Galway students’ creative input leads to global IT rollout

18 Dec 2008

The creative input from a group of students from National University of Ireland (NUI) Galway has resulted in a plan by Medtronic to deploy an employee engagement tool across its workforce worldwide.

The design and implementation of a new Global Employee Engagement strategy for Medtronic worldwide was the recent task confronting students from the Human Resource Management and Strategy programmes at JE Cairnes School of Business and Economics, NUI Galway.

During the eight-week project, groups of students worked on separate research tasks, which were presented to Medtronic managers, and formed part of the students’ assessment.

Workforce demographics, labour market demands, cultural diversity and translation, gender, high-involvement work processes, and employee motivation and commitment were factors that had to be researched in significant depth.

 “This project involved the application of theoretical knowledge with problem-based learning methodologies around critical business issues in a live organisation,” explained Dr Tony Dundon, JE Cairnes School of Business and Economics, NUI Galway.

“This encourages students to think creatively outside the curriculum, while realising their learning can make a difference in the real world,” Dundon said.

The research included examining whether there is a business case for engaging employees in new and innovative ways, what creative policy options are available, what factors are likely to drive and influence engagement, and how Medtronic can benchmark its standards of engagement against international best practice.

An overall presentation was made to the senior management team of Medtronic, including the company’s vice-presidents for human resources, Jim McDermid and Randal Hubin, who flew in from the US especially to meet the students and consider their specific recommendations.

“There are real insights in what the students presented. We will be recommending implementation of the whole programme along with the students’ creative branding identity for the strategy rollout,” said McDermid.

The problem-based learning approach identified several gaps in the current body of knowledge about what can drive employee engagement.

In applying this to Medtronic’s culture and organisational structure, the student cohort demonstrated immense creativity, resulting in a new and flexible model that helps to exploit the interface between current economic pressures, international regulation and workforce demands of the medical device technology sector, with local skill and talent.

 “It’s the fusion of the global and local that has produced considerable added value, which will enable Medtronic to implement a coherent engagement approach that will be as applicable in China, the US and Asia as much as it will in Galway,” explained Tom Creedon, HR manager at Medtronic’s Galway plant.

The learning initiative resulted in 11 specific recommendations with a three-year implementation plan.

The NUI Galway students also showed considerable ingenuity by designing an ‘Engagement Index’, a new matrix tool that means Medtronic can effectively measure the pulse of employee feelings and allow for precise adjustments.

By John Kennedy

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years