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The purpose of the Situational Judgement Test (SJT) is to assess the practical application of the T-shaped HR Professional competency model within a realistic, hypothetical work setting. The assessment is based upon a fictional merger and acquisition scenario.
The case consists of four sections and has 34 multiple-choice questions. Each question has four options: two of them are operational in nature, and the other two are more strategic. Based on your HR experience, please rate every option on a scale of 1–10, where 1 represents a low-quality approach, and 10 represents a very good approach. Please rate each answer independently, so feel free to use the same rating for multiple answers if you feel that they are of equal quality.
Thank you so much for helping and participating!
Abiti.com was founded in 2012 by Meredith Falcone, a serial entrepreneur and guru when it comes to shaking up and innovating consumer businesses. Abiti.com started out as an American online clothing retailer, headquartered in San Jose, California. In the first year, Abiti earned 1.8 million USD in gross sales, which increased significantly to 6.5 million USD the next year. In 2020, Abiti reported over 2 billion USD in annual revenue. In 2019, Abiti.com was acquired by Hemisphere.com, a global e-Commerce company for 4.5 billion USD. The Board of directors expanded from three to five members, with the addition of two new Board members from Hemisphere.com.
Over the years Abiti.com expanded its range of products to include shoes, eyewear, handbags, and home products such as towels,
and bed linen. Currently, the company employs over 1800 people. Most of them are in distribution and customer services. Abiti is famous for its exceptional, flawless, and “fun” customer service, creating a unique and personal experience for every single customer. The key to this success is a combination of very clever IT systems and data analytics, and a company and management culture that supports and values customer intimacy.
In 2020, Abiti made a significant and radical shift towards sustainability. This meant working solely with brands who produced their products in a sustainable and responsible manner. Their own brand ‘Abiti’ also became fully sustainable, including a vegan shoe collection.
You are part of the HR Team who has to lead the integration between Abiti and Hemisphere. Even though you used to be with Abiti, your new portfolio will stretch across both Abiti and Hemisphere, with a specific focus on the Abiti Customer Service and the Hemisphere Distribution teams.
The ability to understand external trends, translate the implication for the organization’s strategy, and align HR in an impactful manner.
Over the last few years, the competition has increased significantly for Abiti as more and more competitors are flooding the market with cheap, low-quality clothes. It seems that especially the younger customer segment don’t mind the fact that these clothes only last for one season. Abiti, however, chose to focus on sustainability which has led to—on average—higher market prices, increased margin, and a change in its customer profile. It is now facing challenges in the market where their competition can produce at lower costs, and the younger segment of the market is not willing to pay more for sustainably-made products.
Roughly 30% of all items returned can not be sold again, because the clothes and shoes show some minor signs of use, sometimes caused just by unpackaging the item and trying it on. This raises the question of whether Abiti should change its policy and charge clients for returns as most of its competitors are doing, which might impact Abiti’s unique profile, making them not stand out as much as they used to.
A few scenarios are considered:
Context interpretation: Understands the context of work and the market realities that impact the business.
1. In your role as head of HR, how could you combine the need for a sustainable way of working, while reducing costs?
2. One of the alternatives to produce at lower costs is to relocate production to Nepal. Which HR-related risks or challenges do you see?
Customer orientation: Understands the end-customer and aligns HR strategy, practices and policies to optimize delivered value
3. When considering alternatives for cost reduction, HR-related costs, such as the number of staff, salaries, and costs for training and development, are subject to discussions with the Board. If you were asked for your opinion by your internal stakeholders, what would your reaction be?
4. What data would be most useful to advise your internal stakeholders?
5. One of the Board members of Abiti suggests that cost-effective synergies can be obtained by outsourcing to/using Hemisphere’s customer service team. Why have two separate teams? What would be your key message to this Board member?
Strategy Co-creation: Co-creates business strategy and aligns HR priorities
6. Following up on the remark of this Board member, management asked you to consider this option and to come up with advice on this matter. How would you approach this?
7. In order to cut costs significantly, a senior manager asks you to focus on current HR practices used in both companies. Where do you think cost reduction could be most effective?
The ability to read, apply, create, translate and communicate data to influence business decision-making and actions
The following dashboard will be used to answer questions 1, 4, 9, 10, and 11 in this section.
The dashboard can be accessed here: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1-W0NBG1ci4iXBBfFUZVunPTo5Qys6YOP/edit?usp=sharing&ouid=109436188127415245873&rtpof=true&sd=true
During the acquisition process, you requested the following information which the people analytics team compiled in the form of a dashboard:
Reading data: The ability to clean, read and understand data from a variety of data sources.
1. In preparing for your first joint executive meeting, you review the dashboards and notice that there seem to be differences in the % levels of turnover between the Abiti customer support team and the Hemisphere distribution team. From an HR capacity point of view, you can only prioritize one of these talent segments to participate in a retention program over the coming three months. Which one do you focus on and why?
2. There is no existing benchmark data available on Abiti’s current culture. Which of the following HR measurements would you recommend to start measuring as it will be most indicative of success during the 4-month post-merger integration period?
Applying data: The ability to apply data to a variety of scenarios to inform decision-making
3. Abiti has traditionally had a strong focus on people analytics and operates at a high maturity level. From an HR metrics perspective, which metrics or information sources would you rate most useful to measure success after the integration period has been completed?
4. The newly constituted Board is concerned about the apparent lack of diversity within Abiti. You believe that this is only a perception that is not substantiated by data and facts. Looking at the workforce profile on the dashboard, which data points can you use to build a comprehensive argument for the Board.
Practicing evidence-based HR: The ability to incorporate data across all HR activities to inform decision-making and validate assumptions.
