Vietnam and Melbourne-based RMIT students are gaining an insight into the human resources operations of multinationals operating in Vietnam.
Students in both locations are collaborating on a business analysis project as part of their International Human Resource Management course.
Senior lecturer Phil Smith, from the Centre of Commerce and Management at RMIT Vietnam, said the students are teaming up using Google Docs to gather and analyse HR information on companies as diverse as Johnson & Johnson, Puma, Harley-Davidson and Suntory PepsiCo.
But the project is not just about information gathering.
“This is experiential learning,” Mr Smith said.
“Yes, the students are gathering information on how these companies manage their HR planning, the issues they face in training, management development and succession planning.
“But they are also mirroring this kind of work in their future workplaces,” he said.
“They are emulating cross-national businesses so that they experience the personal frustrations of the project – not reading about it in a book.”
Sixty students from RMIT Vietnam contacted companies’ HR directors to do video interviews.
Now they have teamed up with 186 Melbourne-based RMIT students to produce analytical reports, understanding each company in the context of Vietnam’s economic, political and market situation.
Just the process of gaining the companies’ cooperation builds students’ confidence and resilience, according to Mr Smith.
“They are towards the end of their course and need the skills to find jobs so they need to be able to communicate with high-powered strangers,” he said.
“We resisted supporting the students to find companies and they found that through persevering after several rejections, when a company agreed to be interviewed they had a tremendous sense of achievement.”
The students agreed - but readily remembered the pain and stress of rejection.
“Four weeks of constant contact to just get a 20 minute interview!” said Sottypong Dang, whose interview was with Nestlé water company, La Vie.
“We contacted five companies, two cancelled interviews late in the process and we had to regroup fast,” he said.
“I was panicking about getting in my assignment on time.”
Pham Cong Tam’s team walked into their interview at Danish market research company Epinion to find the HR manager believing she’d cancelled their interview.
But he transformed the situation into a win.
“My team member’s faces were a little shocked but I knew the first step would be discussion, then negotiation,” he said.
“I’d managed situations like this before.”
Not only did the team get the interview but the manager generously invited him to contact her with his CV after he’d completed his degree.
The students got the clear idea that students were not businesses’ first priority: Sottypong waited hours for an interview, Nguyen Hoang Huyen was upset by getting no phone-backs and the thought of failing her project.
But they learnt plenty.
Once she got her interview at entertainment conglomerate CJ Group, Huyen felt privileged to learn from the HR manager’s ten years of experience.
And Sottypong learnt that the casualness of university life was not appropriate in the business world.
“Interviewing an HR manager is a process; you’ve got to prepare properly, email professionally, follow up with clarification documents.
“In the real world no-one will treat you seriously unless you carry yourself professionally.”