asked to step into the role of consultant to present their solution. With only three hours to read the case and formulate a solution, stress levels are high.

After presenting their 10 minute pitch, the student teams are asked tough questions by a panel of HR professionals, most with years of experience in the field. Successful teams who win their pool then move on to a final round and pitch their solution to a panel of HR professionals in front of a large, 150+ audience of peers, coaches, and HR practitioners.

A Catalyst for Career and Community Building

Case competitions are a fantastic example of the HR community coming together to support rising stars. Immediate support, input and feedback are provided to the teams by team members, coaches, mentors and  judges. By the end of the day, all teams are provided concrete feedback on how they did and given a score out of 100.

From my involvement with two case competitions, it is clear that there is a tremendous amount of learning and career-building taking place, and not just from the feedback provided by the judges. Social interactions within the team travelling to the event, during the case conference itself and, of course, after the presentations, provides a chance for teams to mix and mingle with each other.

Participants also learn a great deal about themselves by performing under stress, and receive immediate feedback on the content of their pitch.
Overall, the two day event provides phenomenal exposure to new concepts and environmental stimuli, all serving as learning catalysts for the participants.

The Merits of Reverse Mentorship

Reflecting back on my time as a judge, I couldn’t help but wonder what I had learned from taking part in the event; the more I explored this, the more I realized that case competitions, as other extra-curricular professional pursuits are an excellent opportunity for HR professionals, of all ages, to learn and grow as well.

The reverse mentorship I experienced at the recent HRC West Competition opened my mind to different ways of thinking about the HR problem presented in the case study, and the many different approaches teams took depending on what they perceived the problem to be. In addition, the event was a great opportunity to see old colleagues, and make new connections with aspiring and inspiring HR professionals.

As busy HR professionals, it is easy for us to keep our heads down and our doors closed to ensure we are keeping our business partners happy and meeting/exceeding our key performance indicators. That said, while it may seem counter-intuitive, in order to stay relevant in today’s ever-changing world, we actually need to spend more time out of our offices interacting with others.

Moreover, when determining when to emerge from our productivity caves, we must avoid the temptation of quantifying everything; some of the most valuable experiences, for ourselves and our teams, sometimes emerge as seemingly meaningless, and we can be so focused on getting value out of things that we overlook their tremendously rich potential.

Making A Case For Case Competitions

All of the above speaks to the merits of involvement outside our “norm,” and the benefits of participating in case competitions in particular. Here are three specific reasons both HR students and professionals should participate in case competitions:

  1. Chance prepares the prepared mind: Chance plays a profoundly important role in the way our careers unfolds, probably more so than intentional planning. Seeking out new opportunities and exposing ourselves to a range of experiences and new people, keeps the pipeline of opportunities flowing. Being prepared to take advantage of happenstance in a planned manner is the second part of this concept.
  2. Stay connected: Healthy networks are correlated with healthy careers and by participating in events like case competitions, round tables and meet-ups, we stay connected and grow our networks. Using LinkedIn for 10-15 minutes a day to fuel this connectivity can have a major impact on your career—think compound interest on your RRSPs.
  3. Push yourself—you are stronger than you think: This is the premise of Hahn and Holt’s outdoor education school, Outward Bound, and many other schools and programs. Students at the HRC West Case Conference demonstrated this so well; low on sleep and time, they all pushed themselves to perform and did a great job. We are all stronger, and more capable than we think—we just need to believe in ourselves.

Growing Tomorrow’s Leaders Today

We all need to be taking part in exposing the next generation of HR leaders to opportunities that challenge them, this is our profession’s succession plan. Encouraging, supporting, and providing them with immediate feedback is a way of helping them grow, and engaging with their ideas and energy also keeps us growing as well.

To stay relevant in this disruptive workplace, we not only need to be mentoring the next generation of HR professionals, we also need to be growing ourselves—and participating in the next HRC West Competition is an excellent way to do this.

With congratulations to Northern Alberta Institute of Technology’s “Simple Solutions Consulting” team on taking top honours at the 2019 HRC West Competition, you can learn more about this year’s event at HERE



Howie Outerbridge is vice president with LoganHR, a full-service career transition, compensation and talent management firm and member of VF Career Management.

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