Integrating an HR simulation into my class, by Professor Lorraine Uhlaner

This article addresses how MEGA Learning’s HR simulation, the Human Capital Challenge, was adapted for the course, ORGANIZATION PERFORMANCE FOR CONSULTANTS: ASSESSMENT AND IMPROVEMENT, at EDHEC Business School, Lille, France, led by Prof. Lorraine Uhlaner, Professor of Management.

Why I chose a business simulation game for my course

The MEGA Learning simulation, Human Capital Challenge, is an integral part of a second-year Master’s level course, titled Organization Performance for Consultants, at EDHEC Business School (Lille campus), which is part of the Consulting track (MSc Strategy, Consultancy and Digital Transformation).

The objective of this course is to learn how to analyze a firm’s organization health, in order to make better (and evidence-based) recommendations. The simulation is closely integrated with a second framework of organization effectiveness developed at McKinsey Consultants, the Organization Health Index (or OHI).

At the heart of both HCC and OHI is the underlying assumption that an effective (healthy) organization lies at the HEART of a successful (profitable/growing) enterprise.

How is the simulation integrated into the course schedule?

Over the course of ten three-hour sessions scheduled across two weeks, students complete six decisions for the simulation, primarily outside of regular class session. The HCC simulation is augmented by short lectures, team casework, reading assignments, and class discussion, to flesh out the concepts presented in both the simulation and the McKinsey’s OHI.

By combining the simulation activity and the structure of the OHI framework, students develop a much more sophisticated understanding of the basis for organization health.

Which decisions are made in the HR simulation?

For the simulation, each team of students manages four very different types of business units of a holding company, providing the opportunity to learn that there is no one set way to manage human capital in the firm.

The HCC simulation thus provides students with a hands-on experience to see how talent management, team leadership, and engagement of team members impact the financial performance of the firm, while gaining a better understanding of the link between human capital and overall business strategy.

To cement their learning from the simulation, in addition to three interim reflective assignments, each team is required to prepare a formal presentation for the rest of the class, sharing their learning experiences from the simulation in one of the final two sessions.

The presentation assignment helps to assure that key learning points from the simulation are not missed, most important being the impact of human capital on financial performance, its connection to the firm’s business strategy, and the need to apply different human capital strategies to match different business units.

To enhance the students’ understanding of the OHI framework, four sessions (together with case assignments and readings) are specifically devoted to a more in-depth look at the three clusters of the OHI framework.

These clusters include alignment (through direction, leadership and corporate culture), execution (through motivation, accountability, coordination and control, and capabilities), and renewal (through external orientation and innovation and learning).

Prof. Uhlaner worked closely with a team, including Professor Julia Milner of EDHEC, Benoit Calicis and Francois Calicis, both of MEGA Learning, to integrate the previous course content (built primarily around McKinsey’s OHI framework), and the HCC simulation.

In addition, MEGA Learning provides support after each decision round to help the instructors in the course interpret and present results to the students. This assures that the workload of the professors is manageable, while giving adequate feedback to each team as they progress through the simulation.

My experience working with MEGA Learning business simulations

As with any simulation, adapting HCC for my course required a substantial time investment, not only to learn the simulation itself, but also to adapt it to my own course needs.

However, the MEGA Learning team offered an outstanding training program (in our case, at their company offices in Belgium).

We also partnered to create a custom-tailored application for my course. I found that the simulation works especially well to reinforce the cause and effect between human capital decisions and firm performance, dovetailing nicely with the research results derived from McKinsey’s OHI and other work from the academic community.

MEGA Learning also provides excellent support during the course, including feedback to each student team throughout the simulation if needed.

This way, I had the time to prepare other parts of the course, which in a compressed teaching format, as we have at EDHEC, was especially helpful.

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