Last fall, 20 undergraduate students in the Stillman School of Business’ Human Resource Management course had the unique opportunity to don their best business attire and head to one of three New Jersey-based companies for a chance to see how businesses apply basic human resources practices within their workforces.
Professor Karen Boroff, Ph.D., selected American Wear in East Orange, N.J., Delaware North at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., and Johnson & Johnson in New Brunswick, N.J., to host the students for field trips. Each company – a small entrepreneur, a unique operation in sport management, and a large corporation – has the human resource function embedded in their work, but at different scales.
The students split into three teams – each assigned one organization to visit. Once the field trips concluded, the students participated in a panel presentation and provided their top lessons learned from the experience.
Key areas of focus during the field trips and presentations were staffing, employee and labor relations, safety and health, training, performance, and compensation – including financial and non-financial benefits.
Boroff said the field trips were a highlight of the semester. “The visits provided a practical learning opportunity for students to transform the concepts of discipline into actual applications, as informed by the professionals they met,” she said. “The assignment increased students’ awareness of the career opportunities in human resource management, honed their professionalism in conducting themselves on an unescorted visit to a firm as representatives of Seton Hall and the Stillman School, and increased cohesion among the students pursuing a concentration in management.”
At American Wear, a family-owned uniform rental company in business for more than 70 years, it was evident to the student visitors that American Wear President and Seton Hall alum John Auriemma ’81 – son of company founder Nick Auriemma – clearly loves his job.
“We sensed a very positive, inclusive atmosphere all around,” said Matt Anselmo, a junior majoring in accounting and philosophy. “Compensation was managed well, especially during COVID. Employees were paid if they got COVID, and their children’s day care costs were covered, as well.”
Anselmo said that, because of generous policies put in place at American Wear, the company had exceptionally low turnover. This was especially unique for a company without a “work from home” policy, due to its warehouse setting, and where only a handful of traditional office positions existed. Other factors contributing to high employee retention were good on-the-job training and a strong emphasis on safety.
“We saw many examples of employees with more experience showing the ropes to newer employees,” said Brandon Walsh, a junior management major.
“The owner was a good communicator,” said Albert Abboud, a senior management major. “He explained that, even when there are discrepancies, he gives all employees a chance to communicate their issues.”
Delaware North at MetLife Stadium
Delaware North, which operates concessions, premium dining and retail shops at more than 60 sports and entertainment venues worldwide, has provided these services at MetLife Stadium – Delaware North’s largest account and home to both the New York Giants and New York Jets – since 2010. The students noted that, despite the East Rutherford location’s 2,400 employees and fast-paced environment, General Manager Bill Lohr seemed to know everyone’s name who crossed his path.
“Much attention is paid to staffing and training,” said Georleny De Leon, a senior majoring in management and marketing. “While Delaware North hires internally for corporate positions, it holds large hiring events three or four times a year for its different sectors, usually bringing in 50-100 new employees at a time.”
Training also is critical. “Because alcohol is sold at the concession stands, it would become a legal issue if minors were found serving alcohol – so every concession employee goes through mandatory alcohol training,” said Madison Mindham, a senior management major.
As a testament to Delaware North, the company reports only a 10 percent turnover rate. Employees are promoted by seniority – for example, concession employees with seniority then can be promoted to the retail store – and, because the work is seasonal, the company offers a “return training” refresher, which also reduces turnover.
Other Delaware North employee incentives include the “WOW” program, where employees who get noticed exhibiting their best guest-services skills could win a chance at hundreds of great prizes; and the “Secret Shoppers” program, where a designated secret shopper is sent to buy alcohol at the concession stand and evaluates the interaction. If the interaction meets certain criteria, the concession employee receives a $50-$100 gift certificate to recognize their efforts.
Johnson & Johnson
Johnson & Johnson (J&J), the world’s largest and most broadly based healthcare company, has been in business for more than 135 years and has more than 140,000 employees worldwide. During the students’ visit to its headquarters in New Brunswick, they noted that all employees live and breathe the J&J “credo” – the mission statement that guides company thinking, from big-picture deals and acquisitions down to the most basic day-to-day decisions, and outlines the company’s responsibilities not only to its employees, but to its patients, doctors and nurses, and all others who use its products and services, as well as to the community.
As a sharp contrast to what they saw at the other two organizations, the students visiting J&J reported very few employees on location, as most continue to work from home. “The only employees present were those there to meet with us,” said Adriana Sanguinetti, a senior management major. “The general feel was that all employees must strongly believe in and embody the credo. Regarding staffing, employees feel supported by management and, as a result, turnover was very low.”
In what was referred to as J&J’s “career playground,” students observed that the company put much effort into training, benefits and compensation, resulting in low turnover.
“There is a difference in the training offered to employees, depending on their experience level in the workplace,” said Isabella Joseph, a junior majoring in management and economics. “There are numerous opportunities to be trained in different disciplines – for example, the Marketing Leadership Development Program and the Finance Leadership Development Program, to name a few – and employees are encouraged to rotate programs if they so desire, hence the term ‘career playground.'”
Total compensation also was found to be generous – both financial and non-financial – with parental leave, tuition reimbursement, healthcare coverage, and personal time off among J&J’s biggest benefits.
“Safety and health were critical, as well,” said Ryan Walsh, a junior business major. “We observed no unsafe employee actions or working conditions, a sense that employees’ mental health was equally as important, and an overall fun environment and community feel at the location.”