5. As an HR business partner, you are working to diagnose the causes of employee turnover in the Abiti customer support environment. Which of the following solutions would be most adequate for you to diagnose the root cause of this problem?
Leveraging data: Creates opportunities to use data across HR activities and decisions
6. Post the merger, the CFO makes a comment in your executive meeting that he/she believes that the people of the newly merged entity lack the required skills to deliver on the strategy. The CEO looks to you as the CHRO to respond. How do you approach this discussion?
Creating data: The ability to identify opportunities to create data to inform decisions
7. Which of the following metrics will be most indicative of good performance in Talent Acquisition?
8. As part of the Abiti culture, innovation is a critical behavior that needs to be encouraged and rewarded. Which of the following KPIs and data points would you recommend to Group Exco to showcase the culture of innovation?
Translate data: The ability to translate data into relevant and focused interventions
9. You have seen a rise in absenteeism in Abiti. Using the dashboard, you review the absenteeism trends in the 4 departments. How do you address this issue?
10. You want to demonstrate the impact that the rising rate of absenteeism is having on the different departments. How do you position this to the Abiti management team?
The ability to leverage technology and digital to increase efficiency, drive value and embed a digital culture.
Digital has been identified as one of the core business value drivers for Abiti. Given the acquisition, you are faced with the following challenges when considering a digital HR strategy:
Technology Steward: Understanding of HR Technology trends, HR technology infrastructure, and the manner in which technology can optimize HR impact at scale
1. You are meeting with the Chief Information Officer (CIO) to discuss which technology strategy would be the most suitable going forward:
2. Abiti has made the decision to reduce their investment in real estate and wants to implement a hybrid work model with Abiti employees only working from the office 3 days a week on a rotational basis. Bearing in mind that you already have a self-service capability, what is the implication for your HR technology strategy?
3. The L&D Manager wants to buy a new Learning Management System. Given the fact that you have decided to adopt a cloud-based strategy, what should be some of the considerations before deciding to proceed?
4. Some of the HR self-service activities are prone to automation. Which of the statements below best describe the impact that this opportunity will have on the HR function:
Digital culture architect: Demonstrates an end-to-end understanding of digital HR and how to build a digital culture
5. How will you measure the success of your digital HR strategy?
6. To embed a digital organization culture what do you need to focus on and where do you believe the biggest resistance will be:
Developing digital maturity: Demonstrates the ability to enhance and improve the digital maturity of the organization in relation to HR technology
Abiti’s HR self-service platform has always been cutting edge. For the past couple of years, it has successfully relied on a chatbot that was extensively trained and could answer up to 80% of questions correctly, and faster than an HR administrator.
However, in the first month after the acquisition, the number of support tickets to HR increased almost fourfold, significantly delaying the response time. Employees are starting to refer back to the good “old” days when they had face-to-face support.
7. What would you do to address this issue?
8. To support your digital-first HR strategy, you re-evaluate your current HR model. What would be key considerations to set the function up for success:
9. You want to improve your employee experience through digital. What is the best way to do this?
10. You are working on the HR technology roadmap for Abiti’s self-service program. Which of the following elements will provide you with a sense that your digital capability is maturing?
People advocacy is about being a credible and trustworthy ambassador for the people's agenda, building organizational cultures and workplaces where people can belong and want to contribute, whilst ensuring that the business acts in a sustainable and ethical way.
In 2019 Abiti.com was acquired by Hemisphere.com, a true multinational both in scale and in size. During the first year after the acquisition, there weren’t any noticeable changes for the Abiti employees. Lately, however, Hemisphere is taking more and more control over internal processes, such as finance, distribution, and customer services. The pros are that Abiti will benefit from their experience and infrastructure and also will be able to reduce costs. But there are also some risks. Since its foundation, Abiti has had an entrepreneurial, open and inclusive culture, focusing on empowering individuals to make their own decisions when it comes to servicing clients.
In the most recent Employee Engagement Survey it became clear that there are some issues expressed by the Abiti employees. There is quite a steep drop in the scores such as: ‘I feel free to make a mistake’, and ‘The leaders in our company fully represent our company culture’. There is a lot of grumbling going on in the coffee corners and on the internal chat system about the (perceived) distance between the leadership team and the rest of the organization. The two new executive members appointed by Hemisphere clearly express a different leadership style than their counterparts at Abiti. They tend to be more hands-on, controlling, and detail-oriented in their management style, in comparison to the empowering management style of their Abiti counterparts.
Culture and Workplace Custodian: Shape an inclusive and purpose-driven organizational culture aligned to values where all employees can belong.
1. Given the outcomes of the Employee Engagement Survey, what actions do you suggest to take?
2. How could you make sure to keep the strengths of the Abiti culture while at the same time benefiting from the efficiency and cost-effectiveness brought by Hemisphere? Which steps would you take?
3. You notice that after a stabilization period, the turnover rate of Abiti employees has increased. This increase is mostly seen amongst the employees ‘of the first hour’ and who played a big part in creating and fostering the Abiti culture. What would be your preferred approach?
4. Which HR practices potentially have the most impact on sustaining the strengths of the current Abiti culture?
5. A few months after the acquisition, you become aware of mental well-being challenges and burnout risks being experienced by Abiti employees. You should focus on the following:
Trusted and credible partner: Demonstrates behavior that allows stakeholders to trust and confide in them
6. A junior employee has approached you in confidence to discuss instances of perceived corporate bullying from a senior leader in the organization. What course of action would you take?
Drive Change: Demonstrates the ability to drive change and create the capacity for the organization to deal with uncertainty
7. You need to help Abiti employees deal with the uncertainty of the change brought about by the Hemisphere acquisition. Where should you focus your resources?