Students' Organizational Identity Project Draws Accolades From Company Officials

When Nebraska Wesleyan University students Lauren Jablonski, Katie Paloucek and Rachel Andersen received their semester assignment for their Organizational Communication class, they envisioned many late nights at the library.

Organizational Communication students Rachel Andersen, Katie Paloucek, Lauren JablonskiThey were right.

The three communication studies majors were asked to complete a cultural analysis of a company. Students were to write a paper and present their findings at the end of semester.

“We spent many nights researching at the library, said senior Lauren Jablonski. “Our initial goal was to write the ‘example paper’ for the class but we never thought it would play out like this.”

The trio decided to research the organizational identity of Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers, the world’s largest industrial auctioneering company. The company’s national headquarters are located in Lincoln, Neb., with international headquarters in Vancouver, British Columbia, and 110 locations worldwide.

The students knew little about the company other than it had a spectacular reputation. They spent hours interviewing company managers, identifying company trends, and applying their findings to what they were learning in Professor Patty Hawk’s organizational communication class.

Among their findings:

  • Ritchie Bros. employees indicated that their personal values correlated with the company’s values leading to increased employer satisfaction.
  • Employees described their culture as family-oriented.
  • Employees embraced change. The company grew to the largest of its kind in just 11 years.
  • The company’s reputation is among the best. Employee turnover is low. Its external image matches its internal image.

The students compiled their findings and shared a copy of their research with company officials.

“We gave them affirmation that everything they are doing, they are doing right,” said Jablonski.

But their report didn’t stop at the Lincoln office, said David Scheer, corporate manager of Ritchie Bros. Lincoln office.

“I shared the paper with our CEO, CFO and my manager from the corporate office in Vancouver,” said Scheer. “Their paper reinforced what we do and the results can only strengthen our culture.”

Scheer said the company is also incorporating a few recommendations that the students offered including more opportunities for different departments to intermingle and more face-to-face meetings rather than email announcements.

“It was a very valuable experience for us,” said Scheer. “There are companies that pay a lot of money for this type of research.”

Not only did the students get an A on their project but they also learned some valuable lessons.

“It really highlighted the importance of good communication in the workplace,” said junior Katie Paloucek. “I think people have a tendency to take that for granted.”

“And it taught us that research may not be easy but it can be fun,” said junior Rachel Andersen.

Students' Organizational Identity Project

As Director, Operational Accounting for Ritchie Bros, I would like to thank the students who conducted their research at our administrative facility in Lincoln, NE. It was truly insightful.

With a growing, global organization of 1100+ employees worldwide, it affirmed we are doing many things right. It also served to remind us there is always room for improvement, and that in a continuously changing environment, we must remain adaptive and continue to remain focused on our most important resources ............... our people.

Thank you once again for your hard work.

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