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Putting Feet on the Ground

This article accompanies School Daze.

Monday, March 1, 2010
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When college senior Katherine Harned walked into a Target store last year, she wasn't shopping for household items, a pair of sunglasses or a new video game.

Instead she focused on recognition for hourly workers, store cleanliness and employee interaction.

That's because she was enrolled in an undergraduate class at Temple University in Philadelphia called HR on the Ground, where her time was split between classroom discussion and working as an HR consultant for Target. While not an official internship, the class does offer a similar opportunity.

In the beginning of the semester, the 15 or so students enrolled in the three-credit course meet on campus with Professor of Human Resources Management Katherine Nelson three times per week, but soon after, they independently go to Target to monitor the workforce and try to solve specific problems laid out by the company.

At the end of the semester, they present their findings to Target executives.

During her semester, Harned and some of her classmates were tasked with tracking the morale of hourly team members and see how they felt about company initiatives. They found that workers were hungry for a little more recognition.

"Just to say 'thank you' meant so much to them," says Harned. At the end of the term, she and her group suggested some inexpensive ways that Target could recognize employees -- like giving a $5 gift card for the person whose store aisles are cleanest at the end of a busy day or offering congratulations to a worker in front of the entire team during a daily meeting.

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The class has already paid dividends for Harned, who has a job offer with Target after graduation, she says, working in management executive program, a precursor to working in its HR department.

The class is offered as an elective for undergraduate business students and many HR students jump at the opportunity, says Nelson. She also believes that the course has been a place for non-HR students to get a taste of HR -- and possibly pick it as their career.

"It's so much more interesting than interviewing someone at a job fair," says Nelson.

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