The National Academy of Human Resources has decided to discontinue the annual NAHR Ram Charan HR Essay Contest. We are in the process of designing new exciting venues for students in the coming months so please refer to our website for future notices. Thank you for your interest.

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2016 NAHR Ram Charan HR Essay Contest Winners

First Place: Lauryn Overton, Ellie Gardner, Will Oncken - University of South Carolina

Second Place: Francesca Brumm, University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign

Third Place: Ikenna Njemanze and Michelle Zeng, ILR School, Cornell University

2016 Winning Essays:


2016 Ram Charan HR Essay Contest Topic:

The Workforce of the Future – Employers’ Evolving Relationship with Workers

A CHRO arrives at the office in a shiny town car, dropped off by a very polite Uber driver. The CHRO has returned from visiting corporate offices in three other countries where some work had been sent and where new business was developing.

During the drive from the airport the driver shared with the CHRO that he’s an Uber driver when he’s not working as an independent contractor in technology for multiple companies. The driver explained that he’d learned that there was a lot of project work available – he just uses his phone to log into the available virtual talent marketplaces to bid on jobs that interest him and that meet his pay, location, and schedule needs. He’d even done some work for the CHRO’s company, and recently won a competition created by a software company to get the public to help it solve a tricky coding problem. While he didn’t have health or other benefits, he proudly told the CHRO that he was making more money now than he had before being laid off in 2008 during the recession.

As the CHRO passes through the office lobby she notes that the security officer is not actually an employee of the company, although he’s wearing the company logo, and that the custodian going by with a cleaning cart has another company logo on her shirt.

The CHRO is met upstairs by one of two administrative assistants; her assistants job share, with each working part time, with a few hours of overlap for coordination of tasks. She sees that the hoteling office space is full; it’s a seasonal business, and this is the season where extra employees are brought on board to help manage the workload. Now that many people are working from home there is space available in the building.

As she sits in her office, the CHRO reflected on what she had just seen over the past 30 minutes.

Traditional long-term, full-time, paid employment is being supplanted by other, newer, more flexible options. Everyone was now talking about the “gig” economy. Companies didn’t just have employees – they had people performing work in a variety of arrangements. These include part-time employment, temporary employment, independent contracting, franchisor-franchisee co -employment, and customers performing work that was formerly performed by employees.

The CHRO knows some of the factors that are driving this development: global economic competition, de-regulation, rapid technological change, entrepreneurship and demographic changes. But she realized that she wanted to know more. She has come to you, her newest addition to the HR team, and asked you to prepare a white paper answering one of the following questions.

A. What are the implications of this “gig” economy for current and future regulation of the “employment” relationships, including such aspects as what constitutes an “employee”, discrimination, wages and hours, labor relations, and health/safety?

B. Considering all of the changes to the traditional long-term, full-time, paid employment relationship, what should be the role of the CHRO in leading and advising other senior executives and the Board of Directors? What should she be doing?

She’d like the paper to be no longer than 20 pages, total.

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The criteria for evaluating the award will be:

  • Addresses the topic
  • Provides original thoughts
  • Adds value
  • Readable and persuasive
  • Based on academic or other research with references

Essays for the NAHR Ram Charan HR Essay Contest can be submitted directly by students with or without a faculty sponsor/advisor. In the latter case, the faculty sponsor/advisor will provide a brief statement (i.e. less than 100 words) about why he/she is serving in this capacity, and will attest to a statement included as part of the Contest stating that “I have played no role in writing this essay and will not share in the financial award should this student’s essay win such as award.”

There is a maximum of 3 authors per essay. Winning authors must split the award.

Entrants may submit more than 1 paper.

Essay contest winners will be announced at the NAHR annual installation of new Fellows on November 3, 2016 in New York City.

The awardees’ expenses will be paid to attend the ceremony. The award presentation will be made to the essay contest winners by the Chair of the NAHR, Kathleen S. Barclay, Retired Senior Vice President, Human Resources, The Kroger Co. and General Motors; and Richard W. Hallock, Chair of the NAHR Foundation, Retired Executive Vice President, Occidental Petroleum.

The award is named for Dr. Ram Charan, a Distinguished Fellow of NAHR and a world renowned author, speaker and business advisor. For over 35 years Dr. Charan has consulted with some of the world’s most successful leaders and companies.

If in the judgment of the Selection Committee no essay meets the high standards of NAHR, then no awards will be given that year.


Minimum 5 pages, maximum 20 pages (Number of pages refers to essay, not reference material. Those pages should be numbered). Double spaced. 12 point font.
Cover sheet to include:

  • Name
  • School
  • Degree area
  • Anticipated graduation date
  • Phone number
  • Mailing address
  • Email address
  • APA format accepted (but not required)

Students must be enrolled in an HR, Industrial/Labor Relations or related field degree concentration at the time of the contest deadline (August 1, 2016) -- or graduated in May or June 2016.

The essays must be submitted by email (PDF format) to:
Jill B. Smart
President, National Academy of Human Resources

The essays will be evaluated and judged by a panel of distinguished HR professionals who are Fellows of the National Academy of Human Resources. NAHR is an honorific organization where individuals and institutions of distinction in Human Resources are recognized for exceptional professional achievement by election as “Fellows of NAHR”. In addition, NAHR furthers the HR profession through the Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) Academy and other philanthropic and educational activities.

The contest is open to undergrad and grad students worldwide majoring in a Human Resources related field. If the major is not Human Resources related, the essay will not be considered.