Dec. 20, 2021Print | PDF
Businesses across the country are trying to anticipate and design the new work environment that meets workforce demands in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many are focused on maximizing employee satisfaction, productivity, and bonding through the design of an optimal in-person to remote work balance and identifying and harnessing new technologies. On Saturday, Dec. 4 as part of the annual Live Case Competition, first-year Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) students at Wilfrid Laurier University’s Lazaridis School of Business and Economics proposed innovative solutions for this topic to case company and sponsor, RSM.
This annual event is an integral part of the program’s required first-year course, BU111: Understanding the Business Environment in which students develop critical problem-solving and communication skills through a hands-on group project. The course-long project turns students into consultants, asking them to develop creative solutions to a real problem faced by a real company. Past case companies have included TD, HP Canada, Samsung and Starbucks.
Following the success of hosting the event virtually in 2020, course coordinator Sofy Carayannopoulos, associate professor of business policy, transformed the experience to ensure students, alumni volunteers, and executives were able to participate seamlessly. The result was a high-quality immersive experience with participation from alumni volunteer judges from around the globe.
“The last two years have been challenging for the students who are currently in first year. They have lived the experience of employees working a remote environment,” said Carayannopoulos. “Not only have they developed critical thinking, analysis, and problem-solving skills through this assignment and competition, but they have provided recommendations that they will experience firsthand once they begin co-op. I am so impressed by the finalists. They provided insightful and valuable solutions to a question that all businesses are struggling with today. As one of the judges stated during deliberations - ‘these are the solutions we are actually considering.’”
The Live Case Competition was the creation of Carayannopoulos, who volunteers her time coaching and mentoring students competing around the globe in case competitions representing the Lazaridis School. Her extensive network of alumni and business contacts has led to numerous impressive case companies participating in this competition, bringing executives to meet with and listen to presentations from students.
A total of 66 teams of four to five students each advanced to the semi-final round, and six teams moved on to the finals. Finalist teams presented their creative solutions to a panel of executives, including:
• Jose Castillo – RSM partner, tax quality & risk management
• Anthony Donoghue (BBA ‘04), RSM audit partner, consumer products
• Catharine Dutt, RSM risk consulting partner
• Rhonda Klosler, RSM chief operating officer, Toronto office managing partner
• Sam Roston (BBA ’11), WealthSimple, senior director & head of growth
The first group to present, Golden Hawk Consulting, proposed RSM implement a rotary style/hybrid schedule approach, where employees can rotate working from home or in the office based on their needs at the time. The students proposed adopting an online whiteboard technology, Miro, to assist in making collaboration between individuals and teams seamless.
Chain Link Consulting was up next, and presented RSM with an advanced, agile workplace system. Using Ganttpro, an employee-feedback software, and Mystery Minds, an employee-networking tool, employees can decide when, where, how to work, and with whom they’d like to work. Technology, policies and spaces in the RSM offices would be upgraded and tailored to an agile workstyle.
Following Chain Link Consulting, KANG Consulting outlined their three-pronged approach: rebuild, reinforce, and reunite. In their solution, RSM would combine in-person, virtual and hybrid workplaces where employees can choose their preferred work design. They would transition from using WebEx to Zoom, and adopt Lattice, an employee-engagement and people-first company culture software. They proposed monthly team socials and an exclusive app for RSM that would allow communication between employees.
FARM International presented their idea for RSM to use Gather, an online software video system that would allow them to create fully customizable online spaces. Through creating a hybrid operational model, RSM can provide employees with flexibility and work-life balance, helping to differentiate them from other firms.
After a short break, Sigma Consulting took virtual centre stage. Through adopting Slack and OfficeSpace, and developing career-focused employee events, this team proposed that RSM would be able to establish an effective hybrid workplace that aligns with the company’s culture and values.
Z Consulting recommended a flexible future model using Staffbase, which would help RSM create a customized company app and facilitate integrated scheduling as well as Sococo, a virtual environment platform that connects remote and in-office workers for work and social discussions.
Finally, Sea Solutions Consulting took things to the metaverse with their idea of creating a virtual reality (VR) workspace. In their solution, they proposed that RSM host day to day work done at home, meetings, onboarding and social events through VR on a platform called Spatial, using realistic avatars to represent staff that can be accessed via a computer or VR headset.
The judges were impressed with the innovative solutions and professionalism of each group. “All teams were amazing and encapsulated what really makes RSM different – the teams got to the essence of RSM and it resonated with everyone. You gave us lot to think about as an organization, and there are takeaways we will consider from today” said RSM’s Chief Operating Officer, Toronto Office Managing Partner, Rhonda Klosler.
After a difficult deliberation, judges awarded first place prizes to Sigma Consulting. Congratulations to Vivek Bhardwaj, Jaimin Jaffer, Joyce Ye, Oditha Amarasinghe, and Jashanpreet Dhaliwal for earning the top spot.
The Lazaridis School would like to thank RSM for participating in this invaluable learning experience. To learn more about the Lazaridis Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) program, visit our website.
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