Students present next-generation solutions to human resources diversity challenge at 10th annual Inclusive Excellence Case Competition

You’ve heard of IQ (intelligence quotient), and maybe EQ (emotional quotient), but how about GQ? No, not as in stylish magazine photos of George Clooney. Generational quotient is the new buzzword that has human resources professionals scratching their heads and furiously taking notes.

It’s a widespread issue that affects many businesses. Most baby boomers stayed at one company for their entire careers, motivated by financial security, stability and pension plans. But as hordes of this generation retire (and take with them decades of acquired institutional knowledge), employers’ hiring practices are being disrupted by a new era of challenges.

10th Annual Inclusive Excellence Case Competition

10th annual Inclusive Excellence Case Competition participants and judges.

For recent grads, gone are the days of workplace loyalty since career advancement opportunities and better benefits are frequently offered elsewhere. Facing the threat of competitors poaching their talent, financial services company Transamerica wondered how it could improve its recruitment and retention of millennials, diversify its workforce and cultivate effective teamwork among entry- and senior-level employees with vastly different values, perspectives and work styles.

On Friday, April 26, eight DU student teams competed at the Joy Burns Center to present the best solution to this real-life issue at the 10th annual Inclusive Excellence Case Competition. The Daniels College of Business hosted the event, which was sponsored by Transamerica and Denver International Airport.

Since diverse minds produce more innovative solutions to complex problems, the teams were a mix of three-to-six male and female students representing at least two countries from undergraduate and graduate programs both within and outside of Daniels. The 38 student competitors represented 14 programs across five DU schools and nine countries of citizenship.

The participants suited up on a Friday for more than free coffee and pastries; the competition included $10,000 in prize money (not to mention the opportunity to impress potential hiring managers with their creative thinking and presentation skills).

Inclusive Excellence Case Competition judges

Competition judges Duane McFadden, Nicole Sulzen, Liz Rolander and Michelle Fix-Westfall

The judges’ panel included 10 executive community members in human resources and diversity and inclusion roles from Kaiser Permanente, Denver International Airport, TIAA, Terumo BCT, Newmont Mining, Zayo Group, Xcel Energy and Transamerica, who were all eager for ideas.

Each team presented their case solutions for 12 minutes, followed by a Q&A session and live feedback from the judges. After hearing ideas ranging from putt-putt golf courses and puppies in the office to noncompete agreements, student loan repayment programs, unconscious bias training and mental health services, the judges determined the winners.

Team E, also known as Talent2025, won first place and $5,000. The team consisted of undergraduate students Skylar Davidson (political science), Martin Monzon Arbildo (real estate and the built environment) and Gillian Breuer (public policy and management), and graduate finance student Edward Nofe.

Inclusive Excellence Case Competition Winners

Transamerica executives Erica Brown (far left) and Jamie Poston (far right) with first-place team Talent2025: Martin Monzon Arbildo, Edward Nofe, Skylar Davidson and Gillian Breuer

Talent2025 proposed an intergenerational mentorship program where younger staff members and seasoned employees would cross-train each other about current technology and institutional wisdom. The team also suggested using problem-solving interview questions and personality tests in the hiring process and hosting internal events to celebrate differences and break down hierarchies. The team opened with a persona-based skit that got right to the point of what millennials—and Gen Z—need, want and expect at work.

“We don’t necessarily know what we’re doing after college,” Davidson said. “I want to feel like I can be vulnerable with my leaders, that they’ll give me the time of day and share their wisdom. And you need to create ways for people to feel appreciated for their work. People don’t feel loved or needed; that’s why they leave.”

The judges applauded Talent2025’s direct communication, team chemistry and practical takeaways.

“You told us a story and brought us into your world. You want us to use Instagram and Snapchat and not Facebook? That’s real talk,” said Nicolette Dixon, a competition judge and senior relationship manager for TIAA. “There are some challenges from a regulatory standpoint, but we might need to bring the regulators on board.”

Competition second place team

Team B won second place and $3,000: Akonam Oguejiofor, Lai He, Adam Blahnik, Bassey Bassey, Zina Zapinksy and Paul Zhang

Erica Brown, senior director of talent management at Transamerica, said, “Transamerica was a proud sponsor of the DU Diversity and Inclusion Challenge this year, as we believe a strong and healthy workforce depends on the experiences and contributions of many people. We were impressed with the caliber of thought and effort put into each of the presentations and proposals, and we will be exploring opportunities to implement ideas presented at the event.”

The teams received their awards—and prize money—at a ceremony in the Tuscan Ballroom Friday afternoon, where they gained exclusive access to network with the judges. Select team members’ resumes were also presented to the companies for job and internship consideration.

Competition third place team

Team H placed third, taking home $2,000: Ian Hay, Ann Hu, Prachi Gupta, Jasmine Shang and Luis De Zabala

“All eight teams brought innovative and compelling ideas for the judges to consider and evaluate,” said Patrick Orr, director of global experiential operations at the Daniels College of Business. “The level of academic quality of our programs across DU’s campus is self-evident. It’s refreshing to see such a diverse group of students from different schools, backgrounds, ethnicities, grade levels and genders synchronize their schedules to build a case, practice and deliver a presentation focused on diversity and inclusion.”

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