BST231: HRM Context & Strategy


BST231: HRM Context & Strategy, 2019/20

Individual written assessment (essay)

In this module, you will be assessed through an individual essay (50% of the final module grade) and a class test (exam) (50% of the final module grade).

The essay will be based on the case study “Alcan”.

The case

Alcan is a Quebec-based aluminium producer. The case focuses on its Lynemouth (UK) plant over a period of extensive change. By the late 1980s the plant was struggling, leading to the closure of one of its two pot lines, followed by a restructuring of the workforce into teams. In the mid-1990s, the pot line was reopened with new equipment, but there was evidence of increasing dissatisfaction with the teamworking structure.

Your task

Write an essay in response to the following:

To what extent were the HRM changes in line with the strategic approach, given the contextual (internal and external) factors?

If you had been in a senior management role at Alcan, involved in the Lynemouth plant, would you have done anything differently?

Things to note

  • • Although you may identify many contextual factors, not all of them will necessarily be relevant to the question you have been asked. You will have to consider them, but you may decide that they are not sufficiently important to be included in this short essay.
  • • Although there is no single “correct answer”, you must provide evidence from the case to support your assertions. You will be graded on the strength of your argument in what is an inherently uncertain field.
  • • Bear in mind that the case covers various changes at various times. You may decide that some details are irrelevant, but you should at least consider them all to begin with. Similarly, it will help if you clearly identify the “problem” that Alcan was trying to solve by the changes.
  • • It may also help if you think about what was HRM’s role in making the changes perceived as being necessary.
  • • Think about the objectives that led to the changes. This may help you understand to what extent the strategic approach was suitable.
  • • If you think you would have done things differently, you should ensure that your suggestions for a different course of action stem from (a) the problems that have been identified in the case; and (b) the problems you identify (if any) in the changes actually implemented. Therefore, the first part of the essay question is likely to take up a greater proportion of the available words.



1. This is an individual assessment. Students are required to write their own essay, independently and without assistance.

2. The word limit is 1,500.

3. Your student number, module code/title, programme of study (MSc in IHRM/HRM), lecturer name, essay title and word count should be on the cover.

4. Word count includes everything in the main body of the essay (including headings, citations, quotes, lists and tables) but does NOT include the title page, the reference list/bibliography at the end, or any appendices you may wish to add.

5. Essays will be submitted electronically (via a link on Learning Central) in PDF format by 11:00 a.m. by 11:00 a.m. on Monday 25th Nov 2019, 2019. Don’t leave it to the last minute!

6. The essay should be clearly structured with a brief introduction, a clear exposition of the relevant materials and argument, and a conclusion which reiterates the main points of the argument.

7. There is NO need for a contents page.

8. Use the Cardiff Harvard style for citations and reference list, and make sure they are accurate. Details of this can be found on the university’s intranet.

Grading criteria

Essays will be graded according to five main categories. The final grade awarded for the essay will depend on the quality of the work in all these categories.

A table of grading criteria is appended to this document. 3

MARKING CRITERIA FOR ASSIGNMENT BST231 Criterion Structure: Organisation, logical order of material, aims, conclusion. Accuracy and understanding of material, application to the case Coverage: Comprehensiveness, relevance, evidence of reading, use of exemplification (case study) Clarity of argument: Coherence, fluency, critical analysis, innovation. Presentation: Grammar, spelling, legibility, referencing system.
Over 70% A Well organised throughout. Good structure. Excellent, concise aims and conclusion Accurate and thorough understanding focused on the context of the case throughout. Developed own ideas based through understanding of the relevant literature. Excellent application of the literature to the case. Excellent coherence and clarity of expression. Demonstrates application of critical thought. Shows innovation in handling arguments. No errors. Clear and relevant and consistently accurate referencing.
60-69% B Mostly well organised, appropriate structure. Good, concise aims and conclusion Good understanding of the subject, mostly focused on the case. Demonstrates evidence of reading beyond lecture material. References are relevant. Good application of the literature to the case. Mostly coherent. Some attempt at critical analysis and innovative argument. Few errors. Referencing relevant and mostly accurate.
50-59% C Structure attempted. Evidence of organisation Sound understanding of the subject but not effectively related to the case. Some inaccuracies or misunderstandings. Covers lecture material reasonably well. Mostly accurate and comprehensive. Some application of the literature to the case. Generally coherent but lack of clarity of thought or expression. Occasional errors. Minor inaccuracies or inconsistent referencing.
40-49% D Some attempt at structure or organisation but inappropriate. Inaccuracies evident. Some limited understanding of the subject, not applied sufficiently to the issues in the case. Lecture material only, but not comprehensive. Little evidence of further reading. Some clarity but too simplistic. Frequent errors. Referencing with some inaccuracies or inconsistencies.
35-39% E Little attempt at organisation. Some glimpses of understanding but much work inaccurate or unfocused. Much irrelevant or missing material. Too brief but some knowledge of the general topic. Little attempt to exemplify. Somewhat disjointed and lacking in development. Very frequent errors. Referencing inaccurate or inconsistent.
Below 35% F Disorganised. No structure, aims or conclusion. Totally fails to address the question posed. Fails to demonstrate understanding of the subject. Lack of relevant material. No justification for recommendation. Incoherent. Disjointed. Riddled with errors. Referencing absent.

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