May 10, 2016

7th Annual Essay Competition (2016)

The Cornell HR Review is very pleased to announce the winners of the 7th Annual Student Essay Competition sponsored by General Electric, Shell, and Dell! Open to all students pursuing a degree in HR or a related discipline, this year’s competition challenged students to respond to one of three prompts, which addressed such topics as the advantages and disadvantages of leadership programs, HR’s collection and use of employee data, and workplace flexibility. Prizes for the competition included $1000 for first place, $500 for second, and $250 for third.

Submissions were received from 7 different universities and 3 countries. After a blind review process, the HR Review’s editorial board chose the competition’s top six. Then, winners were selected according to the combined scores of an independent panel of judges, which included David E. Williams from Shell, Cheryl Prahl from Dell, and Professor Brad Bell of Cornell University.

Students from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) and Cornell University submitted winning essays, with Francesca Brumm (UIUC  MHRIR ‘16) garnering the first place prize for her essay, Telework is Work: Navigating the New Normal, which argues that telework is the next stage for employers, but they must continuously evaluate their policies. Second place for the competition went to Olivia Blanchard (Cornell MILR ‘16) for her essay titled Employee Privacy in Light of New Technologies: An Ethical and Strategic Framework. Saad Moheet (Cornell MILR ‘16) took home third place with the essay It’s Important to Keep Flexing.

This year’s competition had an outstanding pool of submissions covering all three prompts and CHRR would like to thank all of the individuals that took the time to participate. Details regarding the next annual essay competition will be announced in early 2017.


  1. In order to acquire talent, many firms invest in leadership development programs for recent graduates. Do the costs of these programs exceed the benefits, especially when participants in these programs are free to leave as soon as they wish? Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of talent acquisition vs development, and identify at least one strategy that companies may employ to maximize the benefits of these programs.
  2. In the digital age it has never been easier for companies to track data about employees. With a few simple clicks a company can access information about an employee’s social activities outside of work, how healthy they are (e.g., through devices like Fitbit) and much more. There is even software to measure productivity, which tracks how many times a day an employee takes a bathroom break. Regardless of the legal ramifications, should HR support the collection of such data? Is it ethical to monitor employees, and if so how can HR help ensure that data tracking and usage is appropriate? In your response, consider the key costs and benefits of collecting such information.
  3. Modern workplaces are increasingly flexible and accommodate remote workers and alternate work schedules.  Will this trend result in a more or less engaged workforce?  To what extent will a company’s corporate culture change as a result of this development? In your response, discuss key factors and/or variables that HR should consider when evaluating the possibility of a remote workforce.


1st Place: Francesca Brumm

2nd Place: Olivia Blanchard

3rd Place: Saad Moheet