HR Competencies

  • Leadership and Navigation
  • Business Acumen
  • HR Expertise


Challenge your business acumen and receive Business recertification credits! Harvard’s School of Business has been a leading presence in the world of education for over 100 years. Get the Harvard business experience firsthand with our Real-World Case Studies! Explore the issues and solutions experienced by high-profile organizations and engage in an interactive learning experience with participants from other organizations and facilitators of Employers Council.


  • Expose participants to current business issues and practices using high-profile organizations as examples.
  • Analyze cases exploring topics such as:
    • Value Proposition
    • Organizational Structure and Culture
    • Leadership and Managing People
    • Organizational Values
    • Stress in the Workplace
    • Violence in the Workplace
  • Discuss and apply relevant practices and insights from Harvard Business cases to participant organizations (as time permits).
Note: Each class requires pre-reading and prep work by participants. Materials will be emailed to participants before each class.


Nordstrom: The Workplace Violence Dilemma
Denver - March 22
Loveland - March 29
Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, marked the official start of the Christmas shopping season. It was a day that generally brought smiles to executives at Nordstrom. However, on November 28, 2014, Nordstrom had to deal with the tragic loss of a seasonal worker at a Nordstrom store in downtown Chicago. She had been killed in a workplace violence incident involving her former boyfriend. The event was a reminder of an earlier incident involving an Indianapolis-based employee who was terminated in November 2013. Even though Nordstrom had been a strong advocate for workplace safety, the retailer had endured public scrutiny after terminating the employee, who was victimized by her ex-boyfriend. These two workplace violence incidents made it necessary for Nordstrom’s management to determine how best to protect all stakeholders in the future.

Amazon as an Employer
Denver - May 22
Amazon was the largest Internet-based retailer in the United States and had frequently been featured on lists of the most admired companies. In 2015, The New York Times published an article that portrayed Amazon as a ruthless employer with brutal human resource management practices and a toxic work atmosphere. Employees were divided in their opinions; some found the culture invigorating but others found the culture made it difficult for them to survive. Leaders in the industry came to Amazon’s defense, while employees at other organizations began to disclose their own experiences of toxic work environments. Could Amazon continue to grow, thrive, and retain employees if it maintained its current strategy of managing employees? Did stress foster innovation, and, if so, at what point did that stress become destructive?

CVS Health: Redefining the Value Proposition
Denver - August 7
“CVS Health: Redefining the Value Proposition” explores how a company can use shared value as a lens to think about competition and strategy choices in a challenging and evolving industry. The case takes a historical look at the structure of the retail pharmacy
industry and the changing nature of rivalry among competitors. The case examines how CVS was able to surpass the long-time industry leader, Walgreens, and highlights CVS Health’s shift in strategy starting in the mid-2000s.

Tony Hsieh at Zappos: Structure, Culture and Radical Change
Denver - November 2
After 18 months of attempting to transition the company to holacracy, Tony Hsieh, Zappos’ CEO, decided it was time to make the change happen. In March 2015, he offered employees 3 months’ severance pay if they felt that self-management was not for them. A month later, 14% of employees quit. The case recounts how Tony Hsieh ultimately became CEO of Zappos. Hsieh brought a sense of community to Zappos and despite the company’s weird culture, it had the lowest employee turnover rate in the industry. Zappos was repeatedly listed among Fortune’s “Best Places to Work.” In 2009, Amazon acquired Zappos for $1.2 billion and promised to maintain Zappos’ management and culture. But Hsieh’s decision to implement holacracy - a form of organizational self-management that replaces job titles and hierarchy with “circles” that employees step in and out of according to their preferences and skills - was less popular than hoped. Hence his “rip the Band-Aid” approach, to ensure that only employees committed to the change remained at the company.

Designed For

Organizational managers and leaders, as well as anyone looking to increase their understanding of key business concepts, principles, and applications


Employers Council staff

Each case qualifies for 3.0 SPHR Business recertification credits or a total of 12 credits for all four cases.​


